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Monopole Not So Hot

Jan 27, 2011
monopole 300x265 Monopole Not So Hot wine bar wine playhouse district Pasadena Monopole cafe  photo

Monopole occupies a beautiful space in the Playhouse District; photo by Brigham Yen.

A few nights ago, a friend and I were debating whether to go to Elements Kitchen (and its swanky bar) or drop in to Monopole Wine before a movie. We were more in the mood for wine and reasoned that newcomer Monopole would be a better choice.

Wrong. But it looked okay at first. I admired the logo, the space (formerly Zoe pilates), the wine selection, and the nice displays. We walked through the well-stocked wine shop to a small table; the bar, even further back, was full of a convivial, noisy group – a good sign, I thought. Not wanting a flight of wine, we selected a glass apiece – interesting little wines from Spain and Paso Robles. And when I say “little,” I mean it – the pour was decidedly ungenerous (I estimate about two ounces). It wasn’t that the glass was oversize (it was) but that the amount – for $11 – was underwhelming, even insulting. It came with a lot of hovering (by all three or four – or was it more? I lost count — guys in charge). After a while we were offered some second-rate-airline-level crackers covered with industrial cheese dust (why was the happy group at the bar enjoying cheese? BYOC?). There was just a general lack of hospitality. I hate to think it was because we were two women – I prefer to think of it as how they are, or at least were that night. I may never know, because at this point I’ll never return.

Other wine bars in town (Colorado Wine Co., Noir, Heritage, Mission, even the slightly attitudey Vertical) and other places to drink wine (Malbec, Gale’s, Bistro 45, insert your favorite here) are fun places, where the staff engages you, the mood is infectious, and the wine runs freely (it’s in their best interest as a shop to give you a lot, to encourage you to buy a bottle or a case). But I found Monopole to be cold, calculating and disinterested in me as a once or future patron. When it came time to buy a gift certificate for a wine-loving friend (the next week), I went to Mission Wine. And I’m going to choose that good-looking bar at Elements next time, whether I’m in the mood for wine or a martini.




8 Responses for “Monopole Not So Hot”

  1. Julie Hill says:

    Wow…I drive by that place everyday…and think someday….well thanks for the headsup…..it’s all about the relationships…you’d think businesses would get that by now. Thanks for sharing.

  2. $11? In a recession? Yikes.

  3. Since they are very new, if this report is accurate I have to trust this is a birth pang of newness & hope it is an isolated incident!

  4. Tom says:

    Hmm, completely different experience for me. A beautiful space and the service was very good. I think the prices were fair and reflected the fact that they were pouring some really nice wines. I wouldn’t let this review scare anyone away, I’ve been in their a number of times and would wholeheartedly recommend it.

  5. Michelle says:

    I agree, Tom – Monopole is a wonderful addition to the area offering a thought selection of wines at a good value. I have visited the tasting bar a few times while shopping for wine and found it very likable – easy, unpretentious and affordable way to sample wines before you buy them and learn about new and interesting bottles that I would have otherwise not been able to taste.

  6. Dave Fertig says:

    It’s too bad your first experience at Monopole wasn’t great, I’ve visited there thrice, and I found the wines a good value, and tasting bar was a good deal for us too (I didn’t seek or get cheese, but what’s “industrial cheese dust”?!)

    Of course, wine varies, and at $11 for a couple ounces, it better be an expensive wine, whether you like it is another matter. Ar you sure you didn’t pay for a flight? I’d give them a second try, and tell them of your first experience, I bet the owners of Monopole want to make you happy as they work out the kinks of a new shop.

    I know wine (disclosure: I have “worked” at the Chronicle Wine Cellar over the years, still do sometimes) so I also know the best wine values in Pasadena (usually th Chronicle!) The owners-operators at Monopole know what they’re talking about, and they have some very good values in their hard-to-beat collection. I’ve bought a bunch of bottles from them already, and I’m frugal. Chron’s the best, but Monopole is a good addition to the Pasadena Wine scene.

  7. Colleen Dunn Bates says:

    Thank you, Dave, for a very thoughtful comment. We’ll get back to Monopole again soon on your recommendation.

  8. Gabriella says:

    My friend and I had the same experience at Monopole – indifference and even snobbishness by one of the owners. I’ve been there 4 times and my friend twice. We discussed the attitude shown towards us (very condescending) and decided to go to The Nose just down Colorado in the Alley instead. Very friendly people there with a nice wine menu by the glass or flight and an appetizer menu! We haven’t been back to Monopole since!

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