100 Tastemakers in Phoenix

Aaron Pool of Gadzooks on Executive Workouts And Why Bikini Lounge Is Awesome

From now until we publish the 2016 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times is naming 100 Tastemakers — members of our local culinary community who help shape the way we eat, drink, and think about food in Phoenix. Some you'll know, and for others, it'll be a first introduction, but each person on our list deserves a nod for helping make our city so delicious. Oh, and while you're here, be sure to check out our list of 100 Creatives.

Next up, the man behind one of Central Phoenix's most uniquely-named restaurants. 

79. Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup

Owned by Arizona native Aaron Pool, Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup started as a crazy idea with an even crazier sounding name and has since grown into a popular central Phoenix destination for customizable enchiladas cooked to order. Pool, then an Arizona State University student, got the idea for the restaurant during a family trip to Lake Tahoe while eating his mother’s beloved chicken enchiladas. He spent the next few years in her kitchen perfecting recipes and mapping out his business plan, then he just had to figure out a quick cooking method, find a building, design the restaurant, and convince a bank to loan money to a 20-something with a dream. 

In 2013, Pool opened Gadzooks on the southeast corner of Osborn Road and Seventh Street and has since won over plenty of fans with the menu of infinitely customizable enchiladas, salads, and soups.

Today, Pool dishes on the best thing he's ever cooked and where you can find him when he's not working at the restaurant. 

My go-to place for gasoline in Phoenix is ChevronI need that Techron. The Chevron sign is kind of a beacon that “everything is going to be okay,” and the smiling cars confirm it for me. You can find me at Seventh Avenue and Bethany Home (personal favorite), Third Street and Indian School, Seventh Street and Camelback, 44th Street and Indian School, or the occasional 32nd Street and Thomas.

The best kept secret in Phoenix is 
Bikini Lounge. OKAY, I KNOW FOR NEW TIMES READERS IT’S PROBABLY NOT A SECRET. But, almost anyone that lives outside downtown/midtown doesn’t know about it. Is it a 64-ounce pitcher of draft beer for $7 cash? Something craaaazyyy. The jukebox is top notch, if you hear Bonnie Raitt, Hall and Oates, Mariah Carey, and Rupert Holmes playing, I am probably manning the box. Nice paintings also.

If I opened a second restaurant tomorrow, it'd be called Dank-Tasty and would serve beef Wellington. That would be it. Beef Wellington and tap water.

The best thing I've ever cooked was large cookies and the worst was a sweet potato on a George Foreman Grill.

During my heavier days in high school, I would make myself a giant Pillsbury chocolate chip cookie for dessert. (From the tub you get at Costco.) This was typically a nightly routine. I had that thing dialed in, middle was half-baked, outer edge nice and chewy. I would cut it with a pizza cutter and make triangles. I did this because I had a triangular spatula. Top it off with a glass of two percent milk. Ninety-two percent of the time I would get a stomach ache.

I tried cooking a whole sweet potato on a George Foreman Grill when I was at ASU. It was a silver, countertop-workhorse of the kitchen. The potato didn’t cook (it slightly exploded), and I had a broken George Foreman.

When I'm not at my restaurant or at home you can usually find me getting an executive workout at the gym. For those that don’t know, that is only going to the gym to shower and change clothes ... you can mix it up with a visit to the steam room, top it off with a nicely steamed mango towel to the face. Sometimes I run into people I know, where I have embarrassedly said in my enchilada-scented work attire, “Sorry, I look like shit.” The response has been, “Aaron, you always look like shit.”

The 2016 Tastemakers so far: 

100. Aaron Chamberlin of St. Francis and Phoenix Public Market Cafe
99. Ross Simon of Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour 
98. Debby Wolvos of DW Photography
97. Anibal and Salem Beyene of Café Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant 
96. Bo Mostow of Uptown Farmers Market
95. Julian Wright of Pedal Haus Brewery
94. Stephen Jones of The Larder + The Delta
93. Eric Glomski of Page Spring Cellars
92. Richard Bock of Giuseppe's on 28th
91. Walter Sterling of Ocotillo 
90. Daniel Sevilla of Angry Crab Shack
89. Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco and Otro Cafe
88. LaDawn Driscoll of Liberty Market
87. Jason Calhoon of The Shop Beer Co. and Side Kick Cold Brew
86. Tim and Kim Cobb of United Lunchadores Street Gourmet
85. Micah Olson of Bar Crudo and Okra Cookhouse and Cocktails 
84. Paola Embry of Christopher's + Crush and The Wrigley Mansion
83. Jared Porter of The Clever Koi
82. Diane Corieri of Evening Entertainment Group
81. Erich Schultz of Steadfast Farm Shares His Go-To Place For Beer That Tastes "Like Arizona"
80. Jeff and Leah Huss of Huss Brewing Company

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria