The Spot: Coronado Cafe, 2201 N. 7th St., Phoenix, (602) 258-5149. coronadocafe.com
The Hours: 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday
The Details: Beers, Mimosas, and Bloody Marys are all down to $3, while the Cocktail of the Day is a steal at $4. House wines are down to $5 (from a standard $7.50) a glass and $12 (a nice 50% reduction) a bottle. Three of the six appetizers are on special for $6: Spinach & Artichoke Dip, Pomegranate Hummus, and Goat Cheese Chevre Toast.
Today's cocktail is the Tequilatini, which we order with a beer to start. The server - living up to Coronado Cafe's reputation for friendly staff - enthusiastically recommends the Pomegranate Hummus app. We go with one of those (studded pomegranate seeds and basil, fresh garlic, fresh lemon juice, and tahini, served with fresh-grilled flatbread wedges, usually $10) and a Spinach & Artichoke Dip (smoky chipotle, spinach, and artichoke blended with cream cheese and served with dipping chips and bread, also usually $10).
If you're looking for a happy hour that you can swing as dinner, this is definitely one for your list. The portion sizes are huge, and our appetizers (arriving promptly together) overwhelm our quaint patio table. The flavors - though dramatically different - are equally bold and addictive, like a bag of chips you just can't put down. The Spinach & Artichoke Dip more than lives up to its "smoky chipotle" tease, with a heat and spice that will make you want to lick the bowl. You'd think after that the cool, crisp sweetness of the Pomegranate Hummus would seem too alien, but it's so tasty that your palette will quickly adapt. The little liquid crunch of the surprise pomegranate seeds intermixed with the thick texture of the hummus is particularly good.
The Interior: Coronado Cafe has a warm and cozy feel, from the wood floors to the colorful local art to the blue-and-white-checked tablecloths. Its layout as a converted house lends a sense of intimacy to dining inside, but there's also an extensive, wraparound patio area that is well-shaded from the sun and ideal for these breezy, "winter" days.
The Cost: One beer, one Cocktail of the Day, and two (very, very filling) apps came out to $19 before tax.
The Conclusion: It's easy to let the obvious pros of the Coronado Cafe happy hour overwhelm the cons, but they are still there. For one, it's a little more restrictive in hours than many we've visited (and too early for many professionals). While the drink deals are nicely inclusive, we'd like to see the appetizer discounts expanded beyond the current three. What's left out is notable: The Maryland Crab Cakes ($14) and the Hot Chesapeake Crab Dip ($10). For a place that advertises itself as having the "Best Crab Cakes in Phoenix," it would be great to see at least one of these make the happy hour list (though Coronado Cafe does offer 20% off all seafood after 3 p.m. on Wednesdays). That said, for flavor and portion size (and atmosphere) this is easily one of the best you'll find in Phoenix.
Overall Grade: A-