Thunder And Icing: The Creative Genius of Lindy Riley
Step into the vibrant world of culinary innovation as Life Along The Streetcar presents an exhilarating episode featuring the ingenious Lindy Riley. Hosted by Tom Heath, this podcast delves into Lindy’s remarkable journey from dishwashing at the Big A restaurant to becoming a culinary trailblazer renowned for his decadent burgers and imaginative donuts.
Lindy Riley’s name has become synonymous with culinary creativity, known for crafting unconventional yet mouthwatering burgers that intrigue and delight. In this episode, Lindy shares insights into his early days flipping burgers and how his passion for pushing flavor boundaries led to iconic creations like the slider-inside-a-burger concept. Prepare to be captivated as Lindy unveils the philosophy and process behind his innovative culinary masterpieces.
But the adventure doesn’t stop at burgers. Lindy Riley’s collaboration with the Donut Bar has resulted in an exceptional fusion of flavors that redefine the donut experience. Discover how Lindy’s passion for experimentation has transformed donuts into artful expressions of taste and texture. From grilled cheese sandwich donuts to exploring tantalizing adult-centric flavors, Lindy’s journey takes you beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
Join us in celebrating Lindy Riley’s creative genius and unwavering dedication to pushing the boundaries of taste, all set against the backdrop of Tucson’s vibrant culinary scene. Whether you’re a food enthusiast, a curious epicurean, or simply someone with a love for innovation, this episode promises an enthralling journey into Lindy’s world of burgers, donuts, and unparalleled imagination.
Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo and you’re listening to KTDT Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson community sponsored all volunteer powered rock and roll radio station. On this week’s show, we’re going to speak with Lindy Riley. Lindy’s a name that is synonymous with these great burgers here in Tucson. We’re going to discuss a recent move from 4th Avenue to downtown, the collaboration with the Donut Bar and what’s up next for this creative mind as he takes on the classics. Today is August 13th. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar. Each and every Sunday our focus is on social, cultural, and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the University of Arizona and all stops in between, you get the Inside Track right here on 99 .1 FM, streaming on downtownradio .org, also available on your iPhone or Android
with our very own Downtown Radio Tucson app. You can interact with us on Facebook through the show. We’re at Life Along the Streetcar on Instagram and Facebook. If you want more information about us, the book that we just recently published, I guess it’s been over a year now, past episodes or to contact us, you can head over to our webpage which is lifealongthestreetcar .org and of course we invite you to always listen to that podcast out there. If you stream it on Spotify, iTunes, or tell your smart speaker to play, hey, a cool Life Along the Streetcar podcast and sometimes it actually pops up. Our guest today is a name that I’ve known for years. I’ve never met him but I’ve known his name because I’ve eaten his burgers. His name is Lindy Riley and he’s got a reputation of making some really decadent burgers and a few months ago he joined forces in downtown with a donut bar and now they’re serving donuts and burgers out of that space on 6th. So we thought we’d catch up with him and kind
of find out about how this all came about and then what’s the future hold for this donut and burger collaboration? All right, well I have the distinct pleasure of sitting here with Linden Riley who everyone else probably knows as Lindy, quite famous here in Tucson. If you’ve ever had a hamburger, you’ve probably at some point compared it to a Lindy’s hamburger because you’ve been doing that for a while. I’ve been doing it for a minute, yeah, most definitely. When did you actually get started in that business?
So my very first burger experience was the Big A restaurant where actually the original Trident is on Campbell and Speedway. So I actually was a dishwasher when I was 12 years old and worked summers there and it was pretty cool. Actually their son, actually Brian, did a lot of the, or pretty much did most of the cooking. Probably the only person I’ve ever seen in my life be able to shape a half pound burger by hand and then toss it to me, eight ounces, just like that, eight ounces, just out of a pile of fresh ground beef.
No scale, just instant?
Yeah, I was the scale. I was putting on the scale. Yeah, he was just grabbing it. But that was the Big A. Man, I love that place. Now I know at some point, because I remember I moved to town in 93 and I think it was probably like 10 or 15 years later though, but I remember you got really famous really quickly because of the man versus food. That’s when I at least, you came on my radar, but that was like 2005 or 2006 or something. Was it 2000? No, it was like 2007 or 8. I can’t remember. I can’t remember that far back. That’s too far back.
