The Dish: Brie en Croute, Garlic Mexican White Shrimp, & Warm Pretzel (from the Happy Hour menu)
The Place: Stella
The Location: 3160 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix, AZ 85016
By: Laura Stoddard
When Marlon Brando bellowed his immortal, “Hey, Stella!” in A Streetcar Named Desire, she welcomed him back in. Likewise, Stella, the restaurant, warmly welcomes you in. Situated perfectly on the border of the Arcadia and Biltmore areas, this chic new bistro is already drawing crowds. Many people were saddened when Central Bistro closed in mid 2016, but happiness is being restored as word spreads that this delightful entity has popped up in its place.
Parking is available on either the north or south side of the building, but we parked on the south so that we could beeline straight for the larger back patio overlooking 32nd Street (a great place to people watch). I’m kind of particular about restaurant patios, and make a snap judgement the moment I step foot on one. I can’t help it. It just happens. Let me tell you, I immediately loved Stella’s. It has the traditional canopy of hanging lights, plenty of space between tables so that you aren’t elbowing your way around, easy access to the bar and interior dining area, thanks to retractable doors meshing the two areas, music in the background (not too loud), and bright pops of color (red—my favorite) to spice up the otherwise simple, but classic furnishings and décor.
When the server placed the menus in front of us, our mouths dropped. Could it be? Was it a typo? The top boldly stated: HAPPY HOUR – 3:00-7:00 pm. No way. No one does happy hour till 7:00 pm! At least, not the nicer wine bars and restaurants we frequent. So, thank you, Stella, for giving people whose work days don’t end exactly at 5:00 pm, the opportunity to enjoy this time of discounted delight.
The cuisine at Stella, as explained by the manager, is Northern Italian Modern American. This, we had to try, so we started with Brie en Croute. Now, Brie with anything is a treat to me. It could be Brie rolled in sand and I would still eat it. I triple heart Brie. Fortunately, this glorious wedge of cheese was encased in a lovely, light puff pastry, sitting atop a port wine reduction. Two hearty thumbs up. Pretzels are pretzels, and there aren’t that many ways to jazz them up, but these, coated in garlic butter and accompanied by a creamy, seasoned, three-cheese dip had us scraping the bowl to get every last bit. The third dish was equally tasty. Mexican White Shrimp bathed in garlic butter, accompanied by thinly sliced, toasted baguette. All of the plates were just the right size for appetizers (no heaping mounds of chicken nachos here), and captured the style of cuisine Stella strives for.
If you join them for happy hour on Wednesday or Thursday, you’ll be favored by live music. On top of that, on Wednesdays they offer a $20 Bottle and Board deal (their Charcuterie Board is gorgeous. I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture—I guess you’ll have to go there yourself and order one to see). Also, put this into your rotation of brunch locales. They offer a Sunday brunch, from 9:00 am-2:00 pm, also including live music. This place gets high marks for location, ambiance, great prices (the $5 glass of Maso Canali Pinot Grigio on happy hour is a steal), and perfectly portioned, tasty cuisine. Head on over, and let Stella welcome you in.
eat | drink | happy hour | share