Original Zen

Stephanie Landherr

Urchins, octopus and eel, oh my! Bite Me shore do love her some sushi. But such was not always the case. She's only taken to it in the last few years. Prior to that, the idea of chomping on raw fish didn't do much for her. Now that she's been converted, she wondered if y'all felt the same way. She weren't sure whether she could get a decent slab of shimmering sashimi in her new town. But then she found Zen 32.

The elegant decor thrilled her, the spicy tuna, caterpillar and salmon skin rolls titillated her, and the service floored her. But Bite Me knew she was really going to adore Zen 32 when she found out that for only eight bucks, she was brought four brimming glasses of cold sake. That's right! Four heaping helpings of Japanese rotgut, all sitting on the cutest little serving tray you ever saw. Each little glass had a label in front of it, telling your thirsty host what sort of elixir was held in each container – Ruby, Silver, Diamond and Pearl.

Now, it was plain to Bite Me right off that the Pearl sake was a different animal altogether. It looked like watered-down milk, but tasted just fine.

The other three jewels were clear as a bell, and Bite Me later realized the idea was to gingerly sip each one, comparing and contrasting their tastes like a good connoisseur. Shya-right. They disappeared almost as quickly as the sushi combo she and her gay companion wolfed down.

"Well, did you taste any difference in the sakes?" her bosom buddy asked.

"Oh, was that the point?" Bite Me said with her mouth full of uncooked salmon. "Better get another round."

Luckily for her, nearly everyone Bite Me ran into at Zen 32 was a better judge of fine foods than she was. It was like a regular convention of foodies, which Bite Me figured was a damn good sign – Zen 32 is a restaurant so good, other restaurant people love to go there. And after this, so does Bite Me, especially for the four-for-one drink special!

Stephanie Landherr
German hotel office manager

Bite Me: What does your last name mean?

Stephanie: It means country gentleman or country mister.

Bite Me: I hear that mister means something entirely different here in Arizona. They spray you with water during the summer with a mister everywhere you go. Hey, you speak good English.

Stephanie: Yes, I know. I was living in England six months.

Bite Me: Wow. Do they eat sushi in Germany?

Stephanie: It's my first time. It was delicious. I had a California roll.

Bite Me: Do you guys eat loads of potatoes? (Bite Me joined a gourmet club to learn how to cook when she first finished college. She and all her friends would pick a different theme every month and everyone had to cook something to share. Bite Me loooooved German night because there were potatoes for miles. Every kind of potato. She'd get really full but it sure soaked up that German beer. A favorite gourmet theme was White Trash night when everyone brought things like KFC, wiener roll-ups, Spam, Hamburger Helper and Keystone. Bite Me was especially pleased when the outfit she wore won special recognition. The only thing was, she wasn't dressed in anything different than normal.)

Stephanie: No, vegetables and salads.

Bite Me: Do you travel a lot?

Stephanie: Too much. I'm a globetrotter.

Bite Me: Are you married?

Stephanie: I'm single and living my life. I enjoy it. I love lying at the pool. In Germany there is no sun. It's 20 degrees under zero there right now, cold and snowing. I get here and it's 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bite Me: Yeah. I'm all into this winter weather they got goin'.

Mary Pat Cox and Gunther Wolf
Restaurant catering sales manager and restaurant manager, Camelback Inn's Navajo dining room

Mary Pat: What'd you eat tonight? (Mary Pat's an animated type who right away turned the tables on Bite Me.)

Bite Me: Baby octopus. And it didn't gross me out but the waitress did caution us that it sometimes freaked people out. I wasn't too big on it but not because it was an actual baby octopus. It was just kinda chewy in a weird way. And hey, I had the eel, which was fabulous, but you people out here eat some weird stuff.

Mary Pat: But you're from L.A.

Bite Me: Yeah, but it's just the dead things you eat here, the game, the antelope. You guys don't eat a lot of turkey burgers here. So is your job stressful?  

Mary Pat: Sometimes, but I have really nice guests.

Bite Me: I bet you're calm under pressure.

Mary Pat: Yeah, 'cause you have to be. I used to be a chef. And I had a catering business so I know that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. But I have to say, we have some of the best food in the Valley. We serve a baked potato pie, and when they bring the dish back to the kitchen, I want to grab a spoon and say, helloooooo, slow down with that thing, I'll clean it. It's like Hamburger Helper.

Bite Me: Lick the bowl! You love Hamburger Helper just like me. You're my kind of girl. I actually worked a summer job at General Mills where they make Hamburger Helper. I'd come home every night covered in cheeseburger macaroni seasoning. Do you know that they run six or seven lines of Hamburger Helper 365 days a year, 24 hours a day because it sells so huge in America? We're all Hamburger Helper junkies.

