A friend had already scoped out Phoenix and found it fabulous. Yeah, you heard that right! This burg's great; it's like Lotusland, sans the ocean, the murderous traffic and all the pretentious louts. And of all the restaurants in Phoenix, Bite Me's flesh-lovin' fairy friend had fallen in lust with Durant's. He insisted that it had to be the first stop on this gal's gallivant of local eateries. Sweet Jesus! She quickly learned that the place has been in business and owned by the same family for more than half a century. Bite Me entered the place through the kitchen, of all gateways, and stepped into a dark-red-leather and wood-encrusted booth wonderland. She ambled up to the bar and ordered a mai tai as she awaited the arrival of her dinner companion. Coming from stick-up-the-ass L.A. just hours earlier, she was pleasantly shocked to find folks just about as friendly as frogs on lily pads. The fellas on stools on either side of her were all too happy to chat her up as she waited. (Could it have had anything to do with the tight tank top she was sportin'?) Truth be told, she could've spent the night winding down with these happy-ass dudes, but she couldn't exactly dis her only close friend in a spankin' new town, so she cheerfully glommed onto her buddy when he ambled in.
And then, by cracky, the night just kept gettin' better. Bite Me and pal were seated at a plush, comfy, dimly lighted booth. Egad, then came the ice-cube-laden silver dish with olives, radishes, carrots and celery. Right on! Chasers for the third double-shot she'd just ordered. They next brought out, in proper order, a plate of the most kick-ass, buttery garlic bread, a salad smothered with ranch and a plate of prime rib that was better than hard sex. The service rocked. The dude who served her was around just enough.
Wiping her chin, Bite Me set out to see what the people in her new town, and her new favorite beefery, had to say. (Bite Me's shtick is to interview diners inside and outside cafes, the food being her metaphor.) Along the way, she hooked up with a fabulous Durant's bartender, who kept good-naturedly needling Bite Me's gay date, saying he resembled career-dead comic actor Tom Green. Read on, you kooks!
Graphic artist for a trade-show company
Bite Me: What does that mean? What do you do?
LH: I create! I design! I do everything that goes on in the trade-show industry.
Bite Me: All right, fancy-pants. So, uh, do you live around here?
LH: I live here.
Bite Me: You live in this restaurant? Novel!
LH: Uh, no. But they do have excellent drinks, the best martinis in Phoenix.
Bite Me: I don't drink martinis so I can't imagine how that whole thang works. So, why does this place have the best Phoenician martinis?
LH: Well, because they don't overdo them.
Bite Me: And what would be overdone, Mr. Graphic arrrrr-tisssste?
LH: You don't want too much gin or too much vodka. It should be smooth. Theirs are.
Bite Me: So do you order regular martinis? You're not an apple martini kind of guy?
LH: God no! I'm from Chicago. We don't do that.
Bite Me: Whoa! Don't they, like, grow apples in Illinois? Anyhow, so since I just moved here, why should I dig this place?
LH: You'll like it if you can remain Midwestern. A lot of people change once they move here. Don't let that happen to you! (How the dude picked up on Bite Me's Michigan roots she'll never know, but God love him for spottin' a corn-fed betty.)
Bite Me: Oh, hell no! In fact, I've lived in West Hollywood for the last five years. If that didn't, uh, turn me, then nothing will.
LH: Staying Midwestern will be your center of gravity.
Bite Me: Where else should I go? (Bite Me's favorite restaurant is Taco Bell; can't beat the prices. But she doesn't want to let on to this upscale dude.)
LH: You should go to the Fish Market if you want to eat fish. (Bite Me would like to give a cool-hand thanks to the powers that be at Taco Bell headquarters for never, ever attempting to incorporate fish into their menu. We're already perplexed as to what meat's in them burritos. We don't want to wonder which bottom-feeders they'd incorporate into a fish taco.)
Bite Me: You look like about the coolest bartender in this town. Yul Brynner must have been your childhood idol.
LG: (Changing the subject) I also do photography.
Bite Me: Party! What kind of photography?
LG: Still lifes, cityscapes, nudes, semi-nudes.
Bite Me: Do you find a lot of people wanting to be painted nude here in Phoenix?
LG: There are a lot of the wrong kind of nudes here, lemme tell you. People who should definitely keep their clothes on.
Bite Me: You Phoenicians got a Jumbo's Clown Room?
LG: (Giggling) I don't know what you're talking about.
