In this episode of “Going Out With Jake Cornell,” host and former NYC hospitality pro Jake Cornell chats with comedian, writer, and host of “Oh God, a Show About Abortion” Alison Leiby. They discuss their mutual love of dining out at restaurants, some of their favorite (and least favorite) foods, and what going out looks like in various Brooklyn neighborhoods. Tune in to learn more.
Or Check Out the Conversation Here
Jake Cornell: I just think we need to dive right in. What I really respect about you is I think you are the only other comedian in New York I know that is as vocal as I am about like, “Oh, I do this so I can go to restaurants and I do this so I can go to bars.” And that’s the arrangement.
Alison Leiby: Every single penny I have earned from writing for television is for dining out.
J: The joke I’ve seen you do multiple times that is one of my favorite jokes that is set in New York about not eating teeth, I don’t want to spoil it in case — go see Alison live, she’s absolutely f*cking hilarious — I’ve never felt more seen by a joke in my life, like. Okay, she gets it.
A: My accountant does all my stuff for me and sometimes she’ll just be like, “Wow, you really go out to eat a lot.” I live in NYC. If I lived in Tampa, I probably would not.
A: Sorry, Tampa.
J: I do love your “Selling Sunset” spinoff, though, Tampa.
A: Haven’t watched, I’m going to.
J: OK, so really block off a Sunday when you’re really hung over and just do it. It really builds. What was I going to say? Oh, one of my credit cards did a thing by no request of me. It was like, “Hey, here’s a breakdown of your spending.” And it was like 98 percent restaurants. I didn’t ask for this.
A: Don’t do that to me. Why would you do that? In late January, my credit card sent me my 2021 year in review. I was like, “A statement?” You’re not Spotify.
J: The 2021 wrapped, fiscally.
A: They’re like, “You love spending money you don’t have and also buying clothes you can’t afford.”
J: I’m entering a phase right now where I’m starting to realize that I need to care more about my clothing because I’m doing shows. I’ve already been photographed in these six outfits, which were my six outfits.
J: Now I’m like, OK, but I do spend all my money at restaurants. So who’s paying for these clothes? That’s really where I’m at right now.
A: You have to really start siphoning off some stuff for cashmere and denim.
J: Every day I leave this studio, I’m like, “I’ll just walk downtown and I’ll buy some clothes for the summer.” I’m just very aware of the fact that I have no clothes for this summer. I have none.
A: Every time I get to April, I’m like, “God damn.”
J: No, it’s so bad.
A: How do I do this? I hate it. I want to be layered and layered and layered and layered in all of the sweaters.
J: I am a different waist size every year and it’s one of three inches. It’s somewhere between a 30 and a 33 and every year it changes and it always falls in some sort of order that by the time I return to waist size, I have lost all of those shorts. Now I’m at this place where I really don’t have a single pair of shorts to wear and I don’t have any light shirts.
A: Being on stage in the hot weather is, I would say, my least favorite thing to do. I’m always sweating. I’m sweating now and it’s 32 degrees out.
J: Absolutely. There’s nothing worse than being like, “Maybe there won’t be a photographer at this show.” And then you get there and, no, there are two. And it’s videoed, amazing.
A: Before every single show had photographers at it, I used to do a show at UCB, where the wife of one of the hosts was a photographer. So she was there a lot and I was guest hosting, but she was still there for some reason and I was like, “We don’t need photos of this.” But it was pouring rain and I had run from Houston into UCB East on Third and A. I looked like I climbed out of a pool and I got on stage immediately. Water is dripping off of me. And she posts all these photos. I was like, “Can we not?”
J: At least we’ve transitioned into a space now you’re sent a Google Drive and then you get to post. Because it used to be, “Hey, I’ve uploaded a public Facebook album.” There were no outtakes. I didn’t edit, I didn’t even do Selects of the Best. I uploaded 120 photos of last night, and some of them are carnage to you and your personal appearance.
A: I know the faces like me on stage are effective for comedy, but I wouldn’t say they’re effective for my self-esteem.
J: No, absolutely not.
A: My head recedes into my neck at a lot of different points.
J: And you’re doing standup. Imagine what I saw when I was in my improv days. It was violence to my soul. It was really bad. OK, so let’s move back away from comedy.
J: No, never apologize.
A: No, people should apologize for talking about comedy.
J: Absolutely. Have you always been addicted to restaurants?
