Clark's Central Blue Adds New Chef, Bigger Tapas Menu
But they aren't changing a thing about their signature: a list of 30-plus tempting martinis.
"Classy and trendy but unpretentious" is what Central Blue owner Lana Bridgman hopes guests think of her restaurant and martini bar.
The place has come a long way since its opening in October 2011, and now Bridgman hopes to refocus the menu on the concept they originally set forth.
"We are trying to gear towards the tapas and martini concept," she says. "We've gotten a little bit away from it and now we're going to focus on it again. When we opened, everyone was thinking we were just small plates and we didn’t have full dinners. Really, we offer both."
Bridgman also gives credits to her new chef, Johnny Arango, who previously worked at Michelino's and Lucianos in Rahway, and Arthur's Landing in Weehawken.
"He's Colombian and added his influence, and that’s worked out really well, because dinner is great and everyone loves it."
There are other influences, too, Bridgman says.
"The menu is multicultural. We're going to be adding paella. I'm Portuguese but I was trained in French cooking. We have some Asian fusion dishes, too."
The favorites? Buffalo chicken meatballs and cheesesteak egg rolls on the tapas menu. For dinner entrees, Bridgman says it's the seafood salad and Chilean sea bass. And on the 30-plus offerings martini menu, guests seem to especially go for the "Down and Dirty" – Kettle One vodka, olive juice, and blue cheese stuffed olives – and the "Cool Cucumber" – Hendrick's gin, fresh cucumber, sour mix, lime juice and simple syrup. The list changes seasonally.
In addition to the menu, there are other features drawing guests to Central Blue: a "Sunset" menu (a $21 four-course prix fixe offered Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 5 p.m), happy hour (from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, featuring $4 martinis and $5 tapas), and a live jazz piano on Fridays and jazz band on Saturdays. Central Blue also offers on-site parties (for up to 100 people) and off-site catering.
Bridgman previously owned Lana's, the restaurant space at Hyatt Hills where Senorita's is currently, with her late husband Harry.
"I was an accountant for 18 years and then in 2002, I went to ICE culinary school in Manhattan because we were going to open Lana's in 2003," says Bridgman.
Soon after the couple bought a liquor license and decided to pursue something new.
"Harry literally built this place," says Bridgman of her husband who passed away suddenly a year ago. "He renovated the whole building and he physically built the bar. This was going to be his retirement thing."
While grieving, Bridgman and her daughters have had the restaurant to take care of.
"Harry was very charismatic, well-known in town. I think he worked really hard to finish this because he was sick already and he knew he could leave it for me and my girls," says Bridgman. "He was so happy he accomplished it and to see all of the people coming in."
And he's left it in good hands.
"It's kept us busy," Bridgman says.
Specials and events: Sunset menu - a $21 four-course prix fixe menu offered Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. Happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, $4 martinis and $5 tapas. Live jazz piano on Fridays and jazz band on Saturdays. On-site parties (for up to 100 people) and off-site catering available.
Hours: Tues – Thurs, 12 -10 p.m.; Friday, 12 p.m. - 12 a.m.; Saturday, 3 p.m. – 12 a.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.