Mary Pat: I can't walk down that aisle in the grocery store.

Bite Me: Speak it, sister. (Bite Me turned to Mary Pat's friend.) What about you?

Mary Pat: Tell her about yourself. Maybe she can help you find a girlfriend when she writes about us.

Gunther: I'm ambitious. I like cold beers and a warm-hearted woman and I'm barely 30. I'm a good boyfriend.

Bite Me: Why?

Gunther: I'm fun. If I have a girlfriend, I don't have to iron my shirts. Now I have to iron them myself.

Bite Me: Why don't you hire someone to iron your shirts? (Is Bite Me crazy or don't most dudes just drop their shirts at the dry cleaner's?)

Gunther: I'm new to town. I broke up with my girlfriend three years ago.

Bite Me: What's the dating scene like here? (So far, Bite Me has only met lesbians and gay men.)

Gunther: Not very good.

Mary Pat: He wants a woman who irons. Does that answer your question?

Bite Me: Hire someone, dude. You haven't had a date in three years. You're a good-looking guy.

Mary Pat: Again, I reiterate he wants a woman who irons. Now you never will get a date. She's a newspaper reporter and you're telling her you want a woman who irons. (Bite Me feels sure there is someone out there who actually likes to iron for hot fellas. Maybe even in a sexy maid's uniform.)

Bite Me: Are you cheap?

Gunther: No, I'm not cheap. I just don't like to pay for ironing so ... I'd buy her a pair of shoes instead of paying her cash. (Bite Me hopes they'd be good shoes. Not from Payless, if you catch her drift.)

Bite Me: What do you iron?

Gunther: Work shirts. Good ones. Ralph Lauren. Hugo Boss. Expensive.

Bite Me: What's that accent? Are you Austrian?

Gunther: Yes.

Bite Me: Do you like Arnold?

Gunther: Absolutely.

Bite Me: I sure love Arnold. Hey, listen, you need to chill on the ironing thing. I mean, did your mom do the ironing for you?

Mary Pat: No, his mom didn't iron for him. It's just his thing. He wants to be taken care of, have someone to iron for him. He's a Pisces. He thinks you're cute but you don't iron. And Gunther, she has her own shoes.

Gunther: I work hard for my money. I want someone skinny and short.

Bite Me: Short? How short?

Gunther: So I can put my beer on her head.

Mary Pat: I know his ex. He came over with her and she's beautiful. She's tall and headstrong. (Bite Me believes he may be looking for the opposite of this ex-girlfriend. Bite Me knows the deal. She usually goes from dating a brilliant, wealthy, beautiful and sweet guy to a deadbeat whose only contribution is adding some loose change to the piggy bank and then taking it to the Coinstar.)

Bite Me: Aha. Well, Gunther, you're good-looking. It's only a matter of time until you find your dream girl. But if I were you, I'd break her legs or steal her car so she couldn't leave. Taking the shoes ain't gonna cut it. (Bite Me shudders when she thinks of Gunther actually taking her advice. She pictures Boxing Helena. Or maybe Misery. Eek.)

Tina Martlage
General manager, Lon's

Bite Me: You look just like Maria Bellows. Do you watch ER?

Tina: You know what, I don't. I worked 13 and a half hours today.

Bite Me: They should pay you a lot.  

Tina: They do.

Bite Me: Well, they should pay you a lot more.

Tina: Oh, thanks. I had a long day. After work all our employees come here. The owner is so great to us. And they have the best sushi here. I love it.

Bite Me: Are you all cultured and stuff?

Tina: I'm not, trust me. I'm not. Farthest from it.

Bite Me: Wow. But you have such a fancy job for someone so young. How old are you?

Tina: I'm 30. But I've been working at Lon's since I was in college in 1994.

Bite Me: I had dinner there. My friend ordered the antelope. Have you ever had it?

Tina: I love it.

Bite Me: Do you have a life outside of work?

Tina: I do. I make sure I take off two days a week unless I absolutely can't. That's why we work long hours. Sometimes it's hard. But we try to take time off in the summer when it's the slow season, June through August.

Bite Me: Heard how hot it gets here.

Tina: You'll be fine. Summer I think oh it's hot but it's not. But three to four summers later, you're used to it. And you meet a lot of different people here because everybody is from somewhere else. And I shop all the time, too.

Bite Me: Yes – hello! – the shopping is awesome here.

Tina: How did you find Lon's? New Times stays with us when they have their big conventions every year. Yeah, they're up until the wee hours of the morning.

Bite Me: They're awful?

Tina: No, we have so much fun. They love to play cards in the bar, drinking. We make lots of money. When they come in, we say, "Oh, New Times is here again. Here we go."

Bite Me: Maybe they'll let me crash their thing this year. I could probably dine on antelope on the company. Might taste better that way.

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