Salty Sow in North Phoenix: Happy Hour Report Card

The Spot: Salty Sow 4801 East Cactus Road, Phoenix 602-795-9463 www.saltysow.com/

The Hours: Happy Hour is offered daily from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. until close.

The Interior: With exposed brick walls, rich, sleek wood furniture, an exposed kitchen and paintings of portly pigs gracing its walls, Salty Sow, a restaurant that originated in Austin, Texas, looks like the newest hot spot to hit North Phoenix. Daily specials and a full list of craft cocktails and drafts make the menu look promising. Heck, even the name is about as hip in the restaurant industry as it gets right now. If it feels like we're building up to a contradiction to these initial observations, you're definitely catching our vibe.

The Food: The happy hour selection offers dishes for $5, $7 or $10, depending on what you pick-- all decent prices for the portions you get. However, some preparation and execution issues plagues almost every dish we tried. The $5 three times fried duck fat fries with a poached egg and béarnaise dipping sauce promised both Belgian and French inspiration, but delivered dry, flavorless, lukewarm fries and a slightly overcooked egg. The $5 eggplant fries with parmesan and marinara were similarly disappointing, basically functioning as grease bombs-- so oversaturated and fried that they turned soggy and would gush with fat every time you took a bite. We stopped at two.

Veering away from the sad fry train, we landed at lamburger station-- a $7 five ounce lamb patty with olive tampenade, goat cheese and arugula, with another unfortunate side of fries. The burger itself was actually a stand out, though. The moist, perfectly medium rare meat played nicely with its high-end condiments, with rich, peppery, creamy, tangy and briney flavors throughout. Definitely worth the price, even if you opt to ignore the side of fries entirely.

The Drink: As we said before, Salty Sow offers craft cocktails, draft beer and wine, all of which get some happy hour love. Twelve local and national drafts are offered for $4, along with six different $5 wines by the glass. The thirteen drinks that make up the cocktail list are all basically new twists on the classics, like the "Maple-Glazed Old Fashioned" or "Cucumber Basil Collins." The house white sangria is a unique take on sangria, going with more herbal and citrus flavors that the typical sweet and fruity sangrias we're used to. The Elderflower liqueur, basil, lemon, orange and grapes and combined with champagne aren't a knockout combination, but certainly worth $6 per glass.

The Conclusion: While we like the look of Salty Sow and love the option of regular and reverse happy hours daily, we can't stand behind a spot that can't make a decent French fry--or even eggplant fry. The tasty lamburger and inventive sangria earned this spot some extra points, but overall, we weren't blown away at all by much of what we got this trip. Keep it simple, Salty Sow, then, once you've got that down, you can move onto more complex, hip dishes.

Grade: C-

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