Newsletter Archive September 2009: Steak-O-Stimulus

Monti’s Newsletter: Steak-O-Stimulus Package

Well, hello friends and customers. I am loafing around here recovering from knee surgery, so it seemed like a good time to finally hammer out another missive for your amusement and edification. First a little precis of the contents and a quick UNSUBSCRIBE disclaimer:


-Why the front door of Monti’s is on the “wrong” side of the building

-Big Deals Afoot! The Steak-O-Stimulus Package

    Arizona Restaurant Week (Thru 9/26) is “Porterhouse Week” at Monti’s

    Dine4AZ Monti’s M-T-W Specials at an Even Better Value

-Of Glass Eyeballs and Peg-leg Doctors

HOW TO GET OFF MY LIST INSTANTLY: If you do not want to receive any e-mail from me ever, please send me (Michael Monti) a message at and I will gladly remove you from my distribution group. (See end of this message for more details.) I write rarely–maybe eight times a year, and only if I have a story to tell or some good news to share. I read every response and usually talk back, so think carefully before you crush me emotionally by requesting to be removed from the list. Even a thick-skinned guy like me still struggles with rejection.

Now, almost every time I bring my wife and kids up to Monti’s La Casa Vieja for dinner, we wind up parking in the lot to the South of the building, adjacent to an addition my Dad made in 1978. My astute spouse takes each such opportunity, as we unload the kids, to point out the deceptive nature of the double doors on that side of the building, which seem to beckon as an entrance but then disappoint when they turn out to be locked. This little issue has become the bane of my existence–but there is a reason for it! However, I am not going to tell you what that reason is today, other than to say that it involves lawyers, architects, property lines and a strange confluence of circumstances involving a long-abandoned plan to relocate our main entrance. (I may write that up as a separate blog post, and send the link to those who are interested.)

On the other hand, I do want to talk about why said main entrance is on the corner of the building furthest away from all parking. It is both obvious and yet obscure, for if you do not pause and consider just how old our place is (138 years and counting), it might not occur to you how times have changed. Today in the “edge cities” that we are accustomed to, the standard is to cruise up some six-lane parkway to an oceanic lot, park your car, and then saunter on to the mall or strip of shops set well back from the street.

Until the post-World War II era, both Tempe and Phoenix were relatively tiny towns, with combined populations of perhaps 60,000 souls. Up until this time, the scale and layout of towns was oriented to horses and pedestrians, following a grid pattern of relatively narrow streets.  As with all similar communities around the country, a central business district formed along Mill Avenue where business and government services were conducted. It happens that Monti’s, built at the southwest corner of the intersection of what was then First Street (now Rio Salado Parkway) and Mill Avenue, “marks the 0/0 reference point of the modern street addressing system in Tempe.”  It all began, you see, with Tempe’s founding pioneer home, first known as the Hayden House, then as La Casa Vieja (“The Old House”) and finally prefixed with “Monti’s” when my father purchased the building and wished to defer to the tradition of
the older name. (Which, by the way, is why we have an Italian surname coupled with a Spanish phrase, yet we serve steak and American cuisine. Confuses the turistas.)

Thus, in the olden days, you might ride your trusty steed down to Tempe, perhaps to visit the various Hayden enterprises, or the Laird & Dines drugstore. Once in the commercial district you could leave the horse at Finch’s Livery Stable, or even park your wagon on Mill Avenue next to the Hayden House, as in this photo: So that’s where the front door was–right where the dusty traveller would hitch his horse and enter in search of hospitality. Today the cars must be parked behind the building, requiring a bit of a trudge around to the main entrance. It’s been a while since we have seen a horse.

From the 1950s onward, with booming car ownership, growth of the suburbs and the advent of the modern Mall, downtown commercial districts such as Tempe’s cleared out and became decadent. Things got pretty seedy along Mill avenue by the 1970s, and there were few good reasons to come to Mill Avenue beyond a visit to Monti’s. Then a renaissance began…but that is another story.

