Your Best Nights Begin Here
Tour Phoenix with Downtown Dave Garland
The Best Nights section will take you on a local’s tour and journey through the eyes and personal experiences of artists, photographers, bloggers, musicians, etc., showcased in a different city every month. The month of September takes us to Phoenix, AZ, where we meet living legend Dave Garland and tour the best nights of his beautiful city.
Please scroll down to meet and take a tour with Mr. David Garland.
Tour of Phoenix with
David Garland AKA Downtown Dave
Dave, thank you for joining us for the Phoenix edition of Behind The Shot. If a visitor had one day to explore Phoenix, what would be your ideal day out? Where and what to eat or drink and sightsee? Any hidden gems only a local would know?
Oh wow. I would start the day at Roosevelt barber shop because you must be fresh. You can't hang without a fresh haircut. After that, hit Matt's Big Breakfast for a healthy meal to prepare us for the later festivities. Walk off that grub session, checking out the graffiti and cool shops on Roosevelt Row.
Dave, you're originally from Chicago but known as "Downtown Dave" in Phoenix. Can you tell us about what brought you to Arizona?
Great to be a part of this! I left college at Eastern Illinois University and worked at a zip tie factory as an inspector running machines. I got promoted quickly, but I felt I was wasting my personality and potential in that position. When a couple of my friends talked about moving to AZ, I was all over it. I came out here to see if I could handle the heat, and I was hooked!! We packed my car with all that we could hold and dipped West.
You used to work at Pizzeria Uno and transitioned to Bianco Pizzeria. How long have you been with Bianco, and how did that transition happen?
Pizzeria Uno was my first job when I got to the valley. I was working at the downtown location as a host. A friend of mine, Chicago Carmen, was working for Bianco at his first sit down location at town& country. She had moved here almost a year before I did. So, when I got to the valley, Bianco was one of the first people I met. She ended up going to Spain thru ASU, so I inherited her position when she left. It was a big jump going from a more prominent restaurant with corporate restrictions even though it was privately owned. It was shaky at first, for sure, but I found my groove.
You became a partner at Pizzeria Bianco after some time. How did that happen? What's it like for you now with locations around the country?
That's a great question. Bianco and my director of operations, Seth, came to me after they parted ways with his original partner. They said they wanted to do something special for me, but it's not a gift. They felt it was something earned with all my hard work. That's when my journey into management began. To be honest, I was terrified! Bianco was taking on projects in London at the time and stepping away from making every pizza. They felt as if I could be a great leader and I can't thank them enough for the opportunity. It's still surreal. Working in PHX and LA is fantastic. It's like starting over, being able to make so many people happy that have never been to the restaurant before. It breaks up the day-to-day grind, and it's been challenging, but I'm embracing it.
You are a bit of a workaholic and said you missed only 10 days of work in 15 years. What drives you to be such an integral part of your restaurant?
I've been with the company for 25 years at this point. For the first 15, I had only missed 10 days. I felt like if Bianco was going to be there in the trenches every night who would I be to take time off for frivolous outings. I told everyone that asked that I couldn't roll. I have work. End of story. That's how I got the name, Downtown Dave. I was literally always downtown. Plus, it was so much fun and still is. It was hard work, but we laughed so much that it didn't matter. As the saying goes, "Does it really work if you are having fun?"
The restaurant has quite a few accolades, such as multiple James Beard nominations and wins. Can you tell us about those and which are the most meaningful?
After several nominations, the first James Beard was the best chef in the southwest in 2003. That was huge because he was the first chef to win with only pizza and a couple of other items on the menu. Insane experience for a young cat like myself. That motivated me to step up my game and try my best to provide everyone who came through the door with a great experience. The second James Beard that we won this past June was the highlight of my career. Outstanding Restauranteur is the big one. It includes all our locations and everyone's hard work. 20 years later and still doing it is a feat. Being on stage with him as he received the honor is something I will never ever forget.
Downtown Phoenix has been changing rapidly and growing fast! Phoenix has also been getting more recognition on the map with big sporting events. How has the city changed, and what is driving that?
Phoenix has absolutely exploded in the last 7 years or so. For a while, I didn't think it was going to happen to be honest. As soon as the university extended its campus downtown, it was game over. We put the rest of the country on notice!! People in town for events as well as conferences really started to appreciate what we have to offer. It's a fun, clean city filled with beautiful people who enjoy great food and parties!
Some significant new areas are happening, such as the Arts District and Roosevelt Row, as well as new high rises. Can you talk about the city and its new and upcoming areas?
Downtown has really hit its stride as of late. Construction never stopped during the pandemic, so we have added, I think, 4 new high-rises to the skyline. The neighborhoods have been cleaned up significantly, bringing so many people to live and stay downtown for recreation. Historic buildings and super talented graffiti artists with bars and restaurants have really set us apart. The city is also giving people opportunities for new projects, such as the shipping containers converted into condos. Truth be told, Phoenix is dope. Plain and simple.
Phoenix is becoming a great walkable city, with everything you need in your neighborhood, which has changed in recent years. What are your thoughts on this, the pros and cons, and the quality of life living in downtown Phoenix?
I have lived all over the valley, and living downtown has been the most fun and convenient. It has everything you need between grocery stores, barbershops, salons, bars, and restaurants. Now we can talk about the perks. You can walk to a basketball game, baseball game, theater, symphony, comedy show, or catch some live music. All within 12 blocks. It's ridiculous how cool that is. No other part of the valley can compete with that. Traffic is always an issue after 3 pm, but that's everywhere. Comes with the territory. The only bad thing is it's getting expensive. It's no longer a secret, but hey, you must pay to play.
You're known to be a big fan of Jägermeister. What is your favorite Jägermeister drink?
I'm a huge fan of Jägermeister!!! The bars where I'm a regular dial me in with a frosty beer and a shot of Jägermeister neat in a chilled shot glass. I keep it old school. Is there any other way?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.