The Spot: Phoenix Public Market Cafe
14 East Pierce Street
The Hours: Happy hour for food is from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day, while drink specials last from 3 p.m. to close.
Perfect for: A few drinks and good eats in a laid-back cafe setting.
The Interior: This downtown cafe is spacious, but manages to feel cozy with wooden picnic tables and a sunny patio. The inside always seems both bright enough to read, but dark enough so that you don't have to squint — key, since you'll often find students and downtown-ers hanging out and working at the restaurant's long community tables. We ordered at the counter and grabbed a number for our table, which felt a little weird for happy hour. But our food came out pretty fast and service was friendly.
The Food: Happy hour eats at Phoenix Public Market Cafe range from $5 to $7. If you're looking for a meal, the spot offers a barbecue pulled-pork sandwich ($7) and a cheese quesadilla ($6). And if you're looking for snacks, you'll find downtown devil fries with three dipping sauces ($6) or nachos ($7).
The house pretzels ($5) are not the soft and doughy creations you'd find at an average bar. The cafe's come as a pair with a jalapeño white cheddar sauce and an especially crunchy dark-brown exterior. Inside, the pretzel was doughier than we expected, and the creamy cheese sauce offered a noticeable jalapeño kick. These days, you can find pretzels on nearly every restaurant's menu, but not all pretzels are made equally — Phoenix Public Market Cafe's are done right.
It's always telling how a restaurant does chips, salsa, and guacamole, a happy-hour staple. And we appreciate Phoenix Public Market's well-thought-out platter ($5), which comes with guacamole, fire-roasted salsa, and green tomatillo salsa for a nice chip-to-dip ratio. There's nothing special about the guac, but the tomatillo and fire-roasted salsas were both flavorful. In fact, we wanted to buy a jar of the tomatillo sauce, which was tangy with a nice amount of heat.
The Drink: Drink-wise, the cafe's happy hour selections are a bit limited. You have a choice of either two California wines on tap (one cabernet, one chardonnay) for $5 a glass; two cocktails, including a brandy red-wine sangria ($5); and two draft beers — either Odell's Loose Leaf Ale or Mudshark's Scorpion Ale ($7 per pitcher).
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We selected the Lee Trevino ($5) cocktail. The drink combines vodka, elderflower liquor, lemon juice, iced tea, and habanero syrup for a very loose interpretation of a classic Arnold Palmer. The lemon and elderflower definitely come through in the drink, but we didn't really taste much habanero. Then again, for $5, it served as an excellent twist on a well-loved drink.
Conclusion: Phoenix Public Market Cafe is an unexpected hit for happy hour. The menu is succinct, the hours (especially for drinks) are great, and the food, ultimately, filled us up.
Don't Miss: The crunchy, doughy pretzels and the massive, adjoining bowl of cheese sauce.
Skip This: Metered parking in downtown Phoenix — try your luck with the cafe's lot.