-Big Deals Afoot! The Steak-O-Stimulus Package Dine4AZ & Restaurant Week

So,perhaps it is the pain medication talking, but I am feeling magnanimus. We were asked to participate in two promotions for September, somewhat interrelated through the Arizona Restaurant Association. First, Arizona Restaurant Week, in which all of the participating restaurants are invited to provide a three-course meal for $29.00 per person/$58 per couple. Now, at
Monti’s it has and always will be possible to get lots of value for under that price point, so in order to make our participation moremeaningful and significant I decided to go for ABUNDANCE, and around here that means a 21 oz PORTERHOUSE with an appetizer, two sides, Roman Bread and dessert. (There are other entree choices, see link) So this one is for you and your peer group of carnivores–don’t be shy, bring them all and heavy appetites, if you want to splurge:

Next up is a promotion made possible by one of our major suppliers, Shamrock Foods, in an effort to get more people out to eat. So through we are offering our usual Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday dinner specials for just $9.95.(Even our regular price of $11.95 is a bargain, but thanks to the marketing support of the Dine4AZ campaign we can make it an even better deal during the length of the promotion.)  You will need to go to this link to print out (and I can barely get my fingers to type this, as it goes against my grain, but ya gotta dance with the one what brung ya) a coupon:

-Of Glass Eyeballs and Peg-leg Doctors

A few weeks ago I was swanning through the Hayden Room when I noticed my fellow Tempe Diablo John Slater entertaining some business associates. Stopping to spread some of my patented fertilizer at their table,  I was unexpectedly stumped by a question from the gallery: Had the Phoenix delegation to the Territorial Legislature gotten the Tucson boys drunk to sabotage a vote that might have moved the Capitol back to the Old Pueblo? Unable to tap dance my way out of this one, I excused myself and retired to my desk. There, I picked up the phone and dialed up Marshall Trimble, Arizona State Historian.

Here is what I gleaned from the Sage:

Tucson was capitol of the Arizona Territory from 1867 until 1877, when that function was returned to Prescott. The Old Pueblo’s connivances to regain the capitol were laid to rest in 1885, when its political delegation was stymied right here near what is now Monti’s by the raging (at the moment) Salt River, which they could not cross in order to reach the legislature and vote. Marshall said that it was as a consolation prize that Pima County was then given the university that would become the U of A.

However, in 1889 there was still much intrigue between Phoenix and Prescott over the Capitol. What follows now is regarded as a ‘folk story’ because there is nothing that can officially document it, but is held as nonetheless true by many Arizona history buffs. Apparently there was a Yavapai County legislator who was known to regularly amble over to Whiskey Row after session each day for libations, thence to the bordellos, where he was a frequent customer of one “Kissin’ Jenny.” Now, this particular politico has a glass eye, which he was known to be very vain about. Each evening at Kissin’ Jenny’s he would turn
out the lamp and plop the glass eyeball into a glass of water.

The crafty Phoenix delegation reached Kissin’ Jenny and arranged, on the night before the vote on the Capitol, for her to drink the water and “accidentally” swallow the eyeball. The chagrinned legislator then refused to leave her room until Jenny passed the eyeball, which took long enough for him to miss the vote, allowing the Maricopa County legislators to win the day.

In those days, the there was not yet a rail connection between the North and South halves of Arizona, so the delegations from Maricopa and Pima had to actually go by rail to California and then back to Phoenix and Tucson. It is said that there was wild drunken partying by the Phoenix group and sullen glumness on the part of the Tucson legislators all the way out and back.

I asked Marshall if he had written this up anywhere and, of course, he had. He suggested Chapter 13 of his book Arizona: A Cavalcade of History which can be found at  Please buy it.

Anyway, I hope that you find this enlightening and enjoyable. Any inaccuracies are mine, and I strongly recommend the book for more lore of this variety.

Now this story, for some reason, reminded me of another tale I heard about our own establishment. In the early frontier days, C.T. Hayden had to use all of his powers of persuasion to court talented people to join his new community on the banks of the Salt River. Apparently, he convinced one Dr. John L. Gregg to become Tempe’s first doctor.  He came in 1877 and lived with the Haydens for a while on the premises.  The Haydens later built a small adobe house for him west of the Casa. The record is sparse, but it appears that Dr. Gregg had only one leg. Perhaps he is now among the many interesting spectres that are said
to roam within our walls each night.  (

I hope to see you soon at Monti’s. I’ll be the guy hobbling around on crutches with five kids following him.

Best regards,



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Monti’s La Casa Vieja Restaurant & Catering
100 South Mill Avenue
Tempe AZ 85281

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