Los Olivos Mexican Patio: Happy Hour Report Card

The Spot: Los Olivos Mexican Patio, 7328 East Second Street, Scottsdale, 480-946-2256. www.losolivosrestaurants.com (Second location: Los Olivos Norte, 15544 North Pima Road, Scottsdale, 480-596-9787)

The Hours: Old Town location: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Happy Hour: 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday

The Interior: In the '20s, Tomas Corral built a tiny adobe house on this spot and his wife Cecilia made tamales for the Hispanic community who came to dance on Saturday nights under the olive trees planted by Winfield Scott.

Owned and operated these days by Tomas and Cecilia's grandchildren, this sprawling Mexican restaurant emotes a comfortable, old-school vibe.

Although some customers grouse it needs a makeover, those of us who've been coming here forever don't want a thing to change -- not the saltillo-tiled floors, the Diego Rivera-like murals, the oddly Mayan indoor patio, the dim lighting, or the funky, lived-in look of the place.

The "Happy Hour Fiesta" happens around a square bar in the lounge, decorated with Mexican beer signs and furnished with a TV tuned to sports. It's decidedly un-hip and mostly quiet -- except during spring training, when the entire restaurant often becomes a zoo.

The Food: Happy Hour appetizers -- priced at $4, $5 and $6 -- couldn't be more straightforward. And because you can't sit anywhere without someone plunking down a basket of chips and salsa in front of you, it's easy to get full pretty quickly. Thin, crisp and warm, the chips are vehicles for two carafes of salsa -- one chunky and mild, the other (my favorite) bright red and decidedly hotter.

But exercise restraint here because you're going to want room for the cheesiest and best cheese crisp in town, served bubbling hot from the broiler ($4). It's built on a thin, pliable house-made flour tortilla, browned on the bottom and almost pastry-like in its flakiness. Still hungry?

Try the excellent mini beef tacos (six of them), stuffed with ground beef, grated cheddar and lettuce. They're greasy and irresistible ($5).

Crunchy mini-flautas or mini-chimis, both served with lemon-y guacamole make a decent third option. There's more on the menu, too. I just never get past my favorites.

The Drink: Bud Light and Coors Light on draft go for $1.75 during happy hour, while draft Dos Equis amber or lager sell for $2.25. Mexican beer (Corona, Pacifico, Negro Modelo, Tecate and more) is priced at $3, house margaritas (frozen or on the rocks) for $3.50. Don't order house wine here. That would be silly.

The Conclusion: Some people love it; some people think it's lost its luster, and some people never really got it in the first place. But I'm an unapologetic Los Olivos fan from way back who would tell you this is a great place to drink beer, munch chips, eat a cheese crisp, and catch up with a friend.

Grade: B

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