Happy Hour for the Absinthe-Minded at Little Cleo's
Every time I visit Little Cleo's Seafood Legend, I'm reminded that it's not often enough. Located at The Yard, a 53,000-square-foot neighborhood space and restaurant cluster with an expansive patio complete with ping pong, giant Jenga, foosball, and corn hole, this cozy yet sleek seafood restaurant is everything this New Englander loves. A classic oyster bar decor welcomes guests with white subway-tiled walls, gleaming stainless steel and marble accents, open kitchen, and a window wall that rolls up on beautiful Arizona evenings. It is worthy of a visit at any time, but their unique Happy Hour is too good to miss. Every Monday through Saturday, 4 to 6 pm, join them for a special summer Absinthe-Minded Happy Hour through September 15 (4-5 pm through the fall and winter). You'll find select $1 oysters and shrimp, $2 Champagne pours, $7 signature cocktails, $4 beer, $5 wine, and half off their extensive absinthe selection or absinthe cocktails.
Of course, I had to start with one of my favorite cocktail classics - Ernest Hemingway's "Death in the Afternoon," a simple, yet potent sipper of absinthe and champagne.
The $1 oyster specials apply to one variety (on this visit they were plump and creamy Kumiai oysters from Baja California), but the chalkboard selection looked so mouthwatering, we slurped down two of each for a briny, ocean-fresh starter: Kumiai; Eastern oysters from Virginia, Sex on the Bay from Bedec Bay, New Brunswick; Coromandel oysters from New Zealand; Paradise Oysters from Deep Bay, British Columbia.
I moved on to another absinthe cocktail, the "Subtle Menace" with Tanqueray gin, absinthe, sauvignon blanc, and lime juice, as we shared Happy Hour shrimp cocktail. Then, of course, we had to peruse the regular menu with all its enticing options. That meant we started with a bestseller, the Warm Jar of King Crab and Butter. Picture a mason jar of sweet chunks of shelled crab covered in clarified butter and served with toasted bread. Yes, please.
As decadent as that was, I have to say that my favorite of the night was the fabulous Diver Scallop Crudo featuring silky slices of raw scallops sourced from Chula Seafood with smoky chunks of charred avocado, radish, scallion, crispy garlic, and tangy ponzu sauce. I almost ordered another.
My husband disagreed, however, as his favorites were his choices. He ordered a bowl of flavorful clam chowder studded with diced potatoes and tender clams before polishing off a buttery split-top brioche roll stuffed with Maine lobster with Old Bay aioli, celery leaf, and dill.
At the behest of our server who told us we shouldn't miss the "Bacon & Eggs," we ended with this signature dish, and she was right. Toasted bread was slathered with creme fraiche and topped with an amazing house-made sturgeon "bacon" and a fried golden-yolked egg. Another must-order.
Whether it's a visit for impeccable oysters and shrimp at Happy Hour or a feast for dinner, Little Cleo's should be at the top of every seafood lover's list. I have a return visit with friends already planned.
Little Cleo's Seafood Legend, a Fox Restaurant Concept, is located at 5632 N. 7th Street Phoenix, AZ 85014, and is open at 4 pm daily for dinner except Sunday.
I received a media invitation and my dinner was complimentary.