But yeah, I mean, they contacted us, some of our customers had put us, I guess, some emails about the challenge that we had and we kind of quietly worked things out and picked the time when they wanted to do it, which season, and then the rest was there. What happened after that was unexpected. So that was interesting for sure. I don’t think I’ve pushed that much meat off a flat griddle. To this day. Because there was a challenge, man versus food, so like some monstrous burger that they had to eat. Yeah, it was a three pound burger. We did it in 15 minutes, I forget the time. Pretty fast. Yeah.
And then did people come in for that challenge or did they come in just to sample what else you had?
So the challenge itself was there, it ended up something we started running after. We had a pound and a half burger called the Hooligan, and we stayed up until three in the morning at that time. It was like really early when I opened it. And these guys laid down $100 bills and started racing, they were hammered, coming in down from O’Malley’s, and that’s where I was like, let’s make this a thing. So we started having speed runs on the pound and a half, and then it turned into three and then it just went from there. At some point, everybody started having challenges and it just became really gimmicky. And I just, it’s always going to be there, but it wasn’t what I wanted to be identified for. Understood. And it does seem, and I don’t know if this came from that or if that was separate, but it does seem that you’ve really become identified with your creativity when it comes to burgers and
how you put things together and combinations of things. Your original location was the first place I ever had, I think, a hamburger where the buns were grilled cheese sandwiches. That was awesome. Yeah. Now I just do grilled cheese sandwich doughnuts for burgers. But yeah, it’s a lot of fun. I kind of wanted to, of all the places I’ve cooked in in my career, I enjoy doing burgers. I enjoy having fun with them. I like pushing the boundaries with them, different flavors. It probably shouldn’t work. So it’s kind of where my happy place is. Before you left the Thunder Bacon, I think the last location before you came downtown, the burger I had there was the slider and it was an actual slider inside of the Inception burger. That’s actually on the menu now. Okay. That was fantastic. So it’s a slider inside one of our cheeseburgers. I mean, a burger inside of a burger. I’m so happy. I’ve been wanting to do that one for a long time. And if we were actually goofing off in the kitchen one day and
I was like, this is going to work. It’s kind of cool. Yeah. It definitely worked. And then, you know, it’s for my experience being in Tucson, you’ve always been associated with Fort Thaven. In fact, I think, I remember reading somewhere, weren’t you a bouncer or something or a doorman or something? I worked the door and I barbecued at Shea’s Lounge for many years. And then that was before you got into your own sort of… Yes. Yeah. Yeah. So you’ve always been associated with down with a Fourth Avenue in my mind. Right. And then I read this article in the paper that, you know, you and the donut bar coming together, some kind of crazy concoction and you’re moving downtown. Yeah. What got you off Fourth Avenue? Honestly. So I love the Ave. The end of the Avenue I was on was definitely a quieter end. We were actually building really well, like towards we’re starting to build up and I don’t know, there’s something about being downtown that I like a lot of, you know, people that I know that own
businesses down here and places that I love to eat are down here. And I just feel, I feel if you really want to come down somewhere and just kind of walk around and get a little bit of everything, that’s probably Tucson. This is a great right here. Not to say that, you know, there aren’t other great areas in this town. So there’s a lot of great places up Fourth Avenue. I think Fourth Avenue in this next couple of years, you’re going to see a lot, a lot of changes down there. I think so. Yeah. There’s a see the high rises going in. Yeah. There was also that I don’t, I really didn’t want to be down there for that. So I, and I, you know, well, I know downtown was very excited and welcoming because you, because again, you bring a brand name with you when you, I mean, I think if you’re in Tucson, you do know Lindy, you know, your name, you know, burgers. And I think it was very interesting that you were partnering with the donut bar. That seemed like an odd pairing, which to me made it a perfect
pairing because your food sometimes is an odd pairing and it comes out perfectly. So no, it makes perfect sense. Burgers and donuts. Yeah. I met through Sean, I met them. They had actually done some catering donuts for me for a slider competition and that kind of started relationship. They were starting to do some sandwiches, I developed a sandwich for them. And then as things were progressing, we had met, got to the point where we didn’t want to be in our building anymore to various reasons. And we took the opportunity to move. So they kind of, they kind of reached out in a way and being like, Hey, what do you think of this? And I was like, that’s great. So, but it’s kind of a small space though. Is there, it’s actually, so what you see out front is exactly how much space is in back. So if you think like a Tetris, the two L’s coming together, I can’t believe how much space is back there. I have too much space back there. Wow. So are we knocking walls down? So there’s plan. I have some
plans here, hopefully by the end of the year, if not sooner. So a plan teaser alert teaser alert. Yeah. You know, it’s put the bar and donut bar, you know? So but you know, we want to retain donuts and coffee, you know, we paired up with filthy pirate coffee. Okay. And so we like, we sell their coffee there. We sell the bags there as you can take it home. I am seriously addicted to their coffee. So I have Sean Denlinger, you mentioned Sean earlier, he, he connected me with a filthy pirate and I’ve, it’s, it’s a good local company there. I don’t, I literally don’t buy creamer anymore. I just drink their coffee. It’s, I love it. So the donut bar, I mean, you, you came into that, but that, that too is a little bit of an anomaly because it’s, it was donuts and alcohol. It was a donut bar. Right. Yeah. Like beer, beer, wine. Yeah. We recently just got a 12. And so that will be expanding into like a liquor license and not the series 12. Yeah. It’s a restaurant liquor license gives us full capability.