A: I grew up an extremely picky eater, which is wild because I’m a very adventurous eater.
J: This is shocking to me.
A: I was a picky eater.
J: Where are you from?
A: Maryland. I ate crab at 5 very happily, but didn’t like tomato sauce. I always grew up liking a lot of vegetables, which I think is very helpful with dining out because vegetables are good when they’re prepared by other people.
A: So I was a picky eater and I think it was college when that switched. We went out when I was younger, we would go out to eat. I liked going to restaurants, but it wasn’t like, “This is the best thing ever. I can’t wait to try a new food.” I was just like, “Are there chicken fingers here?” Which is still the thought I have when I go out sometimes.
J: Absolutely. Oh, chicken fingers are always the move.
A: Let’s just admit they’re good and that adults can eat them whenever they want.
J: Sometimes if I’m sad, the only thing I’m going to fix it is honey mustard.
J: Applebee’s honey mustard is the best on the market.
A: Knowing those little things is important. But college is where you learn how to explore the world. I went to Cornell.
A: It’s just so gross, I have to say it.
J: At least you weren’t like, “In Ithaca.”
A: But I do that sometimes. I’m like, “I went to school upstate” and people are like, “Where?” And then I’m like, “Ah sh*t, just say it.” It was Ithaca, so it’s not like it was downtown Manhattan. But there were some restaurants there, there’s a famous vegan restaurant up there in Moosewood that’s very good. I haven’t eaten there in 20 years, which is a crazy number to get to say. But then when I moved to the city, I was like, the point of living here is to do it. I instantly started being like, “I’m going to spend money at restaurants that I don’t have and not eat for the rest of the week.” That becomes such a thing you do. I’m going to have half a bagel for lunch and the other half for dinner. And then on Friday I get to go to Sushi Samba.
A: It’s a terrible way to live. But when you’re 24, you can.
J: Yeah, absolutely. Did you ever work in restaurants?
A: I didn’t. I was a retail person.
J: What’s impressive to me is, as someone who has served you working in a restaurant, I would guess you had. You carry yourself professionally in terms of being industry professional. But I think that means you’re really professionally going to restaurants.
A: Yes, I’m professional at dining out. But I’ve worked in service, but in retail, not in food service. I know there’s a lot that’s different, but there’s some just general things.
J: The respect is there.
A: Respect. I don’t know how many times when I was working at Nordstrom after college and people were so rude and disrespectful and I’m like, “I just graduated from Cornell. F*ck.” I’m not sure if I’m allowed to swear on this.
J: Swear away. Absolutely.
A: I have a filthy mouth. And also my best friend is a pastry chef and worked in fine dining here for years and I would go out with her a lot. There is a “friend of” vibe.
J: You’re part of the world at that point, if you’re going out with industry people, I think you start to figure it out.
A: Thank you. I remember back when she was at — I forget what restaurant she was at — we would go to Diner in Williamsburg a lot. There were very hot, cool lesbians that worked at the bar. We would sit at the bar, get drinks, and I’m like, “Do you think they like us?” I just want them to like us. I’m not interested. I just want them to think I’m also cool, which I’m not even close to that level.
J: I’ve never worked at the coolest restaurant. I worked at the fanciest spots and then I worked at a place that was very practical for me. I guess my last restaurant, Kindred, was cool. Kindred is still around, and Kindred is very cool. Everyone there is nice. Not that people at Diner aren’t nice, but I don’t think anyone walks into Kindred and is intimidated by the coolness. In those places, I’m like, “I could never work here.” I don’t know what I would do.
A: It’s really good. I want those white beans.
J: They’re so good. Everything at Kindred is so delicious.
A: It’s exactly how I want to eat, lots of small plates of stuff.
J: Yes, exactly.
A: But not small plates; Small Plates.
J: I went to Bonnie’s last night, have you been?
A: I haven’t been yet.
J: You’re existing in the annoying place that I was until last night, where every single person you meet is telling you to go.
A: Everyone’s saying, “Go to Bonnie’s.” I know, I’m going to. Because I live in a neighborhood I describe as south of Barclays, it’s southern Boerum Hill, almost Gowanus. It’s just Fourth Avenue. I live on Fourth Avenue. Williamsburg is such a pain for me.
J: I mean, it’s right off the G, though.
A: Oh, it’s off the G? I could do that.
J: I guess Bonnie’s isn’t. Last night what we did was we went to Bernie’s first for drinks and then walked to Bonnie’s.
