Cartwright's: Happy Hour Report Card
The Spot: Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House,
Nikki Buchanan Shrimp cocktail
6710 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, 480-488-8031, www.cartwrightssonoranranchhouse.com.
The Hours: Happy Hour is offered from 4:30 to 6:30 pm every day.
The Interior: Beamed ceilings and stucco walls combine with antiques and Western artifacts to give the white tablecloth dining room the warmth and rusticity of an old ranch house. Happy hour is held in the Mesquite Bar that sits near the entrance, which is not a lounge but rather a massive wooden bar and back bar with twelve heavy, wrought iron-backed and upholstered bar stools. Customers appear to be Cave Creek regulars, (mostly older folks) who know the menu, the bartender and the drill. Both TVs are tuned to football highlights. Yawn. No baseball? In October?
Buchanan Braised pork nachos and buffalo-chipotle sausage with mustard spätzle and spicy cabbage
The Food: Happy hour selections draw from the regular appetizer menu, featuring three dishes at $5 each and Blue Point oysters (a minimum order of six required), priced at a buck apiece. Because I've come with a friend and we've ordered all four selections, the kitchen has split out two dishes and served them on the same plate.
One side features chunks of Cheyenne Indian buffalo and chipotle sausage -- juicy and a little spicy -- served over mustard spätzle and guajillo-spiced cabbage. It's a mini supper (vaguely German, thanks to the sausage/spätzle combo) and the best of the lot by a country mile ($5).
Six pie-shaped corn chips (three per plate), generously topped with a mixture of braised pulled pork and melted Mexican white cheese, don't seem like nachos at all -- primarily because they're served almost cold with no sense of bubbly cheese or other toppings, which is pretty much what nachos are all about. The meat's tasty, but the dish just isn't interesting or remotely satisfying despite a fancy-sounding accompaniment of mango jicama salsa. I'd be sorely disappointed if I'd had to pay full freight for this one ($5).