Second Story Liquor Bar sits above Old Town Scottsdale's Gelato Spot off of Scottsdale Road just north of Indian School. Tommy Plato owns both restaurants, but SSLB is clearly a labor of love. Pulling in the talents of Josh Bracher, a relatively young and very up-and-coming chef, in the kitchen and John Christie, a seasoned bartender with an encyclopedic cocktail knowledge behind the bar, his cast of players is spot on. However, not all of the elements translate from the regular menu to the happy hour menu, which is served from 4 until 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
The Offerings: Second Story Liquor Bar switches up their happy hour food offering every six weeks. When we went you had your choice of:
Drinks: $6 well cocktails $5 house red or white wine $3 draft beers (including Four Peaks Kiltlifter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, San Tan Hefeweizen, Krononberg 1662, Magic Hat #9, and Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA)
Food: $13 poutine with pork and a balsamic onion aioli $7 confit roasted red bell pepper hummus $8 grilled fish taco $11 mushroom flatbread $13 Rhode Island calamari $10 caprese burger with a side $4 deviled egg $4 chicken katsu slider $12 machaca beef burrito $10 pork butt bahn mi
The Good: You're definitely not getting low quality bar food appetizers at SSLB's happy hour. Starting with the Rhode Island calamari, $13 is admittedly a little steep for discount pricing. However, you'll be met with a plate of perfectly crisp, battered and fried calamari. The squid itself is fresh and not at all rubbery, but the puttanesca that comes on top makes the dish flavorful with pickled vegetables cutting through the fried aspect of the dish.
Similarly, the chicken katsu slider, which is essentially a small fried chicken sandwich, could have felt fatty, but instead it was expertly paired with an Asian slaw, sesame bok choy, and ginger aioli. At $5 each, you should definitely consider getting two if you're hungry. For both dishes, we were particularly impressed with the plating, making it clear that happy hour food isn't just an after thought and it continues the restaurant's dedication to quality and flavor.
The Bad: While we can't argue with the beer menu, which offers $3 beers in a range of styles to suit most tastes, we were disappointed that John Christie's fantastic specialty cocktail weren't on the happy hour line-up. Heck, even if they went down $2 or $3 per cocktail during happy hour, we would've been happy, but instead we were stuck with the well drinks. While the well spirits at SSLB aren't bottom shelf by any means, it still would've been nice to try Christie's Vieux Carré or Gin Fizz.
For the most part, we were blown away by the food at SSLB. However, the $8 single fish taco was a low point. While we enjoyed the slaw on top and the thick, freshly made corn tortilla underneath, the grilled white fish was way too salty, making it hard to enjoy the other components of the dish. At $8 for only one taco, we'd expect it to be darn near perfect--especially in a city where tacos, even upscale ones such as that, are fairly ubiquitous.
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Overall: Although we were a little disappointed when specialty cocktails weren't discounted on the happy hour menu, pretty much everything else knocked it out of the park at SSLB. You'll likely leave spending $20 or $30 depending on if you get more than one drink or a couple dishes, but the quality justifies the price at this spot.
The Numbers: Ambiance: 4 Food: 4 Drink: 3 Service: 4 Deals: 4