Gallo Blanco: Happy Hour Report Card
The Spot: Gallo Blanco
Buchanan Queso fundido
401 W. Clarendon Avenue, Phoenix, 602-274-4774, www.galloblancocafe.com
Hours: Happy Hour is offered 3 to 6 p.m. every day.
The Interior: Thanks to its concrete floors and industrial design, Gallo's open, multi-windowed dining room has always been noisy as all get out, but cacaphony seems to suit the young urban types who show up in droves for one of the city's best and most affordable happy hours. A narrow, unadorned patio offers escape from the din, but why not embrace it? Grab a seat at the small bar which faces away from the room but allows for plenty of plate ogling as servers ferry food from the kitchen.
The Food: Doug Robson is a self-described gallo blanco (slang for "white dude" in Spanish), but because he was born and raised in Mexico City, he knows what he's doing when it comes to Mexican street food. If anything, he brings a chef's sensibility to his fresh and often locally sourced ingredients, offering simplicity with just a dash of sophistication.
Who makes the best guac in town? I don't know. I'd have to eat the contenders back-to-back to answer that, but Robson's chunky version, served with thick, crunchy, house-made chips, is definitely in the running. Topped with cotija cheese and fresh cilantro, it's so good you'll be scraping the bottom of the molcajete before calling it quits ($5).
Buchanan guacamole and chips
The same can be said for bubbling queso fundido, combining spicy chorizo and stringy queso Oaxaco (think Mexican mozzarella), topped with a spoonful of salsa for extra oomph ($6). Yes, it means eating another mountain of chips, but if you've got a beer or a margarita in hand, why would that stop you?
Elote Callejero (Mexican street corn) is generally eaten right on the cob, and it's a gloriously sloppy, hand-held affair, topped with mayonnaise, cotija cheese and paprika (some versions use red chile or chili powder) and given a squirt of lime. Because my pal and I are sharing, the kitchen has cut the kernels off for us and piled them on a plate. Although it doesn't look as cool, it tastes every bit as delicious ($4).
Buchanan Mexican street corn, off the cob