The Whining Pig, an Arizona-based chain of hip wine and beer bars, has opened in Desert Ridge. [That sound you hear is the multitudes rejoicing.] They moved into an unused underground space just off Desert Ridge’s central plaza earlier this month.
Over the last few years, The Whining Pig has garnered a solid reputation in the valley as a fun, inviting place to grab a drink and spend the evening with friends. Each location features incredible selections of both wine and beer, but creative menuing (is that a term? An actual thing? If not, I just made it up) adds to the experience. Drink selections are posted on large chalkboards that adorn all the walls. They are color coded too to help guide you through the vast number of choices.
Additionally, both wine and beer menus feature “mystery” selections, where for a set low price, you can let the bartender choose something for you. It’s kind of like a box of chocolate…you never know what you are gonna get. If you love to discover new beers (and wines), this is one of the great drinking experiences in Phoenix.
What puts The Whining Pig over the top (in a good way) is the community-focused design of the space. At Desert Ridge, there are no individual tables or booths—only community tables. There’s one open seating area with a couch, in addition to the U-shaped bar. Interestingly, the bar features three different heights. Retro-inspired table game that foster interaction with those around you are spread throughout the space. On one visit, I demonstrated my exceptional skill at Rock-em, Sock-em Robots! On another, I solved a Rubik’s Cube for the first time in 30 years. The Desert Ridge location sports the exact same floor plan and community-minded flourishes as their downtown location. And the Bethany Home location is so cramped, you often erase the chalkboard with your backside as you navigate your way to a seat at the bar. Kind of forces you to make friends!
Opening in Desert Ridge might seem challenging, given their proximity to three other national chains in the north valley that prominently feature libations: Yard House (perhaps 100 yards away), BJ’s (perhaps 300 yards away) and Growler USA (maybe a half mile away, in High Street). But, The Whining Pig also seems poised to take these places head on, as they more than address what’s wrong with these other establishments. To wit:
- Yard House = 100-ish taps that change only once every six months; The Whining Pig = 39 always rotating taps and 80+ bottles and cans
- BJ’s = not great beer (their house brews have always been ‘meh’) and only a small handful of national selections; The Whining Pig = creative, eclectic and delicious rotating taps (with solid local representation)
- Growler USA = expensive; The Whining Pig = extremely generous Happy Hour (1p – 8p at the Desert Ridge location) which gives you $2 off all drafts, $3 and $4 bottles and cans
Now, I have a lot of love for all three of these places, especially Growler USA as they were the first true craft beer bar in north Phoenix and I have spent an inordinate amount of time there studying for my Cicerone exam (receiving tons of encouragement from the staff in the process). But the more than reasonable pricing at The Whining Pig might make me think twice about driving that extra half-mile down the road. To that end, on my last visit, I overheard one of the servers say that despite only being open less than three weeks, they have already noticed a steady stream of ‘regulars.’ They must be talking about me.