Is anyone else having crowd anxiety as we return to restaurants? I can’t be the only one. It’s simply natural to be a little jittery around gaggles of people after the past year and a half of social distancing, quarantining and fearing the physical proximity of others, lest we infect each other with a horrific virus. It’s challenging to rewire your brain and body to accept closeness – especially for someone like me, a social introvert who thrives in small groups but is easily overwhelmed by a horde, even in pre-pandemic times.
But I know I need to work on this anxiety, so I set out for happy hour at one of the most crowded places I could think of: O.H.S.O. Brewery + Distillery’s Paradise Valley location. The buzzy brewpubs spread throughout the Valley – four locations currently, in Gilbert, Scottsdale, Arcadia and PV – are true neighborhood hubs, always bustling with coworkers grabbing happy hour, lovebirds on dates, families playing patio games and dog lovers spoiling their fur babies with O.H.S.O.’s gratis dog treats. I have never seen any location in a slump – they’re all always busy. Perfect immersion therapy for my crowd aversion.
This past Wednesday I headed to the Paradise Valley location, which is on my way home from work. I settled into a wooden booth on the shaded, misted patio plastered with TV screens and bumping with loud music and waited for my fella to leave his last meeting and join me. The impromptu date felt radical after our year of seclusion, home cooking and takeout.
Photo by Leah LeMoine
I closed my eyes and felt the energy and the din of the crowd envelop me. Panic began to bubble from my stomach like underwater exhalations from a diver. I took a deep breath. And another. And another. I thought about the vaccine and how it has protected me since I got my second dose in March. The panic bubbles slowly dissipated. Replacing them with the sprightly bubbles in my glass of sparkling rosé certainly helped.
O.H.S.O. offers a lot of happy hour classics – a soft pretzel with cheese sauce (its version is spiked with green chile, $5), a burger ($10) and fried cheese (in the form of jalapeño cheese curds with ranch dressing, $5). But it also offers some fried delights that are less common in these parts, like crab wontons ($5), crunchy, golden brown triangles stuffed with crab and cream cheese, drizzled with sweet chile sauce and piled with a nest of scallion curls. I could eat all five of them by myself and call it a meal.
Photo by Leah LeMoine
Buffalo wings are a dime a dozen on happy hour menus. You won’t find them here – at least not in their traditional form. At O.H.S.O., the sports bar classic is presented as Buffalo chicken fries ($10), a pile of garlic frites topped with shredded Buffalo chicken dip, blue cheese crumbles, more Buffalo sauce and a shower of scallions. I am not a sports person, but this dip is one thing I’ve missed about being guilted into going to people’s houses for sporty gatherings. Take the football, leave the Buffalo chicken dip, grazie. You can also order brisket fries – the same garlic fries, but topped with barbecue brisket, pickles, peppers, green chile cheese sauce and crispy onion strings ($10). Next time.
My partner was feeling peckish, so he got the barbecue chicken sandwich ($10), a fried chicken breast topped with barbecue sauce, melted cheddar, lettuce and onion strings on a burger bun. He loved the tangy, mustardy sauce, and I loved stealing bites of the lightly crunchy chicken. I’ve never tried O.H.S.O.’s signature sandwich, The Gobbler – a turkey burger with bacon, tomato, spring mix and pear compote ($10) – but one of these times I’ll get around to it. Now that I’m (sort of) ready to face the crowds.
Photo by Leah LeMoine
Any pitcher of Arizona beer, glass of wine or signature cocktail is just $7 during happy hour. I ordered the Chandon sparkling rosé, usually $11, and Matt had the Left Hand Brewing Co.’s Milk Stout Nitro. At work happy hours past, I’ve also enjoyed The Arcadia (gin, lime, simple syrup, mint and sparkling wine), the Oasis Punch (grapefruit vodka, elderflower, lemon, strawberry and simple syrup) and the O.H.S.O. Skinny (tequila, lime, orange bitters and soda water). I enthusiastically recommend all of them and their refreshing properties, especially with the onslaught of another Phoenix summer.
Happy hour runs Monday-Friday from open to 6 p.m. – quite generous, especially for the lunch crowd.
This happy hour also runs late night! From 10 p.m.-midnight, every night, you can enjoy the same happy hour menu and pricing.