Pita Jungle: Happy Hour Report Card

The Spot: Pita Jungle, 4921 E. Ray Road, Phoenix. (480) 785-PITA (7482). More than seven other Valley locations, including Tempe, Scottsdale, and downtown Phoenix. www.pitajungle.com

The Hours: 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Reverse happy hour is from 9 p.m. to close daily.

The Details: On the drinks menu, all beer (draft, premium bottled, and domestic bottled) is $1 off. House wines are down to $3 a glass, and your standard margarita is only $3.29. Pita Jungle spins its happy hour nibbles in a whole new direction with an extensive selection of small plates. Priced at $1-3, these tapas include many of your favorites from the appetizer menu (Hummus Trio, Dolmades, Falafel) as well as fresh creations like Steamed Mussels in White Wine ($2) and Shrimp in Ajo Sauce ($3). They have decent portion sizes for two people, but could easily serve as welcome taste-tests for larger groups.

The Interior: Since we last checked in with Pita Jungle's happy hour in 2010, the company has continued to expand -- including, earlier this month, its biggest location yet in Ahwatukee. The Meditteranean-inspired restaurant took over a space next to AMC Ahwatukee 24 last unsuccessfully inhabited by a French restaurant with patio furniture meant to be seen and not sat upon.

On a late Wednesday afternoon, the large patio space is already nearly filled with happy hour patrons. Inside, Pita Jungle's artsy, laid-back brand is expressed through sturdy-IKEA-chic: Like that reclaimed factory loft you've always wanted, it has high ceilings, polished concrete floors, and bicycles hanging over one of the center tables like industrial chandeliers. There are pops of color everywhere, from the lampshades to the cutesy fabric patterns, to a smattering of chair legs painted bright yellow and pink. Cheerful servers dart in and out like photo negatives of Lisbeth Salander: all of the style, none of the frown.

The Cost: Five tapas, two extra orders of pita, one kiwi strawberry iced green tea, and one very strong margarita (for only 50 cents more than the tea at happy hour prices) sneaked just under $15 before tax and tip.

Pita Jungle's long-awaited Ahwatukee location opened earlier this month.

The Conclusion: Pita Jungle's happy hour succeeds at being delightfully accessible and unpretentious -- and sometimes, when you're looking for a spot to relax after a long day, that's half the battle. And we certainly can't fault them for selection. The tapas menu is so long and yet so incredibly low-priced that you can fill your table like a prince for a pauper's bill. In an age when portion sizes are too often "super," it's refreshing to have the choice of these small afternoon or late-night bites. It's the drink discounts, however, that leave something to be desired. Take the draft beer, with four options including Four Peaks Hop Knot and San Tan Devil's Ale. During regular hours, these are each $4.99, so the happy hour deal brings them down to $3.99. With discounts like that -- the margarita excepted -- we'll just go ahead and have our tapas...and eat them, too.

Overall Grade: B+

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