The Joint: Mango Peruvian Cuisine 1101 Lucas Avenue 314-621-9993
The Hours: Mon.-Fri. 3-6 p.m. (Late-night Mon.-Thu. 9-11 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10 p.m.-1 a.m.
The Deal: $5 martinis, margaritas, select wines; $3 draft beer; $2 bottled beer; $16 pitchers of sangría. Select appetizer menu for $5.
The Scene: There's a definite Latin flair to Mango Peruvian Cuisine, what with the candles hanging from the open-rafter ceiling and the bright flashes of color that accent the brick walls. The early Happy Hour doesn't draw a big crowd, but with the downtown location, good service and tasty food, it's probably only a matter of time before the hordes descend.
The Peruvian-inspired menu items are approachable, even for palates unfamiliar with exotic cuisine. It's easy to devour bowl after bowl of sweet and salty fried plantains chips with green cilantro salsa. Anticuchos de carne (beef skewers) are juicy and flavorful; presented on a simple white plate, the striking and colorful dish speaks for itself. The cocktails feature fresh and tasty nonalcoholic ingredients, but make no mistake: they still receive a decent pour. The true highlight of the cocktail list is the oh-so-addictive "Crackberry Martini" (vodka muddled with fresh strawberries, basil, cracked black pepper and simple syrup), whose mix of flavors dances gracefully on your tongue.
Why You'll Go Back: The intriguing and well-thought-out cocktails. Booze is the bread and butter of any good happy pour, so whether you're smitten with a signature cocktail unavailable anywhere else or want to try every luscious libation, you'll be back for more.
The Verdict: In the year since it opened, Mango's downtown outpost (the original Mango is in Shrewsbury) has consistently brought to the table fresh, tasty and creatively mixed ingredients, in both dishes and drinks. Judging by the staff's knowledge and enthusiasm, the place is only getting better. Finding Mango in downtown St. Louis is nearly as good as discovering Incan gold.