A: I often mix those two up and I don’t know which one you’re talking about, but I haven’t been to either yet, and it’s kind of rude.
J: I’ll go to Bernie’s with you immediately. Bonnie’s is hard to get into, but we’ll go to Bernie’s.
A: OK, great.
J: Bonnie’s is Cantonese-Chinese.
A: Their McRib imitation.
J: It is psychotic.
A: Bernie’s is Italian?
J: No, Bernie’s is like an elevated diner. It has mozzarella sticks and burgers.
A: Mozzarella sticks are what I’ve seen people post.
J: I guess there is chicken parm. So it’s like Italian.
A: That’s what’s getting me.
J: It’s like an Italian-American diner, whatever. It’s really f*cking good.
A: I want everything to have cheese on it.
J: I don’t think there’s a cheeseless dish at Bernie’s
A: Perfect. That’s how a restaurant is good. If it has Diet Coke and cheese, it’s great. I’ll drink it.
J: What are your favorite spots? Let’s just get into that.
A: Oh, God, it’s so hard. Different restaurants certainly satisfy different moods. My go-to place in the neighborhood is Rucola, which is not even cool.
J: I’ve been dying to go there, though.
A: It’s not cool. It’s good, but I’m never like, “Oh my God, this is the best.” But they have a salad that is so important to my existence.
J: I feel like everyone who lives in your neighborhood says this about Rucola. And that’s why I want to go, because there’s something special.
A: It is the perfect neighborhood place. I was just home in Maryland for two weeks. My dad had heart surgery. He’s fine, it’s great. But I was there to support and help just in case. But then I came home after two weeks of being with just my parents, and like mostly just my mother. I had four Gin & Tonics on the train and I got off the train and called Rucola as I was walking from the subway back to my apartment. I had a bag and I was like, “Should I even drop this off?” It’s such a small restaurant, drop it off. And I was like, “Do you have any space at the bar?” It’s a very tiny restaurant, it’s very popular in the neighborhood. And they were like, “Yes. We have a seat, we’ll hold it for you.” And I was like, “Thank you.” I walked over and just had this big escarole salad. It’s escarole, really good feta, and Marcona almonds.
A: It’s in this honey lemon lavender vinaigrette. It’s super simple and it’s mostly just a bowl of greens, cheese and nuts. And it’s so good. I think about it all the time and I’ve never been there and not gotten it. I got it at 3 p.m. once because they have kind of an all day vibe and I was just like, “I’ll just have a 3 p.m. salad.” I’m in charge of my life.
J: I’m going to say this with absolute certainty: Escarole is the most underrated of the salad based.
A: I agree.
J: Can you buy it at a supermarket? I don’t think so.
A: I’ve seen it sometimes. But sometimes when I see it, I’m like, “Is this the same thing?” The greens confuse me. There are many and they are complicated.
J: Absolutely. I worked at Rosemary’s for four years. They have an escarole salad and that was really important to me.
A: Finding a good salad is such an important part of life. Having a good salad that when I go to this place or when I really crave a vegetable, there’s nothing like it. And also, with a mediocre salad, you’re like, “I can’t. It’s too much.”
J: Salads have to be incredible or they’re out. That’s the thing. Yeah. So when you find one that’s truly satisfying and delicious, this feels safe. Not to get too petty about it, but when you’re someone who eats a lot and goes out a lot, you’re constantly living with this guilt that I treat my body like sh*t. Have a salad that you’re like, “I don’t even feel bad about this.”
A: I had that salad and then I had a giant bowl of rigatoni bolognese and it was so good.
A: And then I had a cocktail, a wine, several amaros for some reason. And they’re like, “Do you want some pudding?” And I’m like, “Of course I want pudding.”
J: I always want pudding.
A: They have good dark chocolate pudding with olive oil and whipped cream and sea salt.
J: I have to go.
A: You have to go. You’ll love it. I think that’s the restaurant I’ve eaten at the most in the last five years because it’s near where I live. I’m trying to think of other amazing places that I go, and it’s been so hard in the last two years. Things are a little different. Recently, I finally went to Thai Diner.
J: Thai Diner is the new Bonnie’s for me where every single guest on the podcast is like, “You have to go to Thai Diner.”
A: You have to go.
J: Yeah. I think I’m going to go with our most recent guest, Susan Kim. I think we’re going to go.
A: You should go with as many people as you can.
