Central Bistro: Happy Hour Report Card

The Spot: Central Bistro 3160 East Camelback Road 480-646-8560 centralbistroaz.com

The Hours: Happy hour is daily from 2 to 6 p.m. and all day Mondays.

Perfect for: Bringing people who can't decide if they feel like splurging or sticking to that diet.

Interior: Central Bistro was fully taking advantage of the Valley's beautiful spring weather during a recent visit with the front retractable glass panels completely open, allowing the patio to lead seamlessly to the interior bar area.

See also: The District All American Burger Bar: Happy Hour Report Card

Though several tables remained open during our visit, it felt like the staff was rushing us. Our server, who cheerfully talked so quickly that we had to pause for a few seconds and try to figure out what she had just said before answering, took us literally when we asked several separate times for one more minute to decide on what we wanted. And at one point, we had busboys on each side of our table asking if we were finished with dishes, even as we were stilling actively dipping cucumber slices into hummus.

The aesthetic of the restaurant was pleasing with its exposed brick touches, dark wood floors, and light marble tables, but it was hard to relax while we were constantly trying to guess which staff member was going to bombard us with hospitality next.

The Food: The happy hour food menu features a selection of dishes ranging from the lightness of $1 oysters to the heartiness of entire pizzas at half price. We decided to play the middle ground and go with the Cubano sliders ($8), hummus and veggies ($7), and wood-grilled artichoke ($8).

The Cubano sliders didn't taste bad, but also weren't exactly Cuban. Our mini sandwiches were missing the traditional pickle and weren't grilled at all. We didn't necessarily mind the Hawaiian sweet roll the sliders came on, but even toasting the buns a bit would have made these better reproductions of the classic sandwich they attempted to emulate.

The hummus and veggies came nestled in a bed of ice, which kept the veggies from drying out. We appreciated the freshness of the selection of tomatoes, carrots, cucumber slices, and whole radishes. The hummus offered a slight kick and a pronounced garlic flavor, but we wish there had been more tahini to create a creamier dip.

The grilled artichoke was by far the favorite dish. The three halves of the plant were each slightly charred on the outside but perfectly tender near the heart. A side of citrus-oregano aioli was tart and creamy but almost unnecessary as the artichokes were so flavorful on their own. The other guests seemed to agree as we watched waiter after waiter emerge from the kitchen with artichokes.

The Drinks: With $2 off wine by the glass and specialty cocktails, $4 well drinks, and $6 infused Hangar 1 vodka drinks, we were not struggling to find something to drink during Central Bistro's happy hour.

The Diamond Back cocktail ($10) seemed the most intriguing with Lot 40 rye, Applejack, green chartreuse, and an amarena cherry. And it packed a punch for a happy hour drink, though the Applejack seemed to get lost between the rye and green chartreuse.

Central Bistro's wine list is interesting and varied yet approachable. Separated out by specific type of wine and then into subcategories based on the intensity of the wine, even the most novice wine drinker could easily navigate the list.

Conclusion: Nothing about Central Bistro's happy hour left a bad taste in our mouth, except for the overly friendly/aggressive service. While we appreciated the hospitality, we wish they'd toned it down a bit and allowed us to peacefully enjoy the atmosphere and fare. It would be easy for guests to grab a small snack or create a filling meal off the happy hour food menu, even if the choices may not be the most authentic. And wine and cocktail lovers will be please with what they have to pick from as well.

Don't Miss: Wood-grilled artichoke Skip This: Cubano sliders

Grade: B+

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