The Spot: Buck &Rider
4225 East Camelback Road, Phoenix
The Hours: Catch happy hour at Buck &Rider on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the oyster bar area. In the main dining room, drinks are on happy-hour pricing from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (no food), and reverse happy hour runs from 9:30 p.m. to close Thursday through Sunday.
Perfect for: $9 half-Maine lobster (though market prices vary). Also, thoughtful cocktails and other seafood at a decent price.
The Interior: Buck &Rider is smartly designed, with a bright bar area in the back of the restaurant. While the stools are a little heavy (and make a loud noise when you pull them out to sit down), they're also pretty comfortable. The bar itself offers plenty of room for massive seafood platters.
The Food: Food and drink specials are outlined on a board near the bar — you can treat yourself to raw bar items such as oysters (ranging from around $1.25 to $1.50 each) or cooked dishes, including tuna rolls and fried picnic chicken. Crab, lobster, and oysters are all half-price, and prices vary according to the market.
We were particularly excited by the thought of spending just $9 for half of a Maine lobster, and obviously had to order the crustacean, which comes with a side of clarified butter. If you take a date, don't worry: The restaurant does all the hard work of cracking the shell for you, so the meat is easy to dig out and you don't embarrass yourself. The lobster came chilled and cooked simply, with no fancy sauces. And you don't need any thing but butter — the meat was succulent enough to stand on its own.
The three oysters we tried ranged a lot in flavor. One from Washington was meatier, with a less briny flavor, while the other two — from Massachusetts and Washington — tasted crisp and briny and were smaller. The restaurant offers a taste description next to the oysters on the menu, so diners can choose the varieties they prefer.
The Drink: Buck &Rider keeps the happy-hour drink specials simple: house highball drinks, house wine, and featured beer and featured cocktails are all $6. The wine list reads well, ranging from glasses of bubbly to a long list of whites and reds. The spot offers three different craft beers from California, including the Bruery Mischief Belgian Ale, and an APA from Huss Brewing in Tempe.
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Cocktail offerings include gin, mezcal, and even rye. We ordered the High and Mighty made with Rhum Clement, a type of rum made in Martinique, a French island in the Caribbean. The rum is combined with Jamaican bitters and Swedish punsch liqueur. The rum taste emerges the most in this cocktail, with notes of orange and a sweet aftertaste.
Conclusion: For less than $20, we enjoyed a well-made cocktail, three oysters, and half of a Maine lobster. Buck &Rider might be one of the best happy-hour deals in Arcadia, if not in metro Phoenix. All of the seafood we tried tasted fresh, plus the service was friendly and we were offered La Grande Orange salted chocolate chip cookies on our way out.
Don't Miss: The lobster. Market prices may vary, but half-off lobster is bound to be a pretty good deal.
Skip This: The dense crowd that rolls in around 6:30 p.m., boosting the noise level in the restaurant from "din" to "roar."