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Arriba Mexican Grill: Happy Hour Report Card

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The Spot: Arriba Mexican Grill,1812 E Camelback, Phoenix, with 5 other locations across the Valley, 602-265-9112, www.arribamexicangrill.com.

The Hours: Monday through Friday from 3 pm to 6 pm, with a reverse happy hour every day of the week from 9 pm to close.

The Details: Arriba offers a 99 cent margarita (rocks or frozen) along with the infamous fish bowl margaritas for 5 bucks. Small drafts are $2, large drafts $3, wells for $2, and wine for $3. Makes it pretty easy to do the math. They also offer $2 off all of their appetizers.

(the happy hour break down after the jump)

The Interior: Arriba Mexican Grill has a cantina flair to it with bright splashy colors decorating every surface. Cheesy decorations are all over the place, like plastic parrots hanging from the ceiling, fake tropical flowers, flashy neon signs, and loads of other tchotchke. Minimalism is not the name of their game, but your will have plenty to catch the eye during your visit.

The Cost: A round of cheap margaritas and two appetizers came to about 15 bucks before tax and tip.

The Conclusion: The best thing we can say about this happy hour is that the chips and salsa were pretty damn fine. Crisp, thin tortilla chips hot out of the fryer with the perfect amount of salt, accompanied by a smooth bean dip and flavorful salsa that delivered a kick. Unfortunately, that's about the best thing we can say about the happy hour at Arriba.

The 99 cent margarita, while oh so appealing to our cheapskate streak, fell victim to the old you-get-what-you-pay-for words of wisdom. Unlike Z'Tejas or Zipps margaritas that are silky smooth and super strong, these weaklings were nothing but watered down lime juice with the slightest hint of tequila. If we hadn't been carded, our boozehound senses would have told us they were virgin-ritas. So stick to the cheap wells, house wine and house drafts to get your best bang for a couple bucks.

On the appetizer front, there are plenty of options, but most of the tastier ones ran a bit pricey. Nachos for 12 bucks? Mexican pizza for 16 bucks? Even with the $2 discount that's no deal. Although the taquitos ($3.99 after discount) and green chile cheese crisp ($6.59 after discount) were right on the money. In the flavor department they were a bit disappointing.

The taquitos were bland and needed a hefty dose of cheesy sauce to impart a distinguishable flavor. The cheese crisp was tasty the first couple minutes, but was so over-loaded with cheese that it turned limp and greasy after the first couple bites. At least the trademark, New Mexican hatch green chiles added a nice spice.

Overall Grade: C-

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