The Hours: Happy Hour is offered Tuesday through Friday from 3 until 6 p.m.
The Interior: Tempe's newest lakeside restaurant, Watershed, seems to have gotten off to a bumpy start. The soft opening went off without the indoor dining room or bar being completed. Then that became known as "phase one," which means the restaurant was still unfinished when we came in for happy hour weeks after it had been open. However, the view on the patio, which is finished, is really where it's at, so the lack of indoor dining options didn't really bother us. According to the restaurant's Facebook page, phase one has since been completed, offering some inside dining, but the bar remains unfinished.
The Food: Unfortunately, Watershed doesn't discount food at all during happy hour. As is pretty much protocol for us at this point, we tried to assemble our own cheap bites menu from the appetizer list but were met with prices at $9 at the lowest. Nine bucks for three sliders means excellent quality and execution, right? Well, not in this case. The mini-burgers consisted of a thin, dry, crumbly chunk of beef between what we can only describe as Wonder Bread-style enriched white flour buns, likely from a grocery store.
From early word of the restaurant, the Santa Fe-style poutine seemed to be a draw, so that $10 plate of fries was next up to bat for us. Another swing and a miss. The bed of fries, which also seemed store bought, was covered in green chile gravy, whose flavor was reminiscent of those cans of green chiles you buy at (you guessed it) the grocery store. Add to that business a couple of large gobs of cheese, lightly battered and fried, and you have a dish that would make any Canadian drop the polite act and start throwing punches. Finally, the coconut shrimp came out, which was the least offensive of the three dishes, but the quality didn't warrant a 12-spot.
The Drink: When everything else in the world goes horribly, horribly wrong, at least there's booze to make it better. Starting off with a $1-off bottle of beer (because the draft system, like the rest of the bar, isn't installed yet), we asked for a glass to pour it in -- three times -- and never got it and gave up. Next we tried the Whaler, a mix of reposado, mint, agave nectar, orange, grapefruit, and lemon. The $9 cocktail was certainly not as fresh-tasting as it sounds, rather artificially sweet with that nasty low-quality tequila aftertaste.
Switching gears, the Spinnaker (which is billed as the "drink that sank the Titanic") combined Beefeater, grapefruit, orange, Sauvignon Blanc syrup, and egg white. The drink came (kind of) up in a martini glass with a large circular "iceberg" rock (we get the Titanic thing now) in the glass. While hoping the heavy, large chunk of ice wouldn't shatter the breakable, thin glass, we took a sip of the Spinnaker. We then took another. The artificially sweet flavor from the last drink was even more present in this drink and the juniper-forward gin really didn't play as nice as the tequila. Worst of all, the egg white didn't form any frothiness, so we were certain a glob of egg white awaited us at the bottom of the glass.
For the first time ever, we sent a drink back.
Then we asked for the check, waited five minutes, asked for the check again, and waited five more minutes before actually being able to pay and leave.
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The Conclusion: With a lot of what seemed like artificial flavors and what tasted like ready-made ingredients, combined and executed poorly with ridiculous prices, it's hard to think of any reason to go to Watershed. The service was inattentive at best and just outright dismissive at worst. Several things we ordered we would legitimately classify as gross, which rarely happens. While the patio and lake view are one redeeming quality, it isn't enough to get us to ever go back. Ever.
Sitting there, looking across the way at diners at Pier 54, we were actually envious of their experience, which is funny because Pier 54 only received at C+ on its happy hour report card. The whole experience felt like being one of the poor diners on the first half of an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, the ones who eat there before Gordon Ramsay fixes it. Hopefully someone fixes The Watershed.