Avocado and tomato bruschetta | Photo by Leah LeMoine
My love for The Hermosa Inn and its stunning on-site restaurant, LON’s, is no secret. I love it so much I broke my pandemic “dining-out” fast there in April, when my partner and I celebrated our anniversary on its perfect patio. I’ve rhapsodized about it in print and in this very happy hour blog, where I wrote about LON’s Last Drop’s happy hour two years ago.
Ah, but the times, they are a changin’ – and so is the happy hour menu, which recently got a brilliant refresh from LON’s general manager/beverage maestro Jon Dils and chef de cuisine Sam Anderson. My dear PR pal Keeley, who represents la bella Hermosa, invited me for a media sampling last week. What a sweet reunion – with Keeley and with one of the best happy hours in town, among the gorgeous flowers and Southwestern alcoves of the LON’s and Last Drop patios.
At many restaurants, happy hour is clearly an afterthought – a transparent ploy to make a quick buck off kitchen scraps. Not so at LON’s Last Drop, where each happy hour offering feels like a thoughtfully designed and composed dish.
Even the Carafe & Cellar Board ($30) takes charcuterie up a few notches with a bountiful array of artisanal meats and cheeses, Marcona almonds, plum jam, stone-ground mustard, apples, olives, dried apricots, toasted bread and cheesy, seed-speckled crisp bread. All of that plus a carafe of wine for $30? When a good bottle of wine alone can cost $30+? You feel like you’re getting away with something here.
Avocado and tomato bruschetta ($14) marries the best parts of avocado toast and Caprese-style bruschetta – creamy avocado slices, juicy tomatoes and fresh, anise-like basil – and then gilds the lily with thinly sliced rounds of peppery radishes, bright spring garlic and a blanket of whipped goat cheese on sprouted spelt toast. Spicy chicken sliders (three for $16) are a must: petite slabs of succulent, crispy fried chicken doused in a spicy honey glaze and topped with pickled cabbage slaw and local Cheddar, the whole lot sandwiched between bronzed buns slicked with smoked chile aioli. Also cheesy and satisfying: the carbonara wood-fired pizza ($18). Creamy white truffle sauce, crisp bacon lardons, a sumptuous six-minute egg and sprightly pea tendrils adorn a plush, chewy crust with hints of wood smoke. If you love pasta carbonara, you will adore this.
For all the veg and meat decadence, though, I must say Anderson’s seafood selections stole the show. Grilled shrimp tacos (three for $16) made me feel like I was eating on the beach in Mexico. The slightly smoky shrimp were perfectly cooked, drizzled with avocado-lime crema and plucky aji amarillo salsa and topped with cabbage sliced so thinly it looked like a chiffonade of herbs. Delicioso. Blue crab cakes ($18) are small in circumference but loom statuesquely over a refreshing fennel-citrus salad with preserved lemon aioli. Lemon is a classic accompaniment to seafood, but I loved how these cakes boasted lemony flavor within their golden crusts. Each bite was so bright, fresh and interesting. I’m going to try to mimic it at home with lemon zest the next time I make crab cakes.
Crab cakes | Photo by Leah LeMoine
Dils helped conceptualize the lobster roll sliders (three for $20), and if I wasn’t already a fan of that man’s ideas (have you tried the charming Ornament-ini cocktails served in Christmas ornaments he created for the holidays?), I would be based on this contribution. I have this enduring fantasy of a New England summer full of clambakes and boat shoes and beach cottages and breezy white button-ups. And lobster rolls, of course! I can’t resist a lobster roll, even here in the desert, and I don’t care about the Maine vs. Connecticut debate, creamy vs. buttery, cold vs. hot – I like it all. Apparently so does Dils, because these lobster rolls he created with Anderson find a middle ground among the aforementioned extremes. They’re lightly creamy with garlic aioli but not gloppy, a bit buttery from the toasted brioche roll but not sodden, flecked with a few herbs but not so much that they look like salads, bright from lemon but not overwhelmed by citrus, bursting with large chunks of lobster as well as finer bits that keep everything together… I could go on. I’ve still never actually been to New England (one day!), but these rolls will help me keep my fantasy alive until I do.
The basic happy hour drink options are as follows:
- Arizona craft canned beer ($6)
- Well cocktails – vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, tequila ($7)
- Draft cocktails – Hermosa Mule, house margarita ($8)
- Wines on tap – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, rosé ($7)
- Trust Cocktail – allow the Last Drop mixologists to surprise you with a custom creation ($10)
But it’s worth splurging on one of the house bottled cocktails ($14 each):
- Last Drop – High West Double Rye whiskey, Luxardo apricot, sweet vermouth, blood orange (not a whiskey gal, but my whiskey-loving boss loves this one)
- The Stetson – El Silencio mezcal, curaçao, fresh lime juice, prickly pear, agave nectar (love – absolutely perfect for the desert)
- Bee’s Knees Lavender Sour – Botanist gin, honey-lavender syrup, purple sugar, lemon juice (my herbal, refreshing go-to)
Dils walked us through a few new Last Drop cocktails as well. Miss Peacock is a pretty potion that boasts layers of blueberry lemonade and St-Germain elderflower liqueur with butterfly pea flower-infused Mission vodka. The butterfly pea flower slowly tints the drink violet, so you get a drink and a show. And we’ve all had some version of frosé, that frozen rosé concoction that swept the nation a few years ago. But have you ever had it with trendy pink pineapple? Dils ordered cases of the rare fruit to make purées for the Pink Pineapple Frosé, which has tropical notes of melon and guava sparked with fresh lemon juice. I would love to drink great quantities of this by the pool this summer.
Miss Peacock and Pink Pineapple Frosé cocktails | Photo by Leah LeMoine
Last Drop is known for its WhistlePig Rye Whiskey cocktails, but it’s summer in Phoenix and I’m more of a tequila gal, so instead we sample a couple of Casamigos cocktails. The Pineapple Samurai pairs pineapple-infused blanco tequila with Sayuri sake, agave and Burlesque Bitters ($18) for a smooth and bright tropical/Southwestern/Japanese mashup. Love the dehydrated pineapple segment garnish. Meanwhile, the Mango Habanero Ranch Water ($18) goes down way too easily. Reposado tequila, Mango Reàl, lime, habanero bitters and Topo Chico add up to a fruity but balanced, slightly spicy and bracing sip that is exactly what you want to be slurping when its 110+ degrees outside.
Happy hour runs daily from 4 p.m.-close through Labor Day.
THE INSIDER TIP
After much lobbying by Dils, management is installing state-of-the-art misters on the patio this month. The sweet and attentive servers are as jazzed as we are. Now we can enjoy the Valley’s most picturesque patio all year long!