Beyond Wild West shootouts and rugged, cacti-covered mountain landscapes is a culinary culture teeming with flavor and heat. Brave the region's spicy grub while saving pesos on firewater at these three iconic Southwest eateries.
Blue Adobe Grille
144 N. Country Club Dr., Mesa
Beneath a cobalt and white A-frame exterior that screams "pancake house" lurks one of Mesa's best-kept secrets. Opened in summer 2000, the original Blue Adobe captures the warm, welcoming vibe of a New Mexican country home, with rustic Saltillo floors, colorful glass chandeliers and a sturdy wooden bar. Happy hour makes for satisfied stomachs.
Score $2 off front-page menu selections such as green chile lobster dip ($6.95) or zesty corn cakes ($7.95). Take a siesta with $4 house margaritas and $3 wine or show some spirit by downing a local brew like Four Peaks Kilt Lifter or SanTan's seasonal pineapple hefeweizen paired with the restaurant's award-winning burger ($7.95). $3 well drinks. 3-6:30 p.m. daily.
5550 E. Lincoln Dr., Paradise Valley
Barry Goldwater and John Wayne are among the legendary figures who dined amid the stucco walls and rustic lodge furnishings of El Chorro in its early days. A wall display of Goldwater's black-and-white desert photography hearkens back to Arizona's golden age, as does the gratis spread of salmon cakes, sliders and other gourmet nibbles offered from 5-6 p.m.
Chase the Mondays away with $3 drafts, or hang around for other rotating daily drink specials like $5 margarita Thursdays and Saturday's two-buck domestics. After six, chill out with discounted appetizers and $5 house wines. 5 p.m.-close M-Sa. Bar and patio only
Phoenix City Grille
5816 N. 16th St., Phoenix
Thanks to recent renovations, Valley restaurateur Sheldon Knapp's hidden gem is the pinnacle of modern Arizona: stained concrete floors, mood lighting, garden patio and plush booths, all tucked surreptitiously into a stucco strip mall. Daily happy hour specials cater to border dwellers with carne asada tacos ($8), machaca-stuffed chiles ($6) and spicy, honey-glazed ribs ($8) that seem at home in the dark, Western-tinged decor.
Try tart, lemony grilled asparagus ($3) with a glass of $4 house wine or opt for a more relaxed nosh combo of sausage and pickled cabbage with a premium draft ($4). House martinis and selected wines are just $6, with well drinks a wallet-friendly $4. 3-9 p.m. M, 3-10 p.m. Tu, 3-6p.m. W-Su. Bar and patio only.
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