The Duce in Phoenix: Happy Hour Report Card

The Spot: The Duce 525 South Central Avenue 602-866-3823 www.theducephx.com

The Hours: Happy Hour is offered daily from 4 until 6 p.m.

The Interior: If you're not a fan of mason jars and you're over the whole kitschy vintage scene, you probably shouldn't go to The Duce. The '50s farm vibe of the outside patio and bar, with picnic tables for the main seating, switches to that of a more contemporary tavern at the larger inside bar. The indoor portion of The Duce also features goods from several local boutiques and a boxing ring. It's likely a lot of people will be turned off by The Duce's concept, which is quality over quantity, so let us warn you of all the things that you need to get over before you stop in.

The Food: Here's your first roadblock: You have to order your diner-centric food separate from drinks, and neither features table service. We know -- it's a lot of work. But trust us, it's worth it. During happy hour, you can get a basket of two hefty sliders for $5 from the retro trailer stand and kitchen. Though that's the only offer for deal seekers, you can mix and match sliders in your duo, choosing from cheeseburger with Gruyere and basil mayo, fried egg, brisket, short rib, tuna salad, and chicken sausage simmered in PBR. Plus, the items on the "shared delights" portion of the menu, like chicken pot pie in a jar and mac and cheese muffins, are all regularly priced under $10.

Another warning about the food: They might ask you to make up a silly nickname for yourself (so have one prepared), and the food will almost always take over 20 minutes to get to you. If you can sit patiently with a cocktail in hand, you'll most assuredly enjoy what you waited for.

The Drink: If you want a Jack and Coke or a Jameson and ginger, The Duce won't have it for you. If you want a drink that takes 20 seconds to make, The Duce can't do that for you. If you want a cocktail that's $8 or less, The Duce doesn't have one for you. If you want well liquor, well, you get the picture. You can go to almost any other bar in the world for those things, and The Duce makes craft cocktails from insanely fresh ingredients. While that certainly takes more time and costs a little more, it also tastes way better.

Two dollars off the cocktail prices only sort of soothes the sting of paying over $10 for a drink, but after one sip of a basil gimlet, you're sure to be sold. The cocktail menu, which features classic drinks done right, is sure to have one of your favorites, or you can find a new favorite in the Duce lemonade. If none of that sounds appealing, you can always grab a $2 can of beer during happy hour as well.

The Conclusion: The Duce just isn't your typical bar and restaurant scene, so you shouldn't expect it to be. What sets it apart in terms of type of service is also what makes it so deliciously unique, and it would be a shame to discount a place with such great food and drink just because it's non-traditional and nuanced. Go get a mason jar of cocktail and a mason jar of pie and see what we mean.

Grade: A-

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