Pho on 6th Scores Happy-Hour Points for Cheap Eats

Fried things and sugary things dominate the appetizer list.EXPAND
Fried things and sugary things dominate the appetizer list.
Leigh Chavez Bush
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If you have a standard job, one of the main barriers to happy hour is time. Most end by 6 p.m., so you're out of luck if you work later than that. This makes the 7 p.m. or all-night happy hour an elusive gem that I am constantly on the lookout for. The hunt also takes me to places I might not otherwise consider.

Pho on 6th doesn't scream happy hour, but if you’re in the ’hood and it’s after 6:30, it is one of the few places that still offers food and beverage deals until 7. The low brick building (which also houses Joy Wine & Spirits) is easy to miss if you’re keeping up with the Sixth Avenue traffic. The dining room feels calming, however, with a  majestic peacock carved in wood (entangled tree roots forming its tail) dividing the main dining area from the bar, while another partition encloses a high-top adjacent to the bar, making it a perfect spot for large groups.

It isn’t until we take our seats at this long wooden table that we realize how close it is to the server station and sense an off-putting smell, which seems confined to the bar area. We consider moving, but my youngest friend is averse to the tweenager birthday party (a disturbance I would have never noticed) in the dining room, remarking, “I would never bring my twenty-something friends here for happy hour.”

Cocktails and wine are $1 off during happy hour.EXPAND
Cocktails and wine are $1 off during happy hour.
Leigh Chavez Bush

The restaurant's happy-hour booze deal is lackluster at best: $1 off beer, wine and cocktails. My young friend, however, says she is perfectly content with her heavy pour of malbec at $5. While the beer and wine max out at $9 a glass, we begrudgingly order two cocktails at $12 and $11 (including the discount). The Mai Thai (a mai tai with a little something extra) arrives saccharine; in comparison, the Tom Yum (also Thai-inspired) comes across as refreshing, if uninspiring. Were it not for the prices, they both would have been passable. This all leaves us wishing that the sake selections were also $1 off.

Where Pho on 6th really gets happy hour is with the food. Seven different appetizers, including options for vegans and vegetarians, ring in at less than $9 each, except for the Golden Spider (crispy soft shell crab) at $14. I order a variety: coconut shrimp ($6.50), chili-garlic edamame ($6), sweet chili wings ($6), gyoza ($6), and crab cheese wantons ($6), but still end up mindlessly screwing over my gluten-free friend despite a menu boasting several marked GF options — spring rolls, chicken lettuce wraps and satay chicken and beef among them.

Vegan-friendly spring rolls with runny peanut dipping sauce.EXPAND
Vegan-friendly spring rolls with runny peanut dipping sauce.
Leigh Chavez Bush

Our young server scores high for earnestly offering his opinion and checking in often. When the food arrives, we hammer down the crab wantons, which, as expected, are a fried vehicle for cream cheese, making the dry, crunchy gyoza taste less impressive in comparison (we expected them to be steamed or, at least not deep-fried). The chicken wings are plump and sweet as promised, but their thick, honeyed skin doesn’t put them on any memorable wings list. Same goes for the chili-garlic edamame, which are more syrupy than chili- or garlic-flavored.

My gluten-free friend orders herself the spring rolls, which are refreshing and definitely the healthiest item before us, although the bland, runny peanut sauce does them no favors. Finally, the all-important coconut shrimp are meaty, but not especially juicy. But as my friend notes: “They don’t skimp on the coconut shrimp."

We push several of the plates away without finishing as some youngsters break into their rendition of the happy-birthday song on the other side of the partition. I remember myself in middle school, being smitten by the sweet tang of Americanized Asian foods — and there's probably some of that lingering as I suck the sweet coating off my sticky edamame fingers. At the end of the day, Pho on 6th isn't much of a deal for drinkers or a delight for foodies, but offers hidden calm, a later happy hour, and a full belly at an easy price.

Pho on 6th is located at 1312 East Sixth Avenue and offers happy hour form 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 720-570-8800 or visit phoon6th.com for more details.

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