Critic’s Special: Brio’s Spicy New Happy Hour

You don’t get to be a regional chain restaurant without knowing with a lot of different people like. So it’s no surprise that a place like Brio Tuscan Grille can continuously reinvent itself.

The chain of upscale Italian eateries has rolled out a new menu focused on happy hour specialties in order to reel in a new demographic and break away from that feeling of a finer dining institution. Now it seems, this is a place that you might want to spend a bit more casual time. Not to outdo itself, some of these options are kind of classic and evoke that warm Italian cuisine, while others tip a bit more into some more contemporary food. It’s interesting to see the foray into casual dining for Brio.

Another Food Critic was invited to come out and give a try to some of the new dishes on the menu. (Photos provided by the company, as my own didn’t work out well in the low light of the restaurant.)

Some of the things that I tried and liked:

  • Shishito Pepper Hash ($5): A mix of crunchy potatoes, green onions, smokey peppers and Sriracha aioli. The peppers are cooked until they’re not too much of a kick, but that nice 
  • House-made Pickles ($4): Crunchy pickle slices thin-sliced and served with a chile lime ranch. Salty, as pickles tend to be, though these tend to be a bit on the higher end of saltiness. Still, I liked that sauce. 
  • Potato Skins ($5): Pretty classic here, the crunchy potatoes loaded with cheddar cheese, bacon and a lime cream sauce. 

And of course, what’s happy hour without a good cocktail? While this place has long had menus focused on wine and more classic drinks, such new things as a margarita or sangria will definitely cater to a new vibe. Some of the drinks I like:

  • Red Sangria ($5): Featuring a black raspberry liqueur, a splash of lime and lemon, raspberries, and orange, this one is on the sweeter end but no less enjoyable. 
  • Tropical Cosmo ($5): On the other hand, this cocktail is a bit stronger! A pineapple infused vodka and Malibu Coconut Rum steal the show, but there’s a pinch of cranberry and lime to sweeten it a bit.
  • Very Berry Margarita ($6): Another good example of keeping the drinks from being to strong or unfriendly to an early evening sipping. Jose Cuervo tequila as a base with  triple sec, but quickly overtaken with orange, wildberry lime, blackberries. Just a bit of sour on the end.
  • Cucumber Basil Gimlet ($6): A nice, mild take on a Gimlet, based with Svedka Vodka and a very mild accent of fresh basil, cucumbers, citrus and bitters. My favorite of the group. 

It’s interesting to see the foray into casual dining for brio. But reinvention is always a good thing, and it’s especially pleasant that a dining experience like this, which may have been reserved for the fanciest date night in the past, has become a place that feels more comfortable to go and enjoy yourself with some friends.

Overall, I think I like this direction. It’s a refreshing.

BRIO Tuscan Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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