Bite Me: Jumbo's is a strip club in L.A. Courtney Love used to get jiggy there. I figured if y'all had a juicy nudie bar here, you'd be able to get some models right quick.
LG: Oh, I don't know any strip clubs (sly smile). Are there strip clubs in Phoenix?
Bite Me: Uh, yeah. I've noticed that Phoenix has a lot of strip clubs and taco stands.
LG: Yeah, we've got a lot of chain restaurants.
Bite Me: Compared to L.A., I didn't notice a lot of fast-food places here.
LG: No, not fast-food, but corporate places. Like Applebee's, Houston's, Chili's, P.F. Chang's. That's what makes Durant's so wild with the same family owners for 52 years. Same location.
Bite Me: And the food fucking rocks here.
LG: Yeah, it does. (Poor Luis looks wee uncomfy with Bite Me's dirty mouth.)
Bite Me: Sorry, I have a swearing problem.
LG: That's all right. That's why you're doing this kind of work.
Bite Me: Damn straight! New Times lets me jack off all over the page. God love the motherfuckers.
LG: Huh. Look out!
Bite Me: You ever say "bite me" to people? I do.
LG: Well, being in a public relations position at a restaurant (he grimaces), no.
Bite Me: You sure you don't wanna just swat someone who asks you to remove the pimiento from their olives?
LG: No, I'm a people person.
Bite Me: What is the most annoying drink that people order?
LG: The kind demanded by very particular people. Say when somebody orders a Long Island Iced Tea with specific ingredients, and then when you give them exactly what they want, they say it doesn't taste like the Long Island Iced Tea they're used to. But I just smile and keep making them drinks until they're happy.
Bite Me: You rock! (Bite Me recently abandoned her allegiance to silver Sauza when she was unable to find the rotgut here. She moved up to Hornitos. It seems to take less of the good stuff to get her good and loopy, and the hangover's manageable. But since the company's paying, tonight it's Patron!)
Bite Me: Okay, gimme a double shot of Patron silver, cold but not chilled, overripe lime, just nine or 10 grains of salt and a Shirley Temple back with fresh cherries. Can't stand the candied ones.
LG: (Grinning) That makes more sense than the guy who used to come in here and drink shots of Jack Daniel's with a nonalcoholic beer chaser.
Bite Me: Can you hold something and shake it for our camera?
LG: That's getting pretty personal.
Attorney (not pictured)
Bite Me: This place is known for its juicy meat. Which kind do you eat here?
CT: I have a weakness for rib eye.
Bite Me: Fascinating. What kind of lawyer you be?
CT: I defend the noble Constitution of the United States.
Bite Me: Ah, you're a scumball defense attorney. (Ever notice it's ALWAYS defense attorneys who're bringing up that blasted document?!)
CT: Yes (he grins proudly), I do mostly criminal defense work.
Bite Me: So you're a saint, right?
CT: What the hell! Yeah. I help out these young Hispanic kids who are routinely oppressed by the police in this city.
Bite Me: I hail from L.A., so cops make me want to soil my thong. Should I be afraid of them here, too?
CT: That would be prudent.
Bite Me: Are the cops corrupt here?
CT: Well, it depends on which of them you run into. Let's just say they're pretty scary.
Bite Me: Do they beat you with billy clubs? (Bite Me's got a gal pal who grabs hold of her cop boyfriend's nightstick harnessed to the bedpost to achieve orgasm.)
CT: It happens. Steer clear of the sheriff's office.
Bite Me: What'd y'all snack on tonight?
BT: I had a fillet.
Bite Me: Jesus! No beef?
BT: I had the salmon fillet and a caesar salad. It was all wonderful. And the service was fantastic!
Bite Me: Do you eat here a lot?
BT: No, but I will after tonight. Ron Szematowitz was our waiter, and his service was outstanding. We even stopped and complimented his boss on the way out.
Bite Me: Was he the best waiter you've ever had in your whole life?
BT: He was the best waiter we've had in Phoenix. He was really good, didn't rush us or hold us up. He didn't try to join the party, was friendly without being so chummy.
Bite Me: Being a good waiter is an art form. (Bite Me's partial to waiters who come and go like a light wind during the two to three hours it takes her to finish a meal.) How do you know this silent, adoring dude standing next to you?
BT: Royce and I met on a moonlight hike on Shaw Butte.
Bite Me: Aw, shucks.