Arizona Republic Q & A
On the Air: They're the familiar voices you hear when you tune in your favorite station. They even can seem like friends. We've set out to get to know the Valley's DJs even better, to find out what inspires them and how they see their role in the community. (We even got a few to tell us which artists they don't like playing.)
Question: How did you get your start in radio?
Answer: My dad was in radio in Minneapolis (where I'm from). I remember him taking me to work when I could barely reach the studio glass to watch the DJs. I've always loved radio, it was a big deal in our house, even though I was the only one of six kids to follow in my dad's footsteps. As a kid, I really wanted to play pro hockey, but by 16 or 17, I realized I wasn't going to be good enough, so radio it was.
Q: What was your first radio job in the Valley?
A: My first job in the Valley was doing afternoons at Y95, a CHR (contemporary-hit radio) station in the early '90s (now old-school Eva 95.5). It was the flagship of Edens Broadcasting, a really great group of radio stations that had a lot of talented people in their stable, it was a fun time. The group was sold in the mid '90s, and former CEO Gary Edens still lives in the valley.
Q: Did someone in particular inspire you to be a DJ?
A: No one in particular (other than my dad). I remember as kid listening intently to lots of different styles and formats.
Q: Have you seen the role of the DJ change much since you started?
A: Many broadcast groups and radio stations now heavily rely on DJs "voice tracking," or recording shows for use in other markets at other times to eliminate the cost of having one live and local. I'm fortunate to work for a company and radio station that doesn't do that.
Q: What's the best perk about the job?
A: I've seen a lot of concerts! And having a job that allows you to listen to music all day and listen to it really loud if you want to is pretty cool.
Q: What was your most memorable celebrity encounter?
A: In Kansas City, I used to do my show backstage before concerts. Tom Petty and Lenny Kravitz were in town and I was told by the record company, "Petty does not do interviews. Don't even ask, don't even try." If I do I'll never get a backstage show again. They stopped short of instructing me to not even make eye contact if he walks by.
So, I was interviewing Lenny Kravitz live on the air and Petty had just finished his sound check. He walked up to us and said, "Hey, what are you guys doing? Are you on the radio?" I told him I was talking to Lenny about the show. He said "Cool! Can I have a mike?" I looked at the record guy and he just shrugged. I gave Petty a mike and he then proceeded to interview Lenny and me for about a half hour. He was hilarious! The record guy said, "Congratulations, that's never happened and probably won't again" (while he's on tour).
Q: What's the biggest misconception about being a disc jockey?
A: There are none. All the stereotypes are true.
Q: Which artist does your station play that you would never listen to on your own?
A: Ha-ha! ABBA, and my boss is fully aware.
Q: What's your favorite hangout in the Valley?
A: I'm a big fan of locally owned pubs and eateries in downtown and central Phoenix, but you'd most likely find me at Carly's Bistro on Roosevelt. A smallish, casual spot with great food and chill vibe.
Q: What's your favorite promotional swag item that you have on your desk?
A: The only promo thing on my desk is a Peak water bottle.
Q: Have you ever dated one of your listeners?
A: Never. My wife listened to me but didn't know I was that Steve Douglas when we met.
Q: Aside from you, of course, who's the best radio personality in the Valley?
A: Hmm. Probably Monica Nelson from our "Chris and Monica" morning show. She and I are the only original Peak members left. She cracks me up, she has a great sense of humor and is as about as genuine as you get in this business.
Q: If you couldn't be a DJ, what would you be?
A: I'd be in trouble. Seriously. Or I'd probably be doing something associated with making videos. I am a video-editing hobbyist, and my YouTube channel has 5 million views.
My restaurant reviews for our Peak Your Appetite content vertical.
I was anxious to try the latest effort by the Upward Projects people, local restaurateurs and architecture fans that brought us the Postino Wine Café’s and Windsor/Churn. They’ve done a great job of delivering some tasty joints in cleverly repurposed central Phoenix buildings, turning the old Katz Deli into the open and breezy Postino Central and converting an ancient strip mall a hundred feet away into the Windsor/Churn comfort food/ice cream shop. They recently picked up the Al Beadle designed Federal Bank building across from Windsor to convert into their offices and they added a pizza place on the south end, Federal Pizza.
We hit up Federal on Halloween night, a little more than a week from their opening. It’s got a clean, modern look not unlike the Beadles intent for the building years ago I suppose. Our really exuberant hostess sat us in one of the smallish booths between the open kitchen and the bar and immediately explained that they run a sort of tag-team service on you. You never know who might bring or take your orders, food, drinks .etc. She was right and since the staff was dressed for Halloween we were treated to a fresh face, painted or otherwise, at every turn.
