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.
16. Randy Walters of Wimpy's Paradise
"'Always use the freshest ingredients and product, and make sure every customer knows they are the most important customer,' that was my dad's short answer to my question, 'If I ever have a hot dog /burger joint like you, Dad, what do I have to do to be a success?'"
Randy Walters' father opened his first Wimpy's Paradise in 1939 and a second in 1941. Both closed while he was fighting for the U.S. Army during World War II. Walters was 11 when his father gave him that advice. Born outside Pittsburgh in 1953, he spent time in the Navy and 44 years in a different career before finally following his dream of owning a hot dog joint. He started with a hot dog cart called Pittsburgh Willy's in 2005, and in November 2008 moved into a small space inside the Merchant Square Antique Mall in Chandler.
He spent five-and-a-half years learning about the restaurant business before bringing his dad's namesake restaurant back to life. In February 2013, he opened Wimpy's Paradise in downtown Chandler. A heart attack and detached retina scraped Walter's plans to also reopen Pittsburgh Willy's, so instead he combined both menus at Wimpy's Paradise.
"I'm blessed to have the help of my two daughters, Kelly and Brynn; an amazingly talented cook, Jeremy; and my bride of 40 years, Cyndee, helping me," Walters says. "It's been a long and often difficult journey, but with the help of family and dear friends and even strangers I am looking forward to many more years of bringing good comfort food and amazing customer service to everyone that walks through my doors!"
Today, Walters dishes on what's missing in the East Valley and the best culinary mashup ever.
My go-to place for a testosterone haircut in Phoenix is the Country Clipper barbershop in downtown Chandler!
The best-kept secret in Phoenix is (I'll tell you the second best — selfishly keeping the best still a secret) The Singing Pandas Asian restaurant.
The East Valley could use more bakeries and dessert shops and less pizza places!
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The best culinary mashup is the Blitzburgh plate. Seriously had to go with my own creation of five cheese and potato pierogis topped with butter and onions, grilled sauerkraut, our no-bean chili, shredded cheddar cheese, and 10 slices of grilled kielbasa!
You'd never see me put pumpkin spice anything on one of my hot dogs!
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
80. Jeff and Leah Huss of Huss Brewing Company
79. Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup
78. Diana Santospago of The Maine Lobster Lady food truck
77. Gio Osso of Virtu Honest Craft and Nico Heirloom Kitchen
76. Lauren Bailey of Upward Projects
75. Rodney Hu of Arizona Distilling Company and Yucca Tap Room
74. Jacob Cutino of Homeboy's Hot Sauce
73. Country and Sergio Velador of Super Chunk Sweets and Treats
72. Dean Thomas of Cornish Pasty Co.
71. Jennifer Caraway of The Joy Bus
70. Scott Holmes of Little Miss BBQ
69. Jared Allen of Proof Artisan Breads
68. Steve McFate of McFate Brewing Company
67. Mel Mecinas of Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
66. Jessa and Dan Koppenhofer of Gilbert Farmers Market
65. Todd and Kelly Bostock of Dos Cabezas WineWorks
64. Ryan Probst of Odelay Bagel Co.
63. Diana Brandt of AZFoodie
62. Benjamin Butler of Hayden Flour Mills
61. Jim and Maureen Elitzak of Zak's Chocolate
60. Michael Babcock of Welcome Diner and Welcome Chicken + Donuts
59. Nick Ambeliotis of Mediterra Bakehouse
58. Peter Kasperski of Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz World Wine Bar
57. Kimber Stonehouse of LGO Hospitality
56. David Tyda of EATERAZ and Arizona Taco Festival
55. Pavle Milic of FnB
54. Pat Christofolo of Santa Barbara Catering Company and The Farm at South Mountain
53. Brandon Casey of The Ostrich
52. Jonathan Buford of Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
51. Sasha Raj of 24 Carrots
50. Rob Fullmer of Arizona Craft Brewers Guild
49. Bill and Lillian Buitenhuys of AZ Bitters Lab
48. Ramona Button of Ramona Farms
47. Justin Piazza of La Piazza Al Forno and La Piazza PHX
46. Andrew Gooi of Food Talkies
45. Jason Raducha of Noble Bread and Noble Eatery
44. Ty Largo of Awe Collective
43. Christopher Gross of Christopher's and Crush Lounge
42. Heidi Lee of Into The Soup
41. ET Rivera of Tres Leches Cafe
40. Monika Woolsey of Hip Veggies
39. Bobby Kramer of The Brickyard
38. Jenna Reeves of Press Coffee Roasters
37. Sarah Chisholm of Phoenix Public Market Cafe
36. Bill Kennedy of Futuro
35. Jan Bracamonte of J. Lauren PR & Marketing
34. Erin Romanoff of the uprooted kitchen
33. Baker Mandy Bublitz
32. Tony Chanthavong of Snoh Ice Shavery
31. Donald Hawk of Welcome Chicken + Donuts
30. Krystal Bittner of Arizona Society of Homebrewers
29. Garrison Whiting of Counter Intuitive and Cowboy Ciao
28. Michelle Jacoby and Mark Lipczynski of Bite Magazine
27. Chris Osborn of Western Retail Advisors
26. Yasu Hashino of Yasu Sushi Bistro
25. Jennifer Russo of The Market Restaurant + Bar by Jennifer's
24. Bret Pont of Hobe Meats
23. Josh Hebert of Posh Improvisational Cuisine
22. Tracy Dempsey of Tracy Dempsey Originals
21. Andrew Fritz of In Good Spirits
20. Eddie Hantas of Hummus Xpress
19. Matt Taylor of Gertrude's at the Desert Botanical Garden
18. Sam Pillsbury of Pillsbury Wine Company
17. Tom D'Ambrosio of Aioli Gourmet Burgers