J: She actually said that, too. She said go with a large party.
A: I went with my friend Natasha and our friend Judy Kim, who’s a food stylist. I feel like because my friend Natasha is in the industry, she also then has this huge breadth of industry friends who are all wonderful. And then I used to write for Eater, so my old editor was in town and there were like six or seven of us jammed into the weird mobile homes that are outdoor dining. The tables are kind of small and we got literally one of everything and it’s a giant menu. There are some underrated things on that menu.
J: I’ve heard that.
A: The cabbage.
J: Cabbage is having a moment.
A: I’m going to say that it started with Helen Rosner and the schmaltzy. Was she the one who does the schmaltzy chicken over cabbage? That popular recipe?
J: I think, yes.
A: Which I’ve made and it is incredible and I highly recommend it to everybody.
J: I went to Kings County Imperial for the first time recently. It’s not new. I’m late to the game. I know. One of my favorite things was the free pickled cabbage they put at the beginning of the table. This is so good.
A: It’s so good. I went there recently after a show with two other people. And I love a lazy Susan moment.
J: Living for a lazy Susan.
A: I want one in my home. But I eat by myself all the time so it’s just me moving things around.
J: This brings up my next question. How do you like to go out? Not just specific to restaurants, but in general.
A: I like a small group, between either two people like me and someone else or up to four. I think four is my limit where I’m like, “I’m no longer having the kind of night I would like to have.” But also I’ve had plenty of fun dining with more people.
A: I like bopping around. Let’s get a glass of wine here and then let’s go over here and get food. Sometimes we also got fries in the first place. But then we’re going and we’re going to get a couple more things. I love to be like, “Let’s share an entree and get two different appetizers to share.” I’m a sharer. I mean, there are times when it happens and I do it. But to order a dish and eat it entirely by myself when there’s the option to have two dishes — I just don’t know why.
J: I feel the same and I just respect it. I’m definitely like, “Oh, like literally order everything for the table.” With one friend I was like, “Oh, you don’t like that I do that.” He was kind of like, “What if we did entrees for ourselves?” I respect that because I’m not enjoying sharing if you’re not into it. But I’m a sharer, I want to share everything.
A: I want to share everything. It’s more fun.
J: There are certain things, though. For example, are you a Miss Ada girl?
A: I eat there by myself and I’d spend like $230.
J: I really respect that.
A: I think I spend more when I’m by myself. I guess that makes sense because I’m getting the same amount I would get if I was with somebody, but I’m eating it all by myself.
A: I’m paying for it all by myself.
J: If I’m at Miss Ada, I know that I need two halloumi skewers. That’s just for me. I’m going to say that this is being ordered and that’s what I’m going to consume. If you want more, that’s what my consumption is going to be on this. So just know that.
A: Know that going in.
J: If you’re at Rucola, you’re like, “I’m going to eat one of these salads on my own. Just an FYI.”
A: If you want a salad, let’s get a second. And the bowl it comes in is like a mixing bowl.
J: When I make a salad at home, I make it in a mixing bowl.
A: Obviously, otherwise it’s a mess. And I like being like, “Let’s get cocktails, let’s get wine, let’s do after-dinner drinks.” I can always get a dessert, especially if you’re with multiple people. I mean, now desserts are $12 to $15, which is outrageous. It’s cake. But if you each get a couple bites of cake at the end of a meal, why wouldn’t I do that? It’s such a low lift in a group tab.
J: I totally agree. Unfortunately, last night at Bonnie’s was one of the first times in a long time where we over- ordered savory so aggressively. As badly as I want this dessert, it sounded incredible, I actually physically can’t. I couldn’t even do an after-dinner drink. We had to go home. We ate so much.
A: Not even after-dinner drinks? I’m always like, “This is medicine.”
J: I’ll normally say, “Let’s walk somewhere else and get another drink.” But I actually was like, “Oh, my stomach kind of hurts.” We ate too much because it was also the kind of thing where we f*cked up. I knew we were going to get sent stuff because someone made the reservation. I was like, “We shouldn’t order this because what if they send us something and now it’s going to be a lot of food.” Sure enough, they sent us two dishes. And then we’re f*cked.
A: Yeah, that happens a lot. And it’s hard.
J: It’s really hard. But I will go back for dessert. But that’s the only situation in which I won’t order a dessert.
A: I’m a big fan of Cervos and I feel like at the beginning they didn’t really have desserts when they first opened.
