The Spot: The Salt Cellar Restaurant
550 North Hayden Road, Scottsdale
The Hours: Happy hour is daily from 4 to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the bar only.
Perfect for: Giant oysters and a mental getaway
Interior: The Salt Cellar in Scottsdale is one of the coolest places to be during summer in metro Phoenix — literally speaking, anyway. Walking into the restaurant is like stepping into an igloo. You open the door and walk down an flight of old wooden stairs with walls lined with most every kind of nautical paraphernalia you can imagine — fishing nets, anchors, and photos of people holding giant fish. Once you enter the bar, which is where you'll stop for happy hour, you're greeted with attentive, friendly servers and a giant swordfish replica. One story below street level, Salt Cellar makes you feel like you're just feet from the ocean and definitely not in the middle of a desert.
The Food: The Salt Cellar serves a variety of raw and cooked seafood classics for their happy hour. We were shocked when we saw the oysters, which were about the size of flattened tennis balls. We've never had to cut an oyster in half before, but we found ourselves sheepishly doing just that to eat the cheesy, flavorful oysters Rockefeller ($8).
Somehow we were able to manage the oysters on the half shell ($1.50 each) in one slurp, and they offered a much more pleasant flavor than the clams ($1.50 each) served the same way. Even the tangy and spicy cocktail sauce couldn't mask the briny, fishy taste of the clams. We know some people love that flavor, but for us, the clams were a little too much.
The halibut ceviche ($9) was unusual in a good way. Loaded with tomatoes and fresh herbs, it offered a more well-rounded flavor than the citrusy brightness of most ceviche. We thought the chunks of white fish were a little chewy, but we appreciated the small cup of oyster-shaped crackers that accompanied the dish.
The Drinks: During happy hour, Salt Cellar has only one deal on drinks — $3 well cocktails. Though we can't argue that it's a bad deal, we wish we saw at least some deals on beer and glasses of wine as well. On the upside, the cocktails we received were decently sized and mixed well. And in all honesty, if you're coming to Salt Cellar for happy hour, you're probably here for the excellent seafood. The drinks are more like a bonus.
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Conclusion: Overall, Salt Cellar's happy hour didn't disappoint, and that's mainly in no small part due to the shock factor of the oversize oysters. The ceviche was fine, and we'd probably order it again. If we could change one thing about Salt Cellar's happy hour, it would be to add more drinks to the menu — though, it is all about the seafood at this classic Scottsdale restaurant.
Don't miss: Oysters on the half shell
Skip this: Clams on the half shell