The Spot: Distrito
4000 North Drinkwater Boulevard, Scottsdale
The Hours: Happy hour is from 3 to 6 p.m daily in the bar area only.
Perfect For: Meeting your friends to catch up over margaritas, especially if you want to actually hear them talk.
The Interior: Vibrant reds and oranges, Mexican artwork, and Latin music make Distrito a warm, inviting spot. Unfortunately, the lack of people might make you feel you were the only one invited. Located in the lobby of The Saguaro hotel in Old Town Scottsdale, Distrito seems to fall victim to the Hotel Restaurant Blues. Despite its snazzy décor and ideal setting in the heart of the Scottsdale Civic Center, its location within the hotel itself (and a funky, sliding glass entrance on the Civic Center side) means that the only people in the bar might be you and the guest in Room 401.
A neon "Distrito" sign and a rad marquee behind the bar give the spot a Havana nightclub feel, but the cacti and tequila bottled in calaveras (the Día de los Muertos-style skulls) will remind you that this place is thoroughly modern Mexican.
The Drinks: If you’re not sure, order a margarita. The fresh lime juice and salted rim will have your corazón leaping for joy and remind you of the perks of living so close to the border. Distrito’s sangria, and we mean this in the best possible way, tastes like Christmas. Each drinks is $5 during happy hour ($9 normally), so obviously we got both.
Other drink specials include $3 Mexican beers, $5 wines, and a Michelada and Tío Peligroso, $4 and $7, respectively. Bring your out-of-town friends and impress them with your impressive command of Spanish (-sounding cocktails).
The Food: Distrito’s fabulous guacamole is $5 during happy hour ($10 normally), and our relentlessly charming server talked us into ordering it with fresh crab on top. We would have wagged our fingers at him in admonishment, but when the food arrived, we were too busy licking them to bother. The restaurant also appreciates the value of chunky chips; Distrito’s are sturdy enough to withstand a heap of guac and crab without the tragic end that meets so many weaker tortilla chips.
Also on the happy hour menu are Nachos Ignacio ($6), Salsa Mexicana ($4) and Esquites ($4), plus a variety of tacos: chicken ropa vieja with queso fresco, pulled pork with pineapple jicama salsa, and even roasted mushrooms for vegetarians. Each dish comes with two tacos and costs $5, but in our opinion you should shell out the extra buck for the $6 pescado tacos. Plantain-crusted mahi mahi and chipotle remoulade? Sí, por favor.
Conclusion: Small plates and well-done drinks make Distrito a perfect stopping off-point before you catch an exhibit at SMoCA or head out for a night in Old Town. The hospitality from the hotel seems to spill over into the restaurant; staff is instinctive, genuine, and fun. (Dare we say a rarity in the Scottsdale bar scene?) It’s too bad the cheerful buzz of colors and neon aren’t matched by the hustle and bustle of a busy bar. Alas, even during happy hour it might feel like you’re a party of one. But, at least it will be a very fun party.
Don’t Miss: The fish tacos.
Skip This: Feeling confused and inadequate when trying to enter from the south. Go through the main lobby and check out the awesome lighting fixtures, then stop for a quick chat with the hostess on your way in – she’s bored up there.