J: King’s County doesn’t have desserts.
A: I feel like now more places are like, “All right, just make a pudding.” And it’s always good because you just want some sugar at the end of the meal.
J: Just something light, honestly. This is annoying, but I do love a sorbet.
A: I love sorbet.
J: Something that’s a little brighter for me just to kind of cut through.
A: Especially because I overeat.
A: Constantly, out and at home. I overeat. I’m eating too often, I’m eating too much. That’s why I love the world of after-dinner drinks and digestive and amaros. I’m glad they’re cool now because I was always like, “Do you have something that’s going to make my stomach not hurt any more?” I ate an entire chicken.
J: That world opening up has been very healing. When I was younger, I’m talking 7 years old, I got some sort of stomach bug. It was my first time as a kid being really stomach sick where there’s constant vomiting. It was bad. I was at my grandparents house and I was so sick. And my mom took me outside and sat on the front lawn so I could get some cold, fresh air because I just felt so ill.
A: When you’re in a stuffy bathroom all day.
J: Exactly. And one of the neighbors walked by and she was like, “Hey, what’s up?” And my mom was like, “Oh, Jake’s really sick.” Her husband was German — this is going to sound f*cking crazy.
A: I feel like I know what this is.
J: She was like, “Give this child a tablespoon of Jager. He will be fine.” Obviously I’m 7 or 8. I’ve never heard of Jagermeister in my life. I couldn’t keep the water down, I was really sick. F*ck it, I’ll try anything. My mom goes and buys f*cking Jager and gives me a tablespoon of it. Completely healed. It completely settled my stomach. I stopped vomiting. I was drinking water within the hour.
A: That’s crazy.
J: Because so many of those drinks are medicinal in origin.
A: A lot of those are actually to settle your stomach. That’s the point of drinking them after a meal, it’s to maintain a healthy gut.
J: Forward it to me a year later. So we always kept a bottle of Jager in the freezer for that reason. My mom didn’t drink Jager.
A: Nobody drinks Jager, she’s not a college student.
J: My mom drinks a Jager Bomb with dinner.
A: A Jager Bomb is so intense.
J: As a server every once in a while I would go to take an order. I’d be like “Can I get you anything to drink with dinner?” Someone would be like, “Can I get a vodka Red Bull?” Damn, OK, that’s going to pair with that pasta.
A: I never liked Red Bull. I’m a Diet Coke purist.
J: I totally respect that.
A: I was never like a Red Bull person. The thought of eating with it is crazy.
J: I’m a Red Bull advocate. I actually love a sugar-free Red Bull, but I also agree that it should not be consumed with food. Anyway, so I was 7. My uncle got married and my mom hired our babysitter to come with us to the wedding to watch us so that she could go to the reception and party because she was recently divorced and I think I needed to let off some steam. And I got sick and was in this hotel barfing and I turned to this 21-year-old babysitter. I’m like, “Can you get me a Jagermeister?” And she was like, “What the f*ck?” I’m this 7-year-old asking for Jager and she has no context. She was like, “Truly, why?” She called my mom and was like, “Jake’s asking for Jager,” and my mom was like, “Oh, Jesus Christ.”
A: That’s so funny. When you went to college, did you ever end up having them?
J: I did my whole sophomore year in England and Jager Bombs were — and still are — a much more normalized thing there. To order it here, watch that guy. something’s about to happen. It’s kind of normal over there. I did a lot of Jager Bombs. Bars have glasses designed for it that are a glass with a shot glass inside of it. I did a lot of them back then. Talking about right now, I can actually literally taste it and it’s making me feel a little sick.
A: Yeah, I’m a little nosh.
J: I’m not really doing shots at all ever anymore. Actually not true. I’m thinking about how often someone’s like, “Do you want to do a shot.” I’m like, “Actually, yeah. Sure.” I’m not ordering shots, I’ll say. I’m being given them but I’m not ordering shots that often.
A: It’s our friend Audrey who I do shots with.
J: God bless her.
A: She’s a bartender. Oh, I’m just having a beer. And then she’s like, “Let’s get tequila shots since we’re here.” I’m low key, always having tequila shots with her. Did it last night.
J: Where were you guys?
A: I did their show at Dixon Place for Rubbish. Then we hung out there, but it’s not really a bar you hang out at afterwards. Her friend had opened a place that was like, Call Me Sally or some place in the Lower East Side.
J: God bless.
