Invite somebody you'd like to talk to and while away the afternoon over snacks and cocktails at Malee's Thai on Main. You'll emerge from this cozy fireplace-furnished nest just as the lights are going on in Old Town Scottsdale.
The scene: In more robust economic times, Malee's tiny lounge, tucked away in a corner near the back of the restaurant, was always jumping. The sparely furnished, celadon-colored room is quieter these days, which can be a blessing.
The food: Although Thai food is Malee's raison d'etre, the happy-hour menu takes a broad-brush approach, offering steamed edamame, coconut-encrusted fried shrimp and crab Rangoon, a purely American invention. Except for kosher-salt-sprinkled edamame ($2), all the dishes ring in at $5.25, and because portions are generous, two or three items (four if you're absolutely starved) might serve as dinner for two.
The best dish is probably crispy pla bites - strips of cornmeal-dusted catfish, fried to a golden crunch and spooned with hot-sweet chile-reduction sauce. Siamese Kisses, a catchy name for Japanese shumai, follow closely behind. Six plump dumplings, stuffed with a smooth carrot-flecked mixture of chicken and shrimp, come topped with crisps of garlic. They're delicious with or without the honey-mustard, sweet-soy and sweet-chile sauces that accompany them.
Thai-style chicken wings, their Technicolor-orange exteriors textured with crunchy rice noodles, get noses running and mouths glowing in seconds. Sweeter than buffalo wings, they're still plenty hot and completely addictive.
Chicken wraps are simply a modern name for laab (or larb), a spicy ground-meat dish wrapped at the table in crisp cabbage leaves. Malee's sweet, Americanized spin on this traditional dish can't compete with sharper, hotter versions served elsewhere. And although searing sriracha and thick, sweet plum-hoisin sauce give a much needed flavor boost to chilled summer rolls, my buddy and I are unimpressed with the result: translucent rice paper stuffed with dry chicken, shrimp, crunchy rice noodles, cucumber, cabbage and mint. Crab Rangoon - crunchy wontons oozing with cream cheese - doesn't get it either. There's little discernible crab and the viscous pale-pink sauce alongside is just plain odd. Stick with the first three and you'll be more than happy.
The drink: Malee's still puts the happy in happy hour, offering sweet deals on a select list of beverages. Cosmopolitans and appletinis sell for $4.50, while a dozen respectable brews - Anchor Steam, Fat Tire, Menabrea, Trumer Pils and Tsing Tao among them - are $3.50. Teetotalers don't have to feel left out with non-alcoholic Clausthaler or Malee's fizzy lemon-limeade ($4).
The lowdown: Located in the heart of Old Town, Malee's is a great place to warm up and chill out after an afternoon of browsing local shops and art galleries. Get there before 5 p.m. and it's easy to snag a table in front of the gas fireplace.