Phoenix Public Market Cafe: Happy Hour Report Card

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The Spot: Phoenix Public Market Cafe 14 East Pierce Street 602-253-2700 www.phxpublicmarket.com

See Also: Phoenix Public Market Cafe: A Dazzling Space With the Occasional Letdown

The Hours: Happy Hour is offered daily from 3 p.m. until close.

The Interior: There's no doubt about it -- Aaron Chamberlin's newest joint, Phoenix Public Market Café, is a beaut. The chalkboard menus, large community bench seating and mellow yet bright color scheme all contribute to a slightly retro but mostly modern feel that's both rustic and clean at the same time. There's nothing you can dislike about the place aesthetically, and you can have a seat at either the indoor or outdoor portion of the bar. It's everything a local cafe should be, if appearance is what's important to you.

The Food: There aren't discounted happy hour food items, but you can do what we do at so many other happy hours and make your own. Though the entrées are slightly overpriced for the portion you get, you can grab a couple of sides or a cup of soup for $3 each. While the lentil curry coconut soup, which is vegan and gluten-free, is a great start, thanks to its creamy heartiness, the black bean soup is dreadfully underseasoned. It's almost as though someone dumped a can of beans in a bowl and sent it out with a cute garnish. Stick to the lentil soup or try out the seasonal offering if you're going to get a cup.

Other $3 options include beans, rice, cole slaw, and a baked sweet potato with chili lime butter. The French fries have been hit or miss in the times we've tried them, while the garlic mashed potatoes are consistently good. The steamed broccoli could have used some seasoning help, on top of being overcooked. The real winner of our side-dish-tasting adventure was the market vegetable option, which was Brussels sprouts with applewood-smoked bacon. The salty, fatty, smoky bacon accented the sprouts, which were roasted enough to be tender while not losing their texture entirely.

The Drink: Though the food at PPMC is a point of contention for us, the drinks win us over time and time again. Small pitchers of craft draft suds are $5 (which means $2.50/pint) and glasses of red and white wine are $5 from 3 p.m. to close, but the real winners are the $5 specialty cocktails. We loved our first and second cocktails so much that we literally tried all five options and were blown away by the freshness and flavor of each one.

Rather than making the drinks super-sweet, cocktails were tart, spicy, and herby --definitely refreshing. Our two favorites were the farmer's cup, with Pimm's, lemonade, basil, cucumber and lime, and the Lee Trevino, with vodka, St. Germain, lemon, iced tea and the perfect little kick of spice from the habanero syrup.

The Conclusion: It's important to note that service at Phoenix Public Market Café is typically far slower than at other places, especially if you sit at the bar rather than order at the counter. It took more than half an hour for us to order and receive a salad on separate visits. Though the food is hit-and-miss and often underseasoned, those cheap, delicious and unique drinks make it a great stop for a drink or two after work. We're so conflicted about this place. If only the food was as flavorful as the cocktails -- then it'd be an easy A.

Grade: B-

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