A: We just drink tequila and beer. It was really fun.
J: I love it. I miss her. I haven’t seen her in a minute.
A: She is wonderful.
J: She’s a true angel. You want to have a night out.
A: She’s also great at going to restaurants and bars.
J: I mean, she’s been doing it forever.
A: Yes. She’s who brought me to Kindred.
J: She is who brought you to Kindred. I forgot that. That is so true.
A: That is so true.
J: So for you, it’s drinks before, then we’re going to dinner, then we’re gonna get drinks after. So it’s like a three- location night?
A: Yeah, I love a three-location night. I love a double dinner. Natasha And I do that a lot or at least we used to. We’ll go somewhere and eat a little bit, get what most people would think is dinner, and I go to another place. Back in the day we would do Cervos then Scarr’s. We would sit at Cervos and have a lovely meal. This is also before their chicken and fries — the peri peri — was on the menu so it was mostly shellfish and seafood. It wasn’t quite as filling. We would go and get shrimp and oysters and clams, eat a bunch and drink a bunch there. And then we would walk around the corner to Scarr’s and sit at the bar and get natural wines and a pepperoni slice as a little snack.
J: I like that. I like mixing cuisines and mixing savories.
A: I wouldn’t want pasta and then pizza.
J: I really respect that because I think people get a little in their head about mixing savory. I think people are really confined to like, “Oh no, this is where I had dinner tonight.” No, you can really kind of go wherever and whatever you want.
A: I feel like fries do that for me a lot. I go somewhere and eat and then it’s like, “Oh, while we’re here, let’s get some fries just to eat.”
J: Just a snack. I tried to do that last night. We were at Bernie’s before Bonnie’s, and I was like, “We should do the chips and dip.” My friend was like, “We actually really should. The food’s about to be really intense at Bonnie’s.” And he was right.
A: Yeah. Thai diner is the same. I don’t want to have eaten a little snack, even oysters. Well, oysters aren’t real food, in terms of me getting full.
J: Oh, no, no.
A: At Thai Diner, similarly, you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to eat so much right now that I don’t need a pre-snack and I definitely don’t need an after-anything.”
J: What I also love about the bop is it makes you learn a neighborhood. Marcia Belsky has said that you and I are the two people that she will hit up to be like, “I’m going to this neighborhood and want this. What do I do?”
A: Oh, here, I’ll tell you where to go.
J: Exactly, and I’m the same way. I do that for a million of my friends. I’m sure you do too.
A: Yes, I am constantly in charge of people’s restaurant plans.
J: And they’re like, “I’m so sorry. This is so annoying.” No, I actually live for this.
A: It’s the only thing I know. I can’t help you with anything else.
J: The only thing I can help you with is if you are in Manhattan and need to poop. I can tell you where to look. I know all the good public restrooms.
A: That’s good.
J: Rest in peace to the Gramercy Park Hotel. It was the best hotel bathroom.
A: People do not think about hotels in terms of public service that they do, which is bathrooms.
J: Have I talked about this on the podcast? The Gramercy Park Hotel bathroom was one of my favorite places in NYC. I’m not joking that, first off, they pump that whole lobby with lava scent that is sexual to me, that. It’s sexy and it’s dark. It’s probably a 50-foot walk from the front door of the Gramercy Park Hotel back to the bathrooms. For that whole walk, you get to pretend you’re a rich person.
A: Yes, that’s fun.
J: No one can stop you.
A: Rich cosplay.
J: Rich cosplay. And then you get to the bathrooms. There were six private bathrooms that were full rooms. I’m not joking, there are studio apartments smaller than them. They were enormous full-size rooms with locking private doors. It felt like you were in someone’s home.
J: And they were cleaned so regularly and no one knew about them because they were really tucked about. Oh my God, it is the greatest loss the city has ever known.
A: That is devastating. I love hotel bathrooms.
J: Hotel bathrooms in the lobby. And also the best part of a hotel room is the tub. Are you a hotel person?
A: Of course I am.
J: I literally love hotels more than anything. This is my new soapbox that I’m getting on, we need to move away from Airbnb for a litany of reasons. But one of which is that hotels are just better.
A: Hotels are always better. They are always better. I never want to be in an Airbnb. I don’t want to be in somebody’s stupid house.
J: I don’t want to read someone’s f*cking book of rules of how I have to clean the goddamn kitchen. It drives me f*cking nuts.
