The Hours: The world is your oyster with daily happy hour and reverse happy hour deals at Salt Cellar: 4 to 7 pm and 10 pm to 1 am.
The Details: $2.75 well drinks and domestic draft beers, appetizers ranging in price from $1.50 oysters on a half shell to $13.95 for a large bucket of steamers or mussels.
The Interior: The Salt Cellar is designed as an underground nautical retreat from the scorching desert sun. Allow your eyes to adjust to the dimly lit, wood-paneled surroundings before descending two flights of stairs into the belly of this briny beast. Check out the large open-air lobster tank (sorry, fellas!) before heading into the small bar off to the side. From there, enjoy seating at several high-top tables or snag a seat at the bar to cool off and enjoy happy hour pricing.
The Cost: Two oysters on a half shell ($1.50 each), two baked stuffed clams ($1.75 each), escargot en caps ($5.95), New England clam chowder ($6.95), and two well drinks ($2.75 each) came to 25 dollars without tax or tip.
The Conclusion: Seafood in the desert can be hit or miss, but the happy hour at Salt Cellar manages to serve up a fresh and affordable alternative to the tired fish and chips routine. Happy hour suffers from limited discounts on drinks (no deals on wine?) but it doesn't matter too much considering the seafood is the main attraction.
The oysters on a half shell were served freshly-shucked on a bed of ice and were so large they were almost two-biters. Fresh lemon and tangy cocktail sauce accented the platter, and we made sure to ask for a side of horseradish to give those suckers a little extra kick. At $1.50 a pop, there's no going wrong with these juicy gems.
For a garlic-loving snail enthusiast (a niche audience to be sure), the Escargot en Caps proved to be a good bet. Button mushroom caps were hollowed out and topped with escargot before being baked in a garlic butter sauce. The snails were tender and a large slice of doughy bread on the side was perfect for mopping up all that garlicky goodness.
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It was a bit of a surprise when the New England clam chowder came out as more of a broth-based soup than a thick, hearty chowder, but what won us over was the generous amount of chopped clams and tender potatoes afloat in a flavorful broth. Cute little oyster crackers on the side never hurt either.
The only disappointment of the evening was the baked stuffed clams. These giant stuffed clams were impressive to behold, but there was something off with the flavor. Too heavy on the breading? Unidentifiable fishy flavor? Not enough salt? We couldn't quite figure it out, but at only $1.75 a piece and with assurances from other patrons that they're usually much better, we'll assume it was just an off night.
Instead of trawling the desert for an alternative to the fried and true bar food menu, hit up the Salt Cellar to escape the heat and be transported to a more maritime frame of mind.
Overall Grade: B