For the past few months, J. and I have been planning a romantic, winter vacation. We had gone through countless discussions about where to go and what we would do once we got there. After striking Amarillo, Topeka and Omaha from our lists, I decided it might not be a bad idea for J. to come to Phoenix so we could sit down – face to face – and hammer out where we would go.
J. was more than happy to visit and we were busy scouring lists of places to vacation when J. announced that it was time for dinner. I wasn’t going to let my beloved down, so I immediately started thinking of someplace close by that would be hearty and good and give me a chance to do a review. As I thought about my choices, J. was getting a bit cranky because of the hunger pangs, so I immediately thought about the selections in the neighborhood.
I got J. into the car and we headed to Wally’s American Pub ‘n Grille on the northeast corner of 44th Street and Camelback Road in East Phoenix. J. wasn’t sure that a “pub” experience would be that good, but we ventured into the space anyway.
J. immediately declared that the space was “great.” We both loved the decorations hanging from the ceiling and walls and the odd shape of the place. Each table had votive candles which gave the space a wonderful warmth. We were approached by a host who took us to a table in the back part of the restaurant. We were handed menus and told our server would be with us shortly.
After reviewing the menu, J. thought the selections were plentiful and was pleased with my choice of restaurants so far. We each had a tough time deciding what to get. While we were reading over the menu, our server took our drink order and J. blurted out that we wanted two Diet Cokes ($2.00 each). Clearly, J. was reading my mind.
When our server returned with our drinks, we were set to order. Since we both had huge appetites, we decided to split an order of the Chicken Skewers ($8.95). We also both wanted soup, so J. ordered the Minestrone ($6.95) which was the Soup of the Day, and I had the Vidalia Onion Soup ($6.95). For our entrees, I went with the Fish ‘n Chips ($10.95) and J. had the Lil’ Havana Cuban Sandwich ($8.95).
While our server left to place our order, J. and I continued our negotiations regarding the trip. We definitely passed on Europe due to the horrible Euro-to-dollar exchange rate. We also nixed Hawaii because J. seems to have something against our 50th state.
During our talks, our Chicken Skewers arrived and I was salivating from the aroma. These really surprised me because they were not like Satay, but really large skewers of chicken, mushrooms and onions served with a thin peanut sauce. J. and I each took a skewer and proceeded to pluck the pieces off the skewer and taste each one. I thought the chicken was excellent. The chunks were tender and moist and had a smoky flavor that made the meat that much better. The vegetables were also quite good. The only downside was the peanut sauce which I thought was much too thin for the meat and veggies and also had a very subtle taste that provided little enhancement to the food. J. thought highly of the skewers as well, but agreed that the peanut sauce was the weak link.
Just as we each grabbed the last skewer, our soups arrived. J.’s Minestrone was a large bowl of soup in a plain white bowl. I immediately noticed the large chunks of beef swimming in the soup along with the pasta shells. J. took a bite and said that it was very “different” and “interesting.” J. liked the flavor and thought it was good, but did mention that it was rather salty. I took a taste and I liked the inventiveness of this version of minestrone, but, like J., I thought it was way too salty.
My Vidalia Onion Soup looked fantastic when it was set in front of me. A small but deep bowl held a large serving of soup and I was pleased that they didn’t skimp on the cheese. I punctured the cheese on top and let the steam escape. I could see the large chunks of onions in the rich, dark broth. I finally got it cool enough to eat and was very pleased with my choice. The onions had been caramelized and were decadently sweet. The cheese and round of bread hiding underneath it were top notch. The broth was thick and hearty. And, unfortunately, the soup was too salty. That marred my full enjoyment of the soup. It was good, but could have been great if there hadn’t been a heavy hand with the salt.
We waited about 10 minutes before our entrees arrived. J.’s Lil’ Havana Cuban Sandwich looked pretty good from my vantage point, although I didn’t see much in the way of it being pressed like Cuban sandwiches are supposed to be. J. took a bite and said that the sandwich was pretty good. The roasted pork loin, ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and tomatoes were an excellent combination. J. also noted the spicy mustard and chipotle mayo, but said there wasn’t enough on the sandwich. J. felt the sandwich was perfectly serviceable, but nothing stellar. The fries were also “decent,” J. said.
My Fish ‘n Chips platter was holding three fillets of Icelandic cod which rested on top of a bed of fries and topped with two onion rings. I was happy that they served both tarter sauce and malt vinegar with this dish. The batter on the fish was crisp and slightly nutty in taste. The fish was mild, but slightly dry. The addition of the malt vinegar was a wise choice as it gave the fish the added moisture it needed. The chips were okay, but I think it would have been better to have potato wedges or something more solid than shoestring potatoes. The coleslaw paled in comparison to the rest of the meal, however. All in all, the platter was decent and I had no complaints outside of the dismal cole slaw. I thought the serving size was just right.
We finished our entrees and had another round of Diet Cokes while waiting for our bill. The total was $50.54 which included tax. We both thought this was a fair value considering the sizable portions. Service was attentive and welcoming.
As we headed back to the car, I told J. that I thought dinner hit the spot. We agreed that we didn’t find culinary brilliance at Wally’s, but we would head back for a hearty, filling meal. Our complaints were minimal and the menu had plenty of options. We did adore the space and interior design because it made the place comfortable and homey.
Then our thoughts turned back to our trip and we realized we were only one or two steps closer to reaching a consensus on where to go. I then had a stroke of genius and suggested that we go to Alaska.
“In winter?!” J. exclaimed.
Obviously, J. hates the 49th state as well.
Wally’s American Pub ‘n Grille
5029 North 44th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85018
Hours: Sunday through Saturday – 11 AM to Close.
Notes: The entrance is on the interior side of the plaza.
Alcohol: Full bar service available.