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Food Marketing

Starbucked!

It’s summer in Phoenix. This means that if the temperature outside falls below 105ºF (that’s like 40°C to those of you who refuse to blindly follow US standards) it’s called a “cooling down” pattern.

One of the ways to cope is with a delicious frozen drink such as The Arizona Yankee’s very own strawberry smoothie which I started to make after realizing a neighborhood smoothie/coffee/beer/wine place charged something like $6 for one. Iced coffee works well, too.

Mr. Coffee and Chock Full O' Nuts: Joe D would approve.
I drink from Mr. Coffee and Chock Full O’ Nuts. Joe D would approve.

Then there’s Starbucks, where I occasionally meet with potential clients. I also stop there to get Frappuccinos for my father, who loves them. The 8-ounce frapps, he says, are the perfect size.

To Starbuck or not?

Before there are accusations that The Arizona Yankee is shilling for ‘Bucks (well, at least not those bucks), understand I hardly ever treat myself to one. Sometimes I take advantage of the twofer coupons Target hands out but only if Junior Yankee is with me.

I do have a  brother who used to be a huge Starbucks fan. “Wanna buck?” he once asked me when I was visiting him in New York. In New York, local zoning laws require a Starbucks within 500 feet of a subway stop.

“Gross,” I replied. “You’re my brother.”

“Bucking,” I soon learned, meant going to Starbucks. It doesn’t have to be coffee and if memory serves correct I had a hot chocolate with maybe a splash of coffee.

It turned out my brother had qualified as some kind of super-Starbucks fan. Anyone who knows him wouldn’t be surprised. This is a man who finished law school in two years. His personal motto is Death to Decaf.

Free refills were among his Starbucks benefits. He happily used them for years until about a year ago when Starbucks decided to tighten this reward.

My brother takes the subway to work, from 145th Street to Grand Central, which is across the street from where he works in the Chrysler Building. Starbucks’ Grand Central location is little more than a counter. It has no seating; it’s meant for commuters to grab a coffee and go. My brother used to do just that, and return within the hour to stretch his legs and get a refill.

Then, one fateful day, an employee pointed out that refills were meant for customers who remained in the store.

“Where would that be?” my brother asked. Did I mention he’s an attorney?

The employee waved his arm to indicate “around here.” Which, as my brother pointed out, has no place to sit or even loiter during rush hour to drink a coffee.

In fact, I’m certain my brother had observed rush hour crowd patterns to plot a course between exiting the train and navigating to the correct side of the concourse to reach the Starbucks counter without being bowled over. If you’ve ever been in Grand Central during rush hour, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The Starbucks counter, my brother argued, has no seating like a traditional Starbucks. The employee wasn’t convinced, nor was the onsite manager.

Independence From Starbucks

Not one to give up easily, my brother contacted Starbuck’s headquarters to ask about the refill policy. HQ cited the Refill Rule.

My brother then declared No More Starbucks.

Sometime after this incident, a colleague noticed the profound lack of coffee in his vicinity. “Have you given it up?” the colleague asked. “No,” my brother replied, “just Starbucks.” I have to assume the colleague got a run-down of The Arizona Yankee’s Brother v Starbucks.

Funny, the colleague said. “We noticed no one drinks the coffee here so we’re going with a new vendor. We’re putting in a Keurig.”

Keurig’s standard package includes Starbuck’s coffee. So my bro gets his fix and saves himself a few bucks every day.

His new motto? Buck off!

 

Categories
Arizona issues Arizona sites Food

I’m Not Related to Those Montis

Montis Steakhouse
RIP Montis of Tempe

UPDATE: Monti’s Steakhouse closed in November 2014. The announcement came barely two weeks earlier. Blame it on the price of beef, says owner Michael Monti, whose father opened the restaurant in 1954.

I never did go back, nor did almost-Mayor Monti ever contact me about the odd experience my boyfriend and I had there. No wonder–Mr. Monti was busy negotiating the property’s sale for $200 million. You can buy a lot of beef for $200 million, or foot another mayoral campaign. Monti says he’s now out of the restaurant business and will focus on his family.

Hayden House’s “historical significance” will be preserved, he told The Arizona Republic, and the new owners will do “something worthy” with the land that the old casa and restaurant have occupied since the 1880s. The new owners plan to build a hotel and office complex.

Here’s the original post of my Adventure at Monti’s.

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When I first moved here, I got more than a few inquiries about if I was related to the Montis of Monti’s Steakhouse fame.

I’m a terrible liar so I told the truth: I’m not. In fact, I only visited Monti’s La Casa Vieja in Tempe for the first time last month. Nico, my BF, asked where I’d like to go for Valentine’s Day and I said Monti’s. Nico grew up in Phoenix and hadn’t been to Monti’s since he was a kid so he was happy to oblige.

I specifically asked to go to Monti’s since I had read and heard more good reports about it in recent months than I’ve had in past years. Plus I wanted to check out this restaurant that I could plausibly claim as a family member, assuming that Almost-Mayor Michael Monti would be willing to play along. Or adopt me. I hear he’s a nice man.

For those who aren’t familiar with Arizona eats, Monti’s is famous ’round these parts. It’s housed in a building that dates to 1874, La Casa Vieja, or The Old House. Carl Hayden, who was the first U.S. Representative from the state of Arizona and served in the Senate as well for many years, was born in the casa. The building’s interior is filled with memorabilia of Olde Arizona History. Personally, I could have spent hours just touring the place.

If you check out the Yelp reviews of Monti’s, you’ll see mostly good notes, and an average rating of 3.5  out of 5 stars. Some people found the service to be slow (we didn’t) and many praised the Roman Bread, which was really tasty. I’m on a low-carb diet to avoid diabetes but I fell off the wagon that night, so to speak.

One of the top complaints I read about Monti’s is their inability to hold a reservation. Nico made one for 7:30 in a specific dining room—there are 14 of them at Monti’s—where it would be quieter, more private; you know, it was Valentine’s Day weekend and all that. When we arrived, the maître d’ breezily announced that our table would be ready for us in 45 minutes.

Nico is not the sort to wait to eat until 8:15. His response was that a delay that long is unacceptable. Monti’s staff countered that it was a busy night —”that’s why I made a reservation!”—but not an apology, much less an acknowledgement that the reservation system wasn’t working, at least not for us.

The experience reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry’s reservation for a mid-size car isn’t there when he arrives at the car rental counter.

“You know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation,” Jerry tells the agent. “And that’s really the most important part of the reservation.”

And like the car rental agent, the Monti’s maître d’ wouldn’t admit that a reservation is meant to hold a service. A 7:30 reservation is supposed to be at 7:30 or thereabouts, not 8:15.

But rather than lose our business altogether, he took us on a tour of a few dining rooms and showed us tables that were available. We eventually settled on a huge semicircular booth where we could be partially hidden from a group of out-of-town businessmen who looked like they’d just left Christie’s. You know what I mean.

We both ordered steaks. Nico requested his to be medium and got something that was a little more done than steak tartare. Mine was fine, medium rare like I prefer but definitely more cooked than his. Nico asked for his steak to get more time on the grill and a medium steak miraculously appeared within just a few minutes.

I think it was someone else’s medium steak, who then had to wait for their meal and later complain about it on Yelp.

Mama Monti and son
My kind of Montis

Still, I do wish I was related to those Montis. For one thing, I’d emphasize the sanctity of reservations—especially on Valentine’s Day weekend!  Almost-Mayor Monti, or Cousin Mike if I may, if you’re reading this, I do plan to go back to your restaurant and give it one more chance.

This time, the reservation will be in my (our) name.

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