Photo by Leah LeMoine
Have you ever put off trying a restaurant because you thought it was far from your house? No? Just me? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, my partner is loath to leave the 5-mile bubble he’s mentally constructed around our house, even for good food. I will drive damn near anywhere for a delicious meal – and I do, in “normal times,” trying new places all around the Valley with foodie friends. During the pandemic, though, I’ve found myself adopting his philosophy and sticking close for takeout.
Luckily, writing this blog shakes me out of my quarantine routine, and I’ve recently ventured to the East Valley, West Valley and far North Scottsdale in search of takeout happy hour treats. When Ladera Taverna y Cocina offered a to-go media sample of its new happy hour menu, I was happy to have a reason to drive to what I had assumed was Downtown Phoenix, about half an hour from my North Phoenix home. My happiness increased when my GPS indicated it was a mere 8 miles away – a 15–minute drive in good traffic. OMG, I thought. It’s way closer than I thought. If we like it, I can convince Matt to add it to our regular rotation!
When I picked up our spread, I admired Ladera’s lovely, shaded patio. It’s more of a courtyard, really, with a rustic stone fireplace flanked by low-slung armchairs, a quaint brick floor, Spanish/Territorial Revival-style chandeliers, abundant seating, plentiful foliage and a grassy area with additional seating. The restaurant has indoor-outdoor flexibility, with sliding glass doors to the indoor dining room that are left open on nice days. Mask-wearing, table-spacing and social distancing were enforced, and everything looked exceedingly clean.
I was a big fan of chef Jeremy Pacheco’s work at LON’s at The Hermosa Inn, so I was bereft when he left my favorite resort restaurant. He turned up as the new culinary director at Genuine Concepts (Ladera, The Vig, The Womack, The McMillan and The Little Woody) and has been making great menu innovations throughout the GC empire.
Pacheco’s touch is evident on Ladera’s new happy hour menu. Chicharrones de puerco with salsa Valentina ($5) showcase his meat mastery (Pacheco made his own lamb bacon and cured meats at LON’s). Chicharrones de harina ($5) are a fun veg spin on the fried pork rinds: “harina” means “flour” in Spanish. These crispy cuties are also pretty – they look like disks of lotus root.
Photo by Leah LeMoine
Once you start popping chile-lime corn nuts ($5) in your mouth, it’s hard to stop. There’s something so satisfying about their brittle crunch, which is gentler than that of their commercially made, tooth-shattering cousins. Cool off with pineapple and cucumber dusted with Tajín ($5) or warm up with chicken flautas (two for $5) with lettuce, tomato, queso fresco and crema, or pork pastor tacos (two for $5) with pineapple, cilantro and salsa verde.
A few aperitivos are not discounted during happy hour, but should be ordered nonetheless. Guacamole and salsa ($11) are classic accompaniments to Ladera’s absolutely perfect chips, made fresh daily with tortillas from South Phoenix’s La Sonorense Tortilla Factory. The guac is topped with orange cubes, charred onions, pepitas, cotija and serrano chiles, and the salsa roja is flavorful but not spicy. I also used those amazing chips to scoop up cocktail de camarones ($15), lime-marinated Mexican shrimp tossed with red onion, cucumber, tomato and Clamato; puerco en chile verde ($11), slow-roasted pork swimming with soft potatoes, cotija and an over easy egg in a smoky green chile broth; and pozole ($12), more of that melty pork in a bright red chile broth with hominy, cabbage, avocado, radish, onion, cilantro and lime. I adore pozole, so this will be my first takeout order when we return. And we will return. It’s only 15 minutes away, after all.
Photo by Leah LeMoine
Enjoy $1 off bottles of cerveza and $2 off draft beers. House wines and special cocktails are also discounted $2. When I dine in, I’ll be ordering the Frozen Mezcalada (regularly $11; $9 during happy hour), a mix of Illegal mezcal, coconut, pineapple, lime and Angostura bitters. Two sangrias (regularly $9 each; $7 during happy hour) also sound increíble: Sangria Tinta, with Cabernet, strawberry brandy, lemon and sparkling wine; and Sangria Blanca, with Pinot Grigio, peach brandy, lemon and sparkling wine.
Happy hour runs Tuesday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. Dine-in only.