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Review: Sonora Brewhouse - Phoenix (w/ photos!)


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Review: Sonora Brewhouse - Phoenix (w/ photos!)

Seth Chadwick | May 25, 2006 12:42 AM

I think Madge and Boris were trying to make me feel better after J.’s departure. They offered to take me to dinner as they were heading out of town to Las Vegas for a weekend of fun, including seeing “Avenue Q” and playing Jackpot Party Machine (the greatest slot machine ever created because it plays “Macho Man” by the Village People when you go to the bonus round.) It was a nice gesture, but I had a tough time deciding where to go. We wanted something along the way from East Phoenix to I-17.

I first suggest the “new” Oscar Taylor’s at 24th Street and Camelback, but Boris was opposed due to all the reviews he had read about it. I threw out a few other names, but the only thing that seemed of interest was the Sonora Brewhouse on Camelback Road near 3rd Street. We headed there, battling the construction and traffic along Camelback Road just after rush hour.

I arrived first and waited outside. Sonora had a very pretty exterior with lots of color and visual stimulation. Their ad outside featured their Kobe burger. Madge and Boris arrived shortly thereafter and we walked in to get a table.

The thing I always forget about a brewpub is that it is going to be loud inside, and indeed it was. We tried to get a table in the back outside, but that was booked solid, so we ended up in a booth in the front room near the bar. The noise was a bit much, but we struggled through. We waited a few minutes and then our server arrived with menus and waters. She took our drink order. I decided to have and Iced Tea as did Boris ($1.75 each) while Madge had a Diet Pepsi ($1.75). Since we were in a brewpub, I thought one of us should get a beer, so I asked for a recommendation. Our server suggested the Red Pale Ale ($3.50).

While we waited for some beverages, we went over the menu. I had a tough time deciding because there were a lot of interesting choices on the menu. Boris said he thought the Homemade Kettle Chips with Chipotle Ketchup ($3.29) would be a good start. I agreed, but also wanted a second appetizer and suggested the Cheese Quesadilla ($5.99).

Our server reappeared with our drinks and took our order. Madge decided on the Sonora Soaked Bratwurst ($6.49). Boris chose the Kobe Burger ($9.99). I thought some pure comfort food would be good and selected the Cottage Pie ($10.99) which came with a side salad. All in all, a pretty good mix of choices.

While we waited for our appetizers, it was time for me to get to work on the ale. The Red Pale Ale was quite good. Soft, smooth, and just a touch of bitterness really prepared my palate for dinner. I loved the red color of the ale. Madge and Boris weren’t very keen on the taste, but I thought that it was very good and enjoyed it greatly. Since it was a microbrew, it had a higher alcohol content which helped with the smoothness.

Our server returned a few minutes later with our Kettle Chips with Chipotle Ketchup. They were very light and crisp and exceptionally fresh and hot. I liked the fact that the chips were salted and still a bit oily from the fryer. The chipotle ketchup was decent enough with a slight kick at the end, although I would have preferred a bit more chipotle flavor and spice in the mix. Still, the chips and ketchup were inhaled.

Shortly after our chips arrived, so did our Cheese Quesadilla. The six pieces that had been cut from folded cheese crisp were heavy with melted cheese and tomatoes. A small bowl of half-sour-cream-half-salsa weighted the opposite side of the plate. The cheese was thoroughly melted and the quesadilla was hot. We all seemed to enjoy it, but I would have enjoyed it better except for two things: the tomatoes and the accompaniments. First, there were a lot of tomatoes in the mix and I think that is what led to the tortilla not being as crisp as it should have been. All that moisture from the tomatoes had to go somewhere. The sour cream and salsa were good, but were rather plain and did nothing to enhance the quesadilla.

My salad arrived and it was very fresh. The mix of greens and veggies were crisp and cold. I loved the addition of the red onion on top and the Ranch dressing was very good with a tasty flair of garlic.

We only waited about five minutes between the time I finished my salad and the time our entrees arrived. Boris’ Kobe Burger was a half-pound burger on a soft bun with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and a pickle spear. It was served with steak fries and a ramekin of stone-ground mustard sauce. Boris said it was a “really good burger” and said the quality was top notch. It was cooked to his order and he said the bun was fresh. About the only thing he didn’t like were the steak fries which he stated were “pretty ordinary.”

Madge was enthralled with her Sonora Soaked Bratwurst. A large bratwurst had been cooked in Sonora Brewhouse’s Desert Amber Ale until cooked through. It was then put on a split French baguette, covered with grilled onions and sauerkraut and served with the mustard sauce. Madge said it was delicious and it really must have been because Madge has never been a fan of sauerkraut, although you wouldn’t know it from the fact that she ate every strand off it. She said the bratwurst was well seasoned and hot throughout and had a great beer taste. Like Boris, however, she was less than thrilled with the fries. My guess was that if Madge and Boris had their meals complimented with more of the Kettle Chips instead of the Steak Fries, the two dishes would have been spectacular.

My Cottage Pie looked good when it was set down and it took me a good five minutes of waiting time before the molten dish had cooled enough to take a taste. The cottage pie was a mix of ground beef, pearl onions, peas, and carrots. It was all topped with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes and cheddar cheese. After it had cooled, I took a bite and was thoroughly underwhelmed. There was simply no sharp flavor. It turned out to be a very bland dish. The pearl onions had been cooked down to a mush. I had hoped that the Horseradish Mashed Potatoes would have given the dish some standout taste, but it was literally non-existent. There wasn’t any sharpness to the potatoes. The dish wasn’t even salted in any respect. It was the clear disappointment for the evening and left me wishing I had gone with one of the pizzas featured on the menu.

We finished our meals and asked for our bill. The total was $48.48 including tax. We felt this was a fair deal for the amount of food, the flavorless Cottage Pie notwithstanding. Our server was engaging and bubbly and we had no complaints about the service.

We exited the restaurant and I wished Madge and Boris a great time in Las Vegas. They drove away toward I-17 and I headed back to East Phoenix.

Overall, I thought Sonora Brewhouse had some excellent items. Madge and Boris really liked their burger and brat, and I thought the Kettle Chips were outstanding. I would return to Sonora Brewhouse as there were several other things on the menu that I would like to try.

But for that moment, driving along Camelback Road with the bazillion car dealerships and the Colonade Mall and the ongoing construction, I was wondering if my first suggest of Oscar Taylor’s would have been better.

That would, of course, have to be determined on another night.

Sonora Brewhouse
322 East Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Dress: Casual
Notes: Patio dining available.



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