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Mar 12, 2007 07:38 PM

Review: My Wine Cellar, Ahwatukee

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to trying this cute wine bar on Warner, a few blocks east of I10. I'll start with what I can say that is good. The room is set up nicely and everyone (including the clientele) was friendly. The wine list was good as well, if a bit overpriced. I had a nice Italian white (sorry can't remember now what exactly it was...more about that later).

We weren't very hungry, so we decided to split a caesar with "grilled chicken" ($11.95) and some bruschetta (6 for $10).

We knew we were in trouble as soon as the caesar came out. The lettuce was fine. The chicken on top of the salad was steaming (not like something freshly grilled...more like something microwaved) and did not taste fresh. It tasted like it came out of a package of precooked chicken. I'm not claiming to be certain they microwaved precooked chicken, but that was the flavor (if you cooked for yourself as a college freshman, you know the taste I'm talking about). The dressing also tasted cheap. My best guess at how they managed to make a salad this bad? I think they went to the grocery store and bought the caesar package that comes with all the ingredients in a bag, including little packages of chicken cubes, croutons and dressing. I've used those packages before, when I've been desperate, but I don't want to pay $11.95 for that kind of food.

It was a long time before the bruschetta came. We were just thinking (hoping) they might have forgotten, so we could spare ourselves more pain, when they brought them out. The bread was terrible. It was the kind you get at the grocery store that says "baguette" on it, but when you get home and start slicing it you realize it's just cheap white bread in the shape of a baguette. There also was no evidence that they brushed the bread with oil, which, as far as I know, is more-or-less part of the definition of bruschetta (actually, I wikied bruschetta...apparently, here in America, some of us have decided the word refers only to the topping, now!). The toppings ALL tasted like they came out of jars. We recognized most flavors from Trader Joe's. Don't get me wrong: I love Trader Joe's, but if I'm being charged $10 for 6 slices of white bread, I'd like to have fresh toppings at least. Actually, to be fair, I am not certain that the caprese topping was packaged. The Red pepper and olive toppings were definitely factory made.

The experience with the bruschetta reinforces the theory about the caesar.

The poor food sort of ruined the wine for us, too (probably should have just pushed the food away and enjoyed the wine), which is why I can't even remember what it was now.

I did see a couple people on Chow who liked this place. Did I just get them on a bad day? Or have they gone downhill? Or am I just wrong? If you've had a better meal there, please respond. I hate to bash the place; they seem really proud of their restaurant/store. But I must warn the hounds that our experience was dreadful. It was the worst food I have EVER had at a wine bar.

There are plenty of places in that area to get wine (how I wish I'd tried one of the others that night). I've heard very good things about Va Bene (thanks, abbefaith), which is about 2 miles south at 48th and Chandler. I'll be trying them once I've recovered from this recent trauma. At Priest/56th and Ray you can visit 56 East, next to AJ's. I haven't tried them yet, either, but I enjoy 98 South, which is run by the same folks, so I expect 56 East will be good as well.

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  1. Of the two, 98 South is closer to a wine bar, and 56 East is closer to a martini bar. The latter does have a great patio and a good wine list. Try the flank steak appetizer, their red pepper hummus, or their warm brie plate. Either place is a terrific happy hour or post-theater choice.

    2 Replies
    1. re: themis

      I did not realize 56 East had a patio. That could quickly become one of my favorites if the food is comparable to what's at their sister bar.

      1. re: don giovanni

        It's gorgeous, too -- the south wall slides back completely so the bar becomes open-air in good weather. Much of the food menu is the same but each chef is given leeway to feature their own entrees; drink menus differ -- I *think* 56E is the one that has the Effen Cherry Martini. They will also sometimes do the dry-ice Cosmo; fun for the girls.

    2. I've only been to My Wine Cellar once...met a couple girlfriends there one evening. We split a bottle of wine and a cheese plate. I seem to remember the cheese choices being rather pedestrian...and the atmosphere was just odd.

      Definitely prefer 56 East or 98 South, which is where we're more often than not apt to meet.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ziggylu

        "Odd" is a good word for it. Everyone was nice, but it just had this off feeling about it. The lady working in there was talking to the guy at the end of the bar the entire time in a loud voice that projected through the whole restaurant (impossible not to listen to). If that was the only weird thing, I'd just say no big deal, but little things like that plagued the entire visit.

      2. The one night I was there the bar had some kind of pick up vibe going on. Don't know if it was the night of the week or just that particular night. Very strange for the type of place it seems to be. We weren't even sitting at the bar but just observing it...with families having dinner at some of the tables right next to the bar because of the way the room is(not like the bar is in its own area), it just seemed...well...odd!

        Their wine selection does seem to be decent but at this point there's so many other options in town that we've just avoided going back...

        3 Replies
        1. re: ziggylu

          Actually, that makes sense. Since my bad experience, I've been looking around online, and somewhere it said they were voted something along the lines of "best place to meet singles in Ahwatukee."

        2. i've been wanting to try this place for a while... now i know not to! thanks for the info.

          1. I went there a couple of years ago and had a similar experience, except that I thought the food was from CostCo. At least they seem consistent.

            1 Reply
            1. re: IamJacksBrain

              LOL, I wasn't going to go into this much detail, but actually, we spent much of the evening debating whether it was Costco or TJ's. Decided maybe it was a mix of the two. I'm pretty sure the red pepper spread is from TJ's, but we thought the tapenade and one of the other toppings (the sundried tomato spread?...can't remember now) was from Costco. Glad to hear we weren't alone in our experience (at the same time, I'm sorry you had to go through it).