It wasn’t particularly busy and they didn’t have the customary valet set-up typical of the owners other restaurants. I had commented to my wife as I looked down the bar and out to the patio the place seem a little Scottsdale douchy, the backwards baseball hats and plunging V-necks (on the guys), not very typical of Central Phoenix. She pointed out as she sat facing the other direction that it seemed very CenPho, as in upwardly mobile midtown-gay.
We ordered the Manifesto Pizza – Schreiners sausage, fennel and goat cheese. Goat cheese on a pizza? Fantastic idea! They don’t list the size of the pizza but it’s big enough to share and at $13, it’s a great deal. The pizzas are wood-fired so expect the crispy, slightly burnt edge. Unfortunately the middle was sogged out so much the only way to eat it was with a knife and fork. Don’t know if it fell victim to the soft goat cheese or whether all their pizzas are like that. Tasty nonetheless, it didn’t stop us from eating the whole thing. Also ordered was a side called Corn Coins. They roast a cob with fennel, herbs and Pecorino cheese and cut them into one inch pieces. Definitely the star of the appetizer/side dishes. We grabbed some tasty Cerignola Olives to munch on too. If you’re into beer, they take advantage of the new beer-to-go laws so you can buy and fill up a growler with your favorite barley-pop to take home.
Overall I’d give Federal Pizza a ‘B’, had the pizza crust been crisp throughout I could see myself dropping an ‘A’ on the place.
Gallo Blanco Cafe
It had been awhile since I had been to Gallo Blanco at the base of The Clarendon Hotel in central Phoenix but after a Saturday afternoon of riding the bikes it was a perfect stop. Our group of four started out with the Queso Fundido appetizer. Buttery white melted oaxaco cheese (I was told once good Mexican food doesn’t involve yellow cheese and I believe that to be true) with chorizo and a pile of chips. In my opinion it’s the best queso app in town, you can order a vegetable version but what’s the fun in that? Also worth noting on the appetizer menu is the Elote Callejero, a roasted cob of corn with cortija (hard, white) cheese crumbles and paprika. That stood as the entrée for one in our group and if you want to do the same you can find it at happy hour prices too. It counts as one of the best happy hour goodies you’ll find in this town.
Two of us went for Chilaquiles Verdes, a traditional Mexican breakfast or brunch that you can get all day at Gallo. Crispy tortillas layered in a chili verde sauce with chicken (vegetable version available) and that tasty oaxacan cheese. It’s topped with a couple of eggs, I took mine sunny side up. There’s not an overabundance of Chilaquiles served in this town but if you can find a better version please clue me in. My wife ordered the Carne Asada Burrito made with grilled ribeye, she unabashedly called it the best burrito she’s ever had.
If you’re tired of overly fried entrees topped off with half a bag of melted Kraft “Mexican” cheese passed off as authentic, you owe yourself a trip to Gallo Blanco. You can even dip your toe in with a visit during happy hour where you can get the above mentioned apps as well as five different tacos from their taqueria menu. Quesadillas and guacamole are also available on the HH priced menu.
The Main Ingredient Alehouse
What’s not to like about a place called TMI?
Actually, the full name is The Main Ingredient Ale House & Café but most refer to it by its much more appetizing TMI acronym. If you’re looking for a good spot with above average sandwiches with plenty of extras to start or finish your casual nosh then here it is. TMI is located in the classic Coronado District of central Phoenix in a cool converted bungalow that once housed Lisa G’s Italian Restaurant at 7th street and Sheridan. There’s a lot of good eats within a one mile radius of this part of Phoenix and TMI fits right in.
My typical visit here starts with their olive bowl. I’m a sucker for olives and theirs is just a cut above the rest with the variety of olives marinated in just the right amount citrus, herbs and spices. I’ve had about half the sandwiches on the menu and you can’t go wrong with the Jive Turkey (with jalapeno cream cheese), The Acapulco Cheesesteak (with Oaxacan cheese and chipotle mayo) or my wife’s favorite, the RB&C (roast beef with Muenster and horseradish). My go to sammy is The Sheridan, house roasted turkey breast, genoa salami and cheddar on a crunchy warm baguette. Nothing on the sandwich menu is over $9 and if you opt for the Cash Money (house-made cashew butter, red pepper-cabernet jelly and banana on sourdough) that’ll only set you back $6. The sandwiches aren’t small but if you’re looking for something extra I’ll suggest Mindy’s Mac & Cheese (a good paring with the Cash Money if you’re serving your inner 8-year-old). If your body is craving another boost of cholesterol after all that, you’ll find a NY Style Cheesecake from Scott’s Generations deli among the brownies and ice creams on the dessert menu.