So you can serve cocktails and things. Everything except for probably Jello wrestling. So, you know, well, if there’s no Jello wrestling, I guess this interview is over. I was going to be the lead to the police. Yeah. There you go. And donut wrestling. I’ll be in there. He’s not wrestling. He’s just eating the donuts. We’ll be back in just a moment to find out how that donut wrestling goes. But first of all, I want to take a short break here and remind you that you are listening to lifelong streetcar and downtown radio 99 .1 FM and streaming and downtown radio .org
We are back to the second half of the interview we did with Lindy Riley, the the burger king here of Tucson, although he will tell us that there are all kinds of good burgers. I think his name does stand out as one of those doing a great job with them. Sorry to talk about this collaboration between donuts, burgers and all of these fun things happening. And we’re going to pick up that conversation, talking about collaboration here for the second half of our conversation with Lindy. I’m excited. I’m excited about when we get these collaborations, because I know you mentioned earlier, but donut bar for a while they were doing. They had different chefs coming in and creating sandwiches and and using all this different inspiration. And I think that’s just a phenomenal way to celebrate Tucson and and get these, you know, this different input and collaboration together. Right.
we’ve had actually a lot of fun making, putting some donut burgers on the menu. And we have new flavors coming out that I’ve been working on. And we’re just going to kind of add a little a little more zip into the flavor profile. Like, you know, I’ve been messing with jalapeno and vanilla. So you’re talking about you’re working on the on the donut recipes as well. Yes. OK, so now you’re taking that creativity from the burgers and and putting it into into the donuts. Yes, we will be. We’re going to keep some of the classics, but we’re going to start coming in and doing some new stuff. So, you know, keep a couple of donuts for the kids. But really, I’m pushing for more of a, I guess, a foodie adult flavor profile. So, yeah, well, that would make sense in that location. I mean, it’s it’s definitely got an it’s not your you don’t go in and grab a dozen donuts and take them to the office necessarily. You go in there and you enjoy and and have a dinner. Right. And it’s I mean, we are developing
a dozen donut option here. So you could take a dozen donuts and take them to the office. I just always look at yours and they’re so decadent there. So the donuts have been almost like meals in themselves. We actually. So we’re known for these super large rings. We’ve been kind of toying with reducing the size so we can get more, I guess, enjoyment out of it. And I mean, I’ll see some customers once a week because it takes three or four days. So but also it’s we’re looking at reducing the prices on some things so we can stay more consistent. So we still have some size differences, but I think the gargantuan might go down to like a special day. So and then we’ll figure out how we can price it accordingly. Oh, I just love the idea that you’re taking the the the whatever brain came up with putting a slider inside of a hamburger and I’m going to take whatever that brain says and put inside of a donut. Right. That’s kind of fun. Hopefully we get we have some new filled donuts coming. So we are
working with Mafia Kitchen, which they’re probably some of the best cannolis in Tucson. OK, so I messaged her and I was like, so you want to try and put that in one of our donuts and let’s start doing like, you know, Italian cream donuts or I don’t know what we’re going to call them. So but we’re working on some really good flavors for that. This is crazy. So and I mean, it’s not just the creativity. You also bring a lot of talent to the table and I you know, this is airing on Sunday and tomorrow, you know, we’re on air date Monday. You’re involved with a big big competition here in Tucson, right? I decided to throw my hat back in and I got drafted to compete in Knife Fight again. So which briefly is here to have fun. Briefly, Knife Fight is it’s a it’s a competition between chefs, local chefs, right? So take Iron Chef and make it go camping. So we have just camping burners on a table. You know, we go shop in the hosting restaurants, walk in, it’s 45 minutes for three dishes. It’s bare
