Cork: Happy Hour Report Card

The Spot: Cork, 4991 S. Alma School Road, Suite 1, Chandler 480-883-3773. corkrestaurant.net Hours: 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday

The Details: There's nothing average about the four-star restaurant's new happy hour. It's an extensive, mouthwatering menu unto itself, beginning with $5 snacks like the duck fat French fries and gazpacho, and moving into smaller entrees like the Chef Burger, seared yellowfin tuna, and Mediterranean mussels (each $8). As if this wasn't enough, there are two mini desserts offered for $3 a piece: mini creme brulee and sweet potato cake.

On the drinks side, Cork offers a handful of $3 champagne cocktails (but good luck getting a bellini the week after Mother's Day -- our server said they were lucky to have any champagne left at all); $4 cocktails like the true-to-its-name cantaloupe martini; and $4 house glasses of chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon.

The happy hour is always available in the bar and lounge area, but if there's space available they will be happy to seat you at a table or booth. Get to Cork soon, though; the restaurant is closing its doors in July for summer cleaning.

The Interior: Tucked at the back of one of the palm-tree-lined shopping centers in the still-shiny sprawl of (very) south Chandler, Cork has a light and airy space, with high ceilings and a chic color scheme of teals and tans with copper accents. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide a view of the patio space, with an outdoor fireplace, rows of neatly trimmed greenery, and a trickling fountain. As you would expect for a four-star restaurant, it's elegant, clean, and comfortable -- like a cool oasis to slip away to after a long, hot day.

The Cost: Turn this happy hour into dinner for two -- with two cocktails, two snacks, two entrees, and one dessert -- for $35 before tip and tax.

The Conclusion: Our mouths were watering just perusing the new happy-hour menu at Cork, and, unsurprisingly, nothing on our plates or in our glasses was a disappointment. We were also pleased to see the restaurant take a less strict stance on happy-hour seating, rather than always restricting guests to the bar area (when you slide into one of their large booths with a champagne cocktail, you're not going to want to leave). 

True, happy hours are best when the hours are more extensive, but with a 5 p.m. start (when Cork opens), these deals are open to anyone with customary work hours. Plus, the Cork happy hour menu is kind of like getting to eat at a four-star restaurant for two-star prices; plan an early dinner here and you will not be disappointed, either.

Overall Grade: A

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