Ten Handcrafted American Fare & Spirits: Happy Hour Report Card

The Spot: Ten Handcrafted American Fare & Spirits 2501 East Camelback Road, #40 602-374-2611 www.tenfareandspirits.com

Perfect for: A cheap, quick bite and drink before a movie at the nearby luxury (read: overpriced) movie theater.

Interior: While sitting inside Ten, we couldn't help but think about the small, private parties we would like to hold inside the restaurant. Office holiday parties, small high school reunions, somebody's 50th birthday, the list goes on. This space just has that feel to it with little corners to hold intimate conversations and a lofted second dining room to escape a larger crowd. For being in the middle of the office-space riddled Esplanade, its dark wood touches and brick accents make it cozy and warm.

See also: Barrio Urbano: Happy Hour Report Card

But it's the service that creates a truly warm atmosphere. The owner regularly mans the front of the house, making sure customers have their steak cooked exactly as they'd like it or quickly retrieving an extra side of ketchup. The servers are lively and charismatic, cracking jokes while knowing exactly when it's time to let the customers be. We only wish the food and drink had blown us away, too.

The Food: During Ten's happy hour, all of the appetizers are half off. We went with the shrimp and gritcake, the fried green tomatoes, and the fish tacos. Overall, the food needed more seasoning.

The fish tacos ($4.50), which came as a pair on flour tortillas, were not good. The too small pieces of fried fish were almost completely flavorless and mushy. The mango chutney and green apple slaw balanced each other nicely, the mango's sweetness counteracting the apple's tartness, but completely overpowered the rest of the dish. We think a corn tortilla would have been better than flour.

Although the fried green tomatoes were a steal at $3.50, we would suggest skipping them. Again, the fried coating offered little flavor and was in desperate need of some salt and pepper. And the tomatoes themselves were too ripe. Their color was more of a pale yellow than green and their texture was too soft to stand up to the abuse of a fryer. The accompanying red pepper aioli was the only thing that encouraged us to take another bite.

Thankfully, the shrimp and gritcake ($5) was excellent. The creamy, fluffy corn pancake absorbed the rich, tomato-y sauce while still holding up against the juicy shrimp and slices of spicy andouille. We only wish the dish had been served in a bowl so we could have sopped up more of the sauce.

The Drinks: There were only four options for discounted cocktails on Ten's drink menu. We usually look for something a little more creative than the classic happy hour cocktails, but we chose the Traditional Daiquiri ($5) and then went off the happy hour menu with the Clover Club ($9) to try something different.

The Daiquiri, made with Sailor Jerry's rum, lime, and simple syrup, came shaken in a martini glass. It was too sweet, but not cloyingly so, and overall highlighted the flavor of the rum well. While we appreciated the freshness of the lime juice, we may suggest they strain the drink next time so we're not having to chew lime pulp.

The Clover Club was worth the price. This gin and raspberry drink was sweet and floral with a fluffy layer of egg white. The drink also came with bitters sprinkled on top that didn't offer much in the overall flavor of the drink but did mask any egg-y smell if there was some.

With $5 glasses of house wine and $3 beers, maybe cocktails are not the best route to take during Ten's happy hour if you're looking for great deals on great drinks.

Conclusion: It seems like Ten has a happy hour solely because it is expected of them, offering only the bare minimum of what is considered acceptable. Still, while other restaurants around town have put more thought into their happy hour menus, we can't be mad about the deals at Ten. Both the appetizer and drink prices were beyond reasonable for the portions we received, even if some of the elements were under-seasoned. We wish they would have been a little more creative with their happy hour offerings, but the people filling almost every table while we were there didn't seem to mind.

Don't miss: Shrimp and gritcake Skip this: Fried green tomatoes

Grade: C+

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