The Center Bistro
21 E 6th St, Suite 114
Tempe, AZ 85281
The Center Bistro is perhaps the most calming restaurant environment I have ever experienced—all earth tones, natural textures, and modern sleek. And this is only added to by the fact that the food is guilt free too—organic, local, and sustainable.
Too often “organic” and all the rest is code for crunchy, yucky, expensive, hippie food--not at The Center Bistro. Items on the soup, salad, and sandwich menu are in the $8 range (many smaller plates are in the $4 range) and mixing and matching is highly encouraged. So far everything has been great.
On my first visit I ordered The Fungi (a mushroom and mozzarella Panini on ciabatta bread) with a Caprese Salad. I was impressed with both. The sandwich was the perfect mix of crunchy, melty, and earthy. The salad was a playful take on the traditional dish and included cucumbers and a slice of brie in addition to what one would expect. I could have done without the cucumbers, but the brie added an interesting contrast to the fresh mozzarella.
On my second visit I would have gone for the same meal, but to my disappointment, they were out of the fresh mozzarella. I opted for a cup of the special—lobster bisque. It was a pretty traditional take, but well prepared with a big bite of lobster meat. And then I found a roasted potato hanging out where I thought a crouton should have been, and was yet again impressed with the inventiveness of The Center Bistro.
My dining companion, who I’ve been trying to convince to move here, ordered The Beet (prime rib, roasted beets, gorgonzola, onions, balsamic). I think the possibility of a repeat performance on the part of the sandwich was more persuasive than anything I said. He kept muttering, “this is so good” as he shoved the sanwich in his mouth, and finally, “so what is a beet?” A foodie he’s not, but I gathered it was an amazing sandwich.
A third plus for The Center Bistro is the service. The servers are well schooled on traditional service. All are informative, polite, and know the little things like not clearing a plate until both diners are done that so frequently annoy me in much more expensive restaurants.
Prior to my third visit to The Center Bistro I had no complaints (other than the rather jarring photography display featuring contortionists that’s so off with the rest of the décor), but on my most recent trip, I discovered they were “out” of pretty much everything on the menu and all of my favorites (The Beet, Caprese, Bruschetta). The reason—they’re changing the menu with the arrival of a new chef who will feature more “Indian and Asian” fare.
While I have no reason to doubt this chef, color me skeptical. I liked The Center Bistro as it was and will be making efforts to hunt down the former chef.