Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 1:18 p.m.
The tender: Tammy Hartman
The bar: TEXAZ Grill (6003 N. 16th St., 602-248-7827)
The pedigree: Hartman has been bartending in places throughout the Valley for 30 years. She got her start working alongside her sister at The Monastery, a venerable neighborhood bar that's now closed, and jumped around several more places before settling in at TEXAZ, where she's been for more than 15 years.
Here? It's really close to my home. When I started, I had a girlfriend call me up and say that Lone Star [the restaurant's former name] was hiring, so I said sure. I interviewed with the one owner, Jim, for an hour and 45 minutes. Great guy. He wanted to know everything about me. He told me to come in the next day and meet the other owner, so I did, talked with him for about two minutes, and he told me to come into work the next day.
What's your favorite part of the job?
The customers. We have a lot of regulars. When the economy is down, like it is now, a lot of places' business tends to drop off, but I don't think ours has as much because we have so many loyal customers.
Having worked in Phoenix for more than thirty years, what changes have you seen in the city?
When I first moved up to my ranch, there was nothing else up there. The 17 was a two-lane road. I had a friend who used to go to Tucson a lot, and he'd always say the day would soon come when Phoenix and Tucson touched. It's been getting closer every year.
What's changed about the bar scene?
I think the crowds are getting older. At least for us. We were invited to four funerals last year. We'll put little plaques on the tables and chairs for our regulars that have passed away, and the numbers keep growing. I've noticed a ton of other changes over the past 10-15 years. Take smoking.
Do you think it's a good thing they banned smoking?
Not for business! But it's so much nicer without it, so much more pleasant. And the people who stopped coming because they couldn't smoke were replaced by people who weren't coming because of the smoke.
Having been here so long, I assume you've accumulated some favorite moments. Can you share any?
One time there was a birthday here, and all the girls would get out and sing happy birthday. So they got me out from behind the bar to sing with them. I join in really loud, and I don't know if they had this planned or what, but all at once they just stop. So I'm singing a birthday song to this customer all by myself, for the entire restaurant to hear. Oh, I was so mad at them. Here's another: We had an old retired guy who would come in here for dinner pretty often. He had the biggest, bushiest eyebrows you've ever seen. One night he's sitting here eating mashed potatoes and gravy, and he suddenly just falls asleep. Face first in his plate of potatoes. When he snaps up, those big eyebrows are just covered in food. So the next day I come in to work, and every customer and server at the bar has cotton balls stuck to their eyebrows. We have fun.
It seems like everyone here's been around for a while.
If you added up the servers and the guys in the kitchen, we'd have more than 100 years of experience here. I've been here 15 years; Cheryl over there's been here eight years. Shelly's been here eight or nine too. It's the people that keep us around for so long.
What's something people would be surprised to know about you?
I've been giving swim lessons to small kids for years. I specialize in teaching them how to get out of scary, near-drowning scenarios.
What do you drink?
I'm a wine girl. Pinot noir.
If you could share a drink with anyone, who would it be?
My little sister. She lives in California and just celebrated a birthday, so I'd like to have a drink with her.
Follow Chow Bella on Facebook and Twitter.