Each week we venture to a new restaurant to check out what the spot has to offer during our favorite time of day — happy hour. Whether it's affordable appetizers, delicious drinks, jaw-dropping deals, or none of the above, we'll check out the situation and report back.
The Spot: Rita’s Kitchen at Camelback Inn
5402 East Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale
The Hours: Happy hour is 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day in the R’Bar, the lounge across from the main dining area of Rita’s Kitchen. But if you want to keep the party going, Camelback Inn’s fancier restaurant down the hall, BLT Steak, has happy hour from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Perfect For: Locals who want to pretend they’re visiting and experience how the snowbirds live. Or for those in search of a good drink with a mountain view.
The Interior: Nothing to write home about, R’Bar’s interior décor is standard, Arizona-resort-looking fare, with a halfhearted attempt at an adobe look. There's a mix of brown leather chairs and a few high tops, and the bar is backlit with warm hues of red and gold. Throw in a couple of TVs, and you’ve got your typical lobby bar – comfortable, but uninspiring. The patio is a different story altogether, however, with fire pits, strings of bistro lights, and a view of Camelback Mountain that will make your Instagram followers green with envy. Against that backdrop, the Southwestern staples such as palm trees and chimineas feel indigenous, not forced, and the trickling water feature that weaves throughout the patio will leave you feeling very Zen.
The Food: Happy-hour prices here make offerings closer to regular prices elsewhere, and the food isn’t much better. For example, our grilled cheese ($6, normally $10) had gruyere and bacon, and was presented somewhat creatively (one half stacked on top of the other, does that count?), but the taste didn’t knock our socks off. And the filet sliders were chewy and underwhelming. And at $10 (normally $14) for two sliders, it was not a cheap mistake.
The bar menu is divided into “Hot Plates” and “Cool Plates,” and other happy-hour food items included chips with salsa and guacamole ($8 at happy hour, normally $12), hummus with pita bread ($8, normally $10), a chicken quesadilla, and “hellfire” wings (each $8 instead of the regular $12). There were several other items on the bar menu, such as the R Burger or salami pizza, but none were discounted.
The Drinks: On the upside, the drinks are awesome. The house margarita ($6 instead of $10) was made with Cuervo Gold and pure lime juice. It was salty, tart, and perfectly refreshing on a hot day. The Rita’s Red Sangria, a “Camelback Inn specialty,” was well worth the $7 (normally $10) and hit the right notes of fruits and spice.
The only other specialty cocktail on happy hour was called a Desert Pear Cosmo ($7 instead of $13), made with Absolut Pear, Cointreau, prickly pear, and lime. Most other cocktails were similarly Southwestern, though without the discount. Other happy-hour perks were $5 drafts (Four Peaks IPA, Mudshark Full Moon, New Belgium’s Fat Tire, and Stella Artois, normally $7 each) and $7 wine by the glass (Kris pinot grigio, Columbia Crest chardonnay, Mark West pinot noir, and Estancia cabernet sauvignon).
Conclusion: Unfortunately, the acoustics at the R Bar really took away from our experience. During the visit, the hotel seemed occupied by a large group, and after an hour of shouting just to be heard by our server, we were ready to leave when the live music began at 6 p.m. To avoid the struggle, opt for a seat outside, where the mediocre food is more likely to be eclipsed by the stellar views and excellent margaritas.
Don’t Miss: The margarita.
Skip This: Sitting inside. Get out and take in the view.
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