TMI does have Ale House in their name and they do offer a decent amount of drafts, some rotate. I usually opt for The Main Ale which my server fessed up that it’s actually the Four Peaks Sunbru renamed. Not a bad thing, I’m a Sunbru fan but they offer many other Four Peaks varieties not renamed. This place does have a bit of a hipster vibe and they will sell you a Mickey’s Big Mouth or Schiltz for $2 if you insist on ruining your perfectly good sandwich for your skinny jeans/cheap beer look.
TMI has a decent dog-friendly (water bowls included) patio with a fire on most cool nights. Inside the bungalow you find hardwood floors and usually some classic 90’s hip hop playing, not overly quiet but not over the top either. While 90 percent of the time the wait staff has been on it, it is casual and sometimes quirky. Don’t expect the buttoned down, robotic Houstons/Hillstone experience. Parking can be a challenge since they share a parking lot with Humble Pie but there’s plenty of neighborhood if you don’t mind hoofing it for a block or two. They do offer a great happy hour (voted New Times best central Phoenix hh); ½ price drafts and $4 wines from a pretty decent wine list. The happy hour runs all day Monday!
A great locally owned spot if you’re bouncing around central Phoenix. I’ll give it an A-, a full A if I wouldn’t have had to turn away a couple times because the small place does get busy on occasion but that says a lot for the place, right?
The Culinary Dropout
I’m not sure where or when the Pretzel Bite & Fondue craze started but I do remember my first taste; The original Culinary Dropout in Scottsdale years ago. I was happy to hear local restaurateur Sam Fox was updating the Culinary Dropout concept to include brunch, a yet to be named seafood extension, Cartel Coffee Lab (not yet open) and…a Yard. The Culinary Dropout at The Yard on 7th street in Central Phoenix is actually the third Culinary Dropout location (the original Scottsdale location and one in Vegas), this one is surely the largest.
I was lucky enough to get an invite to the pre-opening to benefit Local First Arizona which allowed for plenty of sampling for our party of four. Starting with the Pretzel Fondue was a no brainer; we also put together a charcuterie/cheese board for openers. I’m a huge fan of meat and cheese boards and Culinary offers 16 choices of meat and cheeses alone to customize your board. If you’re not quite hungry enough to down a couple of entrées, I’d highly recommend sharing a board with a couple glasses of wine. They do have a decent sized Antipasti and Shared app list too.
We did make it to the entrée round however. I opted for the 36-Hour Pork Ribs. The jalapeno/molasses bbq sauce sounded curious and I’m not one to back away from creative bbq. The darkly sweet and tangy sauce did not disappoint. I wouldn’t call the ribs fall-off-the-bone tender but not tough or dry by any means. Thumbs up.
My wife ordered the Beer Battered Fish & Chips. I like Fish & Chips (George & Dragon’s being my local fave) and I wouldn’t think of this place as a Fish & Chips destination but my wife and I both agreed Culinary did a really good job here. The batter was crisp, light and tasty and stayed with the fresh and flakey filets. Too many times overly thick and gooey batter just ends up in a heap on your plate.
My daughter chose the server-recommended the Fried Chicken with buttermilk biscuit. Our server lauded this as a signature dish, the menu even parenthetically states “be patient – it’s worth it!”. It was my least favorite entrée. We didn’t have to be all that patient, it came out in a reasonable amount of time. It wasn’t bad, I just liked the others much better. You can get pretty okay fried chicken at plenty of places, including this one.
The last entrée ordered was Butternut Squash Cannelloni with smoked onions, brussels sprouts and mushrooms. To be honest, not many times will I order an entrée without a big protein attached to it somewhere. The cannelloni and sauce were packed full of flavor and held up just fine without help. I’d order it again.
The Yard is a massive covered yet open play area with ping pong tables, loungy sofas, corn hole games, etc. Outdoor heaters make it comfortable and I’m sure misters or swamp coolers will do the same in the summer. I didn’t spend any time playing in this space adjacent to one of the two dining areas but next time maybe I’ll do my best Forest Gump at the ping pong tables between Pretzel Fondue bites.