Vacant, Lettuce and Tomato

The dessert tray the waiter lugs over does just what it's designed to do--make it hard to say no. The chocolate fudge cake, though, is longer on looks than taste--it's more sweet than rich. The thick apple pie, however, is an uncomplicated delight.

A word about the coffee. The menu at Charlie's Grill boasts, "We proudly serve Starbucks coffee." And on one visit, the coffee was so wonderful I made it a point to tell the waiter. "Ah, we just cleaned the equipment today," he said. That apparently wasn't the case on a subsequent visit. The coffee was so wretched that I doubt whether Sheriff Joe could have legally served it in Tent City. (To his credit, the waiter did take the coffee off the bill.)

If you live on the avenues, Charlie's Grill means you don't have to leave the neighborhood to get an upscale meal served by professionals. Who knows? Charlie's Grill might even tempt folks in other zip codes to unfold the west-side portion of their Phoenix maps.

Location Info


Sheraton Crescent Hotel

2620 W. Dunlap Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85021

Category: Hotels and Resorts

Region: North Phoenix

Copper Creek Bar & Grill, Wyndham Metrocenter Hotel, 10220 North Metro Parkway East, Phoenix, 997-5900. Hours: Lunch and Dinner, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

If you do unfold your west-side map, remember to put a big "X" on the spot occupied by the Copper Creek Bar & Grill. Then write yourself a reminder: Do Not Enter.

This is one of the most ragged restaurant operations I've had the misfortune to encounter in quite some time. The busers don't know how to bus; the servers don't know how to serve; and the cooks don't know how to cook.

Even the designers came up short. The restaurant has a generic, coffee-shop feel that crackles with corporate timidity. I couldn't feel any "good time" vibes: If I were staying at the Wyndham, I'd just as soon stay in my room and take my chances with room service and cable television.

If you enjoy being entertained by restaurant staffers who fail to refill water glasses, who refuse to bend down and pick up dropped silverware, who ignore stacked piles of dirty dishes, who can't remember who ordered what and who disappear for huge chunks of time, you can count on the Copper Creek Bar & Grill to put on one of the best shows in town.

The kitchen is just as inept. A huge buffet accompanies all entrees. You can fill your plate with greenery, tortellini, tomato salad, cubed cheese, fruit, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, fried rice, mixed veggies and baked potato. You can also visit a cook who'll whip up a right-out-of-the-wok stir-fry, fashioned from beef, chicken or shrimp. It's plentiful. It's a bargain. And it's all stupefyingly dull.

Still, "dull" sounds pretty good, once you start tossing around words like "inedible." Take the chicken and dumplings entree, loaded with so much sodium that it could have been mistaken for a salt lick. The Oriental barbecued pork loin has a nice ring to it. Unfortunately, this dish couldn't handle reality. It's just tiny cubes of pork heaped over fried rice, the kind of entree that might have come from a metal chafing tray in the employee cafeteria. And like the chicken and dumplings, it, too, was heaped with salt.

At $14.95, fresh Alaskan halibut is the most expensive main dish. It's a small, filleted wedge, competently grilled. But why couldn't the kitchen have given it a bit of flair? The fish just sits forlornly in the middle of a big plate, inspiring nothing but yawns. The less-than-butter-soft pot roast doesn't do anything to move the needle on the excitement meter, either, unless you're aroused by the sight of a mound of meat.

The basket of inferior bread won't relieve your agony. Neither will an appetizer like the greasy chicken-and-mushroom quesadilla. Only the starter of baked oysters, adorned with spinach-and-cheese sauce, demonstrated some hint of cooking prowess here.

The menu trumpets Arctic Summer as a "signature dessert." It's a tortilla cup filled with rum-raisin ice cream and lots of berries, drowned in various liqueurs. Had it arrived in a state other than half-melted, I might have been tempted to give a more favorable appraisal. A routinely tasty peach cobbler was a case of way too little, way too late.

Putting a topnotch restaurant in the Metrocenter area is a good idea. But the Copper Creek Bar & Grill isn't that restaurant. It's down at the end of lonely street, in heartbreak hotel.

Charlie's Grill:
Shrimp cocktail$7.95
Linguini with shrimp 11.75
Ahi tuna 15.75
Apple pie4.00

Copper Creek Bar & Grill:
Baked oysters $5.95
Pot roast 10.95
Chicken and dumplings 12.95
Peach cobbler 3.95

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