Behind the Bar: Ted Grossman at Shady's
Ted Grossman unwinds with a drink after his shift at Shady's.
Whether it's booze, music, film or food, Ted Grossman admits he's a bit of a snob.
In this case, however, knowing that he'd think your favorite films are garbage and that you couldn't even smell his favorite drink without gagging doesn't make Grossman unlikeable; it's actually quite the opposite.
His sophisticated booze palate and affinity for early 60s French gangster films and dub reggae make you want desperately to gain his approval, or at least assure him you have some (albeit limited) understanding of his discerning interests.
You can learn a lot about Grossman's interests just by drinking at Shady's. Grossman tailors his shift to his own preferences by bringing his own ingredients like fresh ginger to make his signature "Ginger Old Fashioned" (stay tuned for the recipe tomorrow), as well as his own movies.
"I'm a movie fanatic and I bring my own shit always," he says. "Some of it's super high brow, like [Federico] Fellini, some of it's 60s swordplay epics, like The One-armed Swordsman today. I generally go for stuff that looks cool on its own because a lot of times the jukebox is on and I just use it as wallpaper."
The jukebox Grossman speaks of is one of the major draws at Shady's. Owner Brad Henrich chooses the albums and refreshes the selection as he sees fit (which is supposed to happen again very soon). His choices are so impressive that not even Grossman, who put in nearly a decade at Tempe's Eastside Records, can complain.
"I think Brad is one of the few people in town that understands that your jukebox is really your calling card and really kind of defines what you want your place to be," he says. "I'd be glad to make suggestions but I think he's done a good job on his own; and when he refreshes it, it's gonna be just as good or better than it is now."
Music may be an important element of a bar's identity, but booze always comes first. Grossman educated his palate sampling the enormous selection of single malt scotches during his four years working at Seamus McCaffrey's. Shady's may not be able to compete in terms of quantity, but Grossman says it has a good, quality booze selection for a small neighborhood bar.
"We have some things that every bar should have that a lot don't, like Campari, for example," he says. "To me, if you don't have Campari you're not even a real bar. You couldn't walk into a bar on the east coast and not see a Campari bottle, but it's almost hard to find in this town."
The east coast has undoubtedly shaped certain facets of Grossman's personality. Moving back and forth between Ariz. and New York City for the last 20 years, he prefers the old fashioned charm of east coast bars and tries to implement it at Shady's.
Once he heads home to Tempe, however, there isn't much old fashioned charm to speak of. Grossman lived there back when Henrich owned a music store called Roads to Moscow "when Mill Avenue was cool... in like 1987," he says, and just recently moved back. He was startled by how much it has changed.
"There are all these empty store fronts on Mill Avenue and those crazy mega towers they built that weren't finished," Grossman says. "Everyone is so young and tan and kind of dumb looking. It's very strange for me to move back to that neighborhood, but I'm enjoying it."
Hopefully Grossman will stick it out in downtown Tempe long enough to school some coeds on what really matters: cult films, rare records and fine liquor.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.