bones. No electricity, no blenders, no nothing. So, oh, OK. I didn’t know that. Yeah. So, yeah, there’s you can use electricity in the final if you make it. All right. So and so it’s it’s it’s a series, right? It’s not all the competition happens like you do head to head. Right. Last night was the very first one at Charles Steak. The second one is rumored to be at Congress. I don’t know if they also, you know, you don’t even know where it isn’t. I mean, isn’t it? Like, well, usually we know where they’re all going to be at some point. I don’t. So I don’t know. Well, sometimes it helps just to know where you’re going. Who’s walking? Am I going to be going into that? So then the winners move on. And how many chefs compete? There’s four brackets of I think there’s 16 chefs right now. So sorry about that. That’s OK. You know, your restaurant business. Your phone’s always ringing. Even on days off, you should know you shouldn’t call between eleven and two. So then it’s competition and then it
just moves on. And they’ve been doing this for a while. Yeah, this is a this is the sixth year, sixth season, six. And this one’s an all star. So the whole bracket was peppered with past winners. And does that mean you’re a past winner? No. And so you got drafted to fill in the other spots. OK, so like last night, somebody went Roderick, who actually won. Oh, man, was it three seasons ago? Some he ended up being one of in one of the first round brackets and somebody had to go up against him in the first round. That’s a tough one. That’s that’s a yeah, that’s that’s kind of like a stacked bracket there. But now I would try to find his car and flatten his tire shoe. There you go. That’s the way if you can’t show up, cut him down from forty five, forty five to thirty minutes. There you go. That’s my advantage there. And so back to what you’re the the business side, not the fun side, donut bar. Are you open seven days a week or what? You mentioned your days off right now. Hopefully we’re emerging
out of our summer hours here soon. We’ll see how the first couple weeks of August go. Move in starts here for you. We were only open Monday nights right now after five Tuesdays. We’ve always been closed. But we’re open eight, eight, eight, eight to ten. So then we stay open till midnight on the weekends. We haven’t really pushed it late night yet. And if you’re listening right now, tomorrow, Monday, not because you won’t be there. You’re going to be knife fighting. Yes, we will be putting some social media out about that. So since I’m beating a knife fight, we will be all going to the competition that night. And on Mondays, I’ve also saw on your social media, that’s been a night traditionally where you give discounts or you support hospitality workers, other people in the industry. Yes. So we always do a $10 burger and we’ll do a $5 beer and we’ll either pick a burger or lately I’ve been letting everybody come in and do a, you know, you call it on the menu. It’s nice. It’s just kind of
fun. So I want them to, you know, Mondays are kind of like a weekend day. So I want to be able to come in and enjoy burgers. It used to be closed on Mondays and it was just a never ending, like, Oh, why are you closed on Monday? It’s my only day off. If you’re in the hospitality industry, yeah, Monday is your weekend because you’re busting it all over Saturdays and Sundays. Well, Indy, I really appreciate you coming on. I’m excited to see where these new concepts take us. You know, this combination, you’ve always been known for bringing things together. So this combination, which just so you know, I don’t know if this has come up, but I’m renaming this episode, Thunder and Icing. I love it. Feel free to take that. I’m still trying to figure out how to get the icing to stay in a thunderbolt shape on some of our donuts.
