When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: B&R Wine and Food
Location: 7366 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale
Open: About two months
7366 East Shea Boulevard, Unit 112, was once the home of Arizona's most infamous restaurant. You might have heard about it — Amy's Baking Company? The owners caused a bit of scene when they appeared on a reality television show in 2013. In any case, they sold the restaurant about four months ago and already a new duo has taken over the space.
Now the strip mall restaurant is home to B&R Wine and Food, named for its French owners Bruno and Richard. Neither was in the restaurant during our recent midweek lunch visit, leaving Richard's wife to hold down the fort at the bistro and wine bar. The space, which was clean and stylish even under its former owners, is still casual and polished, offering a full bar, high tops, a traditional dining room, and an outdoor patio.
Be warned: It's hard to resist having a glass of wine with your lunch at B&R, not only because the restaurant's wine list includes an affordable selection of bottles from Napa, Lebanon, Argentina, and all over Europe, but also because all glasses cost just $6 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can also expect $4 beers before 6 p.m., including options such as Lumberyard Red Ale from Flagstaff and several other locally made brews.
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As for food, the restaurant offers nothing more and nothing less than simple bistro fare. There's a selection of bruschetta, which allows diners to choose three varieties for $10. We started with the smoked salmon with sour cream and chives, apple with Gorgonzola and figs, and asparagus with bacon and blue cheese. Served on slices of crusty white bread, each offered a nice balance of flavors and textures, though our favorite was probably the final combo, which benefited from salty-fatty pieces of bacon and sharp, fragrant crumbles of blue cheese.
Less impressive was the restaurant's four cheese flatbread ($10.90), which arrived lukewarm and offered a doughy, somewhat flavorless crust. The combination of mozzarella, Swiss, blue, and goat cheeses was a nice break from the usual cheese pizza monotony but still didn't overpower the flatbread's base of overly sweet tomato sauce.
On our visit, the day's specials included an onion soup that came with a side of shredded cheese and croutons — not our typical experience with French onion soup, but acceptable nonetheless. Fortunately, the broth was deep with onion flavor, and a sprinkling of cheese and croutons provided the necessary salt and texture. We ordered it along with half of a goat cheese, spinach, and honey panini ($9.80), which was satisfying though a bit out of proportion when it came to the fillings.
For simple, affordable bistro fare, B&R delivers. There's value to be found and pleasant, casual service. Plus, for the better part of the day, you can count on a cheap glass of wine, and that's some thing we simply can't complain about.