Situated between the new W Hotel and the Westin in downtown Bellevue, Central Bar + Restaurant is a vibrant neighborhood gathering place conceived by the Brazen Family, who also own neighborhood favorite 520 Bar and Grill. Opened in October 2018, the establishment was years in the making, as the family really wanted to recreate the feel of their sister restaurant, but with a more upscale feel. This is truly a family affair and it really shows in their warmth and hospitality. From the moment we walked in, the mother daughter duo of Randi & Cody really made us feel like we were a part of their family.
The space is sleek, sexy, and anchored by a huge bar, which serves as a natural way to separate the lounge area with the more traditional dining space. Mirrors and leather booths bring an upscale feel, while custom lighting adds softness to the overall ambiance. There’s also an outdoor patio with fireplace nestled in the alley it shares with the Bellevue Art Museum, for dining al fresco during those warm summer months.
Photos by: foodolish.com
Warmth and hospitality aside, the Brazen family has really brought a great team together here, with a bar program run by Kyle Patterson and chef Polo Guapilla running the back of the house. There’s nothing pretentious about the food here, it’s just really really good, and what you would want to eat if you were sharing a meal with friends or family. The menu is comprised of shareable plates and more substantial entrees. Mix and match based on how you’re feeling, but be sure to sample a few of their signature cocktails made with housemade syrups. We loved the Swipe Right (Titos vodka, house-made ginger cordial and lemon juice), which is an ode to the cat sculpture that lives in the lit alley. It’s topped with ginger beer and tastes like a dangerously refreshing lemonade. After imbibing a few others, including the Lincoln Smash (George Dickel Rye Whiskey, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup shaken with fresh mint) and Old Fashioned (Elija Craig Small Batch Bourbon, simple syrup and bitters), we concluded Mr. Patterson has concocted dangerously good drinks that complement their food.
Pair the 6th & Cilantro (El Jimador Tequila Reposado, simple and fresh lime juice) with the blasted cauliflower (flash fried cauliflower generously seasoned with za’atar, served on top of Greek yogurt dressing) or the fish tacos (pan seared halibut with cole slaw, red onions, cucumber pickles served with homemade salsa drizzled with sweet Thai chili sauce) for surprisingly delicious flavor combinations. The fresh cilantro and lemony yogurt sauce really compliments the delicately fried cauliflower and mellows out the generous za’atar seasoning, and also plays well with the freshness of the halibut.
For those of you looking for more substantial appetizers, we recommend the beef and bacon sliders (fresh ground beef mixed with bacon crumbles, topped with bleu cheese crumbles, shredded butter lettuce, crispy onions and sweet bbq sauce, served with fries) and the crab bruschetta (Dungeness crab, cream cheese, red onion, tomato-basil salsa, balsamic dressing served on freshly toasted baguette). The sliders were seasoned incredibly well and the bbq sauce added a slight tang to balance out the bleu cheese, while the crab bruschetta really knocked it out of the park due to the solid amount of Dungeness crab loaded on each slice of baguette. There was just enough cream cheese to bind everything together without being overly cream, and the tomato-basil salsa brightened everything up. We found the amount of balsamic to be a bit overbearing and would love to see them lighten up on that drizzle. Of all the appetizers we tried, the fontina & prosciutto flatbread (flatbread topped with melted butter, garlic, herbs, tomato jam, prosciutto, fontina cheese, roasted peppers and basil) was our least favorite, solely due to the sweetness of the tomato jam. The flatbread was thin and crisp, but the sweetness wasn’t balanced enough by the savory aspects of the dish.
We then launched headfirst into two of their most popular entrees; the macadamia halibut (macadamia nut crusted halibut, champagne and citrus buerre blanc, creamy garlic mashed potatoes and French green beans) and the filet mignon (6 oz prime filet mignon, creamy garlic mashed potatoes, port reduction, seasonal vegetables). The halibut was flaky and seared to perfection, while the macadamia nut crust added a nice crunch that played nicely with the hearty fish. The buerre blanc was delicate and elevated the flavor of the overall dish, particularly when we blanketed the halibut in it. Crisp green beans and creamy mashed potatoes rounded out this filling entree. Pair it with a glass of crisp white wine and you’re in business. The 6 oz prime filet arrived with creamy garlic mashed potatoes, broccolini, and a port reduction and was probably the most tender filet we have ever had. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare and we loved the unexpected essence of thyme used here, which was a nice departure from your typical rosemary. We would pair this substantial entree with a heavier-bodied red to really let that tender steak and port reduction shine.
As if we weren’t stuffed to the gills at this point, we couldn’t leave without trying dessert. Mustering up every spare inch of room in our stomachs, we started with the skillet chocolate chip cookie (warm house made chocolate chip cookie served in a skillet with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce). OMG. The warm and gooey skillet chocolate chip cookie is everything you remember about baking with your mom or dad as a small child. The cookie is just barely cooked and almost falling apart, but so rich and decadent. Crispy on the edges and soft in the middle, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. For those of you with more adult sensibilities, the adult milk & cookies (1 oz Old Forester Whiskey, 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream served with 5 house made chocolate chip cookies) is basically a play on your aforementioned childhood. Pour that whiskey over the ice cream and get to dunkin’ those fresh cookies in! Who knew whiskey, ice cream, and cookies made such a great combination? This was one boozy dessert and reminded us of a grown-up version of affogato.
Central Bar + Restaurant is beautiful, centrally located and pretty affordable, given its prime location. Have your next brunch, lunch, happy hour, dinner, cocktail, or private event at this uniquely Bellevue family owned establishment. We loved the feel and the food, and think you will too!
Central Bar + Restaurant | 10475 NE 6th St, Bellevue, WA 98004 | Open 7 days a week