Ben Chen has experienced his share of success in his nearly 30-year photography career—his work has been published in such publications as Cosmopolitan, The Los Angeles Times, and ESPN Magazine, and he has lent his expertise to some of the nation's largest corporations, including Procter & Gamble and The American Red Cross. In 2006, the photographer began to notice that more and more novices were purchasing complex DSLR cameras, and that gave him an idea. Chen decided to share his wealth of knowledge with aspiring photographers by creating the 4-Hour Newbie Photography Boot Camp, which teaches students how to shoot manually with their DSLRs and create artistic, professional-quality photos. Since then, more than 5,000 students in 20 cities throughout the country have benefitted from these classes. In 2013, he acquiesced to student demand and created Part II of the class, which goes beyond photography basics by diving into post-production techniques. Nowadays, students can take both Part I and Part II in the same day, helping them go from student to master in less time than most action-movie montages.
It's not unusual to find Tammy, owner of Pearl Sushi Lounge & Bomber Bar, standing behind the bar at one of her two restaurant locations, chatting with customers while they sip her signature cocktails and sake bombs. Her crew of bartenders takes their tasks seriously, mixing up martinis infused with soju, sake, fresh fruit juices, and muddled blackberries, or pouring red and white wines straight from the special tap designed to prevent oxidation. Inside the kitchens, the chefs work with equal dedication, whether crafting classic california sushi rolls or the more inventive White Snake roll stuffed with sweet-potato tempura, tamago, asparagus, and cream cheese, and topped with escolar and a spicy peach sauce. Small plates sport crispy calamari sautéed with fresh ginger and garlic while Big Plate meals feature wok-charred beef and teriyaki salmon flanked with miso soup, salad, and steamed edamame.
Arizona’s most promising side-splitters share the stage with nationally renowned headliners at The Speakeasy Comedy Lounge, an irreverent comedy club that takes its atmospheric cues from a Prohibition-era nightspot. Shows on Friday and Saturday nights feature performers who have honed their anatomical knowledge of funny bones during televised appearances on Conan, Last Comic Standing, and HBO comedy specials. Though the club discloses its password to a range of comics from diverse backgrounds, most performers eschew squeaky-clean comedy for a brand of dirty humor that appeals to the noir detectives who regularly lean on the venue's gray brick walls or occupy the back row’s plushy seats. A friendly and attractive wait staff supplies cocktails ($6¬–$10), signature margaritas ($8¬–$12), and other exquisite libations along with munchies such as Comedy wings ($9) and Mexican street tacos ($9) to soothe bellies aching from chortling fits.
At Stand-Up, Scottsdale! bellies ache from a rotating selection of nationally known comedians seen on Comedy Central and late-night talk shows. The intimate 180-person venue, where such local legends as David Spade got their start, beckons a cast of talented funny persons that changes regularly. Voted Best Comedy Club this year by Arizona Foothills magazine, the ha-ha hot spot has recently hosted performances by noted names including Dana Carvey, Frank Caliendo, and Norm Macdonald. With a recent appearance on Spike TV's "Bar Rescue," they now boost a full menu of pub-food appetizers and entrees keeps would-be hecklers otherwise occupied, and Wednesday evening open-mic nights allow rookie comics to test their mettle.
Competitive poker player Kevin O'Donnell leads a menu of American all-stars to freshly prepared culinary victory amid 23 flat-screen TVs at K O'Donnell's American Bar & Grill. Rugged baby-back-rib terrains steep in barbecue sauce and hickory smoke ($15.95 for a half rack, $19.95 for a full rack), and blackened poultry rests on the Cajun chicken alfredo's fettuccini mattress ($14.99), recuperating from the grill's heated verbal attacks. Ko's grilled wings celebrate sauce with a variety of slathering solutions like buffalo, volcano, teriyaki, and Ko's secret sauce ($9.49). A Hawaiian conga line of shredded pork, canadian bacon, jalapeños, pineapple, and mango sways in tangy barbecue atop the scratch-made Pork Lovers Luau pizza ($10.95+), delighting fun-loving taste buds. Meanwhile, the El Diablo burger reigns over tonguescapes with fiery jalapeños, pico de gallo, and chipotle ketchup ($9.99).
The kitchen at Mountainside Office Bar & Grill can sate appetites with a sizzling steak, flaky bite of fish, or a signature salad. An eclectic, international menu features appetizers such as crab ceviche and teriyaki-dressed chicken skewers, and entrees such as customizable 10-ounce sirloin burgers, barbecue pork ribs, and grilled halibut. At the bar, craft and imported beers flow out of the taps, and bartenders pour glasses of California, imported wines, and fireball concoctions.