A: You get there and they don’t have a can opener here or something. There’s always something that they don’t have.
J: Also, I have to open a can here. Why am I opening a can on vacation?
A: Why am I cooking? I cook every day. Well, not every day, three or four days a week.
J: Don’t lie.
A: But I do also enjoy cooking.
A: I’m good at it and I know how to make good food. If I’m on vacation somewhere I do not want to be cooking.
J: I say this a million times. I don’t mind cooking, but I don’t want to do dishes. I want a private dishwasher. Wait, I never thought about that before. I guess I own a dishwasher, but I want a person to come and do it and put everything away.
A: Well, I would say unloading the dishwasher is low key the worst task.
J: My boyfriend called me out the other day and was like, “Do you know that you’re really good at starting the dishwasher? But you have never once unloaded it.” And I was like, “Oh, I actually feel so sick right now. I can’t talk.” And I left the room. This is not a conversation we’re having.
A: I hate unloading the dishwasher. Living alone, it’s like, “Oh, I guess I have to do this.”
J: Same as with folding the laundry. But I cleaned them.
A: I currently have a dryer full of clothes that I’ve been pulling a pair of underwear, a pair of socks out of every day for a couple of days. Eventually I’ll have taken all of this out and worn it and I’ll have to put it all right back in.
J: My boyfriend is very clean and tidy, so he’s good about that stuff. When he is out of town, the apartment — I’m not exaggerating — falls into a state that he would break up with me if he saw after 12 hours. Especially because I normally have to be so good that when he’s gone I’m bad. I will do a load of laundry and then the clothes will sort of end up in a pile somewhere. And then I’m sort of pulling shirts out of that and put them back in the dryer to get the wrinkles out for five minutes and then putting those on fresh. That’s how I’m doing my entire wardrobe for the week he’s out of town. From the crumpled pile of clean clothes to a re-fluff, and on. And that’s happening every day.
That’s great, I think that’s okay.
J: Thank you for respecting me in this.
A: Everybody has to live their life and take on exactly what they can manage. I think we all learn about boundaries and limits in the last two years.
J: Yes, absolutely.
A: I keep saying that in emails. I’m still learning a lot about boundaries and limits, so no, I’m not coming. No, I don’t want to. I hate helping people.
J: So can you help me move? I actually learned about my boundaries.
A: I have a lot of boundaries and they’re all just pushing against you. I have a restaurant I want to talk about that I forgot. My memory is bad and people are like, “Oh, where do you like to eat?” I’m just like, “Hmm?” I draw a blank, like, I’ve been to a Chili’s once. Let’s talk about Gage & Tollner.
J: So I’m dying to go.
A: I had wanted to go when they were first supposed to open in March of 2020. And then I was like, “Oh, this place is never going to get made.” For the listeners, Gage & Tollner is this old-school place in downtown Brooklyn. I think it’s landmark status.
J: I believe so.
A: I believe it is.
J: It was open in the 1800s.
A: It’s a steakhouse in downtown Brooklyn. Its ceilings are like 25 feet high.
J: It looks like “The Gilded Age.”
A: It truly looks like “The Gilded Age” — airs on Mondays. Who airs on Mondays? I’m watching it, but I’m not liking it.
J: I mean, I watched it on a 5-milligram gummy, and I’ll tell you, that hit. It was really good.
A: Okay. That makes more sense because I’m sitting there being like, “What’s happening?”
J: Lisa Jacobson, you changed your name, but we know what’s happening.
A: We know what’s happening. But Gage & Tollner was the first place I dined inside since March 2020. This was last spring or whatever once we were vaccinated and it was like, “OK, we’re all vaccinated, let’s eat in a restaurant.” Because my personal choice was that I was not going to eat indoors until we had gotten to that point. But also I understand people were, and good for restaurants. It was the first place we went with a group. It was me, Natasha, and there were like six of us. One of the people we were dining with used to work at Fort Defiance, which are the same owners of Gage & Tollner.
A: Which I love. I love Red Hook.
J: We’re going to talk about Gage & Tollner and then we’re going to talk about Red Hook. I’m really excited. This is really fun. Do we have two hours left? How much time?
A: What if this is all we did for the rest of time?
J: I have a general at 2 p.m. but I’ll move it.
A: You have to go. I went with people who were all down for sharing, all restaurant people.
J: Every single person at Gage & Tollner has told me you have to share.