I know you’re busy and I appreciate you coming out and supporting. I appreciate what you do in the community and, you know, you just, everyone that I’ve talked to and this first time we met, but everyone I’ve talked to and what I’ve seen on social media, you just have a genuine kindness about you and people love talking about you and like what you’re doing for Tucson and, you know, not just putting us on the map because you put us on a TV show a few years ago, but you’re, you’re pouring your heart and soul into this. And we, we really recognize that. I appreciate it. I just like doing what I do. And, you know, uh, honestly there’s, there’s a lot of really good burgers in this town, people doing it right. And I absolutely love that. I just like being a part of it. So it’s, it’s, you know, this year, uh, I think with Thunder Bacon, I took more of a interest in doing what I do, like with, you know, the baking of the buns and the grind of the meat this time and the type of burgers we’re doing
instead of like, just really trying to push something that was, uh, if we win some awards, great. If not, then just happy getting up and doing this thing, you know, so, and promoting everybody else too. So I kind of want to start a burger tour. I’m in, I’m in for that. Yeah. Me too. I don’t want to do that right now. Again. Thanks for your time. I appreciate it. Thank you. If you’re into a burger tour, hit us up on our Facebook page. Let us know. Maybe we’ll, uh, we’ll arrange something here and, uh, something maybe, um, we’ll impromptu casual tour some of the better burger places, see if we can work something out and, and get some samples. I don’t know.
Huge. Thank you to our guests today. Lindy, Riley, it’s kind of challenging when you’re in the restaurant business to take a time off and, uh, and schedule an interview to really what’s going to pop up, but I do appreciate that. Uh, I want to thank the donut bar and their team over there, Sean Denlinger for setting this up. We mentioned him in the interview. Uh, he’s got quite an interesting background here in Tucson between the culinary arts and a few other, uh, things. He actually is a loan officer with, uh, Nova home loans is out of my office as well. So it’s kind of fun to see him in both of those settings, but Sean, thanks for setting all this up. And if there is a topic that you want us to cover, uh, let us know you best way to do that is probably tag us on Facebook or Instagram, head over to our website, lifelong streetcar .org. There’s a contact button, um, or just, uh, you know, start randomly shouting it. And if we walk by, we’ll, uh, we’ll hear you and see if we can’t take that
But so many of our shows now are coming from suggestions and of that, this was always designed as a community conversation. And when the community is, is asking for these, uh, these stories, it makes it just so much more entertaining and relevant because it’s not just a, what am I trying to find out? It’s what are we trying to find out? And that always seems like a better option coming up in just a couple of minutes here. We’ve got a Ted Prezelski with words and work. He’ll take us to the top of the hour when Ty Logan kicks in and gives us heavy mental. I’ve said this numerous times, but if you aren’t familiar with Ty, check out his show at least once. And um, you know, he, he’s just really open, honest, candid about his struggles and helping other people. And that’s at the top of the hour with Ty Logan and his show, heavy mental. And then we get it back into the music with a speaker box X soul, vibe Sundays, old mech underground and music, all kinds of fun stuff today. And then back
to the rock mix tomorrow morning with a paleo Dave and uh, the scrambled sunrise. So if you, uh, want to check any of that stuff out, head over to the radio stations website here, downtown radio .org. All the lineup is there, including, uh, you know, our Sundays, I think Sunday’s my favorite, not just cause I’m on here, but you know, we’ve got, we got a little leaf radio kicking us off and the art of easing. And honestly, it just, by the time 11 o ‘clock rolls around, I’m just done for the day. I don’t want to do anything. I just want to have a nice, relaxing, enjoy my, my Sunday. So, and then I, I get to pop on after that and take advantage of everybody sleeping on the couch from, uh, the art of easing next week, we’re going to have Jessica Kaiser. She owns Jay Kaiser workspaces downtown, uh, right there, uh, off of Congress. And she’s also partnering with a group called I am you three 60 helping, uh, youth in our community, uh, that, that really needs some, um, they really need some love
and they have a fundraiser coming up here. Sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun just cause helping to collaborate and put that together. And, uh, she’s also, uh, you know, in downtown icon and really been involved with a lot of development, uh, and you know, internal office space of, uh, several places in the downtown area through her business, Jay Kaiser, uh, workspaces. Again, if you have any topics you want us to cover, hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, maybe send us an email, a contact at life along the street car .org, uh, just, you know, just keep sharing that stuff. We’d love to get the word out about these hidden gems. As always want to thank Ryan hood for the courtesy of our opening music. And we’re going to leave you today with a song from the Bob’s burgers movie soundtrack. It’s called my burger buns. Hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.