A: You have to do sharing. I feel like some people think steakhouse and they’re like, “I will get some sides and I’m getting a steak.” No, you order one of everything on the menu and you all have a bite of everything because it is so good. Every single thing is amazing. There’s a couple real standouts. And also the bar is gorgeous, the wine list is impeccable. The cocktails — I had a Gibson, my favorite. I love a Gibson. I love a Gin Martini.
J: We talked about this in the podcast before. When I worked at Kindred, I put a chicken-fat-infused Gibson on the menu. It was so f*cking good.
A: Oh, my God, I want that. But it’s all classics. It’s not with a rinse of somethings. These are very classic cocktails of the era. It’s very mid-century, even. But we were dining with a person who used to work with the people who own it, which is how we even got a reservation. And then Natasha’s also friends with the pastry chef. They took care of us very, very well. The clams, Kim-sino, is a clams casino with kimchi and bacon.
J: Oh, my God.
A: Obviously they sound really good, but you never know. I think it’s the best plate of food I’ve had in the last five years.
J: I also recently had the best food I’ve had in the last few years at Popina.
J: Bruschetta in brodo. It was a thick, fat piece of Filoni that was really aggressively toasted, topped with a bunch of a soft white cheese, arugula, a f*ck off amount of dough, and then put in a bowl of really rich seafood broth. It was cheesy and fatty and then had this briny broth that was slowly soaking up into the bread. And the bread was crunchy but also soggy. I think it’s the best bite of food I’ve had in the past, maybe, year.
A: Wow. OK, well, I need that.
J: Sit at the bar and get that with a glass of wine. Have dinner there if you want, but if you just really want to have that, it’s an absolutely gorgeous place for a second dinner moment.
A: Oh, I love that.
J: On your way to Red Hook. Okay, so Gage & Tollner.
A: There are two other little things that they have that are just really amazing. They have Parker House rolls that come out and are pure butter. You don’t need to put anything on them. They come to the table piping hot in a hot little skillet.
A: And they walked us through the way they did their hash brown, because I’d seen a picture of it and I was like, “I don’t know what’s happening, but I need this in my life.”
J: Is this where they cut it really thin and then it’s a square.
A: They slice potatoes super, super thin and stack them on top of each other in a loaf pan. There’s like butter and I’m sure cream and all kinds of delicious things in there. And then they cook it and then they slice it and then pan fry the slices. So it’s crispy all the way around, but not mushy inside. It’s still potato, but it’s so light. Not light, I mean, it’s truly potato and cream and butter and all that. It’s super salty. But you still get a crunch on the outside. It is one of the best potato preparations I’ve seen. The dessert menu is incredible. The steak is great. We had the seafood tower and the pate. We went all out.
J: This is currently my thing, I have three steak houses that are at the top of my list of places I want to eat in New York. I want to do it when I go.
A: I need, like, $400.
J: Well, that’s what I’m saying. To do three of them, that’s like $600 or $700. That’s a lot of money. I’ll do an ad.
A: If anybody’s looking to pay me to eat at a steakhouse.
J: Yeah, absolutely.
A: But then also above Gage & Tollner, they also have opened a tiki bar called the Sunken Harbor Club. We got to go up there before it was open. They kind of walked us around and it’s the nicest way to go to a restaurant. When you’re like, “We’re friends of the owner.” They weren’t quite finished up there. They were still kind of getting everything ready to open, but it’s these incredible tiki cocktails and you feel like you’re in a boat in a good way.
J: I was talking to a couple of people that work there, I was doing an event with them, and they were telling me about the amount of work and effort and thought they put into the theme of that bar.
A: They had a whole story.
J: And there’s a book. You could view it as kind of lame, but with the way they’re kind of doing, this is actually really thorough and interesting and fun.
A: Also you definitely get that from being there. You’re like, “Oh, every single thing in this room was thought about very carefully.” Even the way you get there from the restaurant and the vibe. If you want to have a night, go up there, get a cocktail, hang out, go downstairs, spend all the money you have on the best meal you’ll ever eat. That is definitely a night.
J: I want to do that.
A: I want to go back and sit at the bar and just get some oysters, the Parker House rolls and the clams.
J: I really want to go to Gage & Tollner. I’m dying to do Keene’s. I made friends with a Keene’s manager the other night, which is really huge for me.
J: And then I really wanna do Hawksmoor, the new one. Have you heard about Hawksmoor?
A: No, where is it?
J: Where’s my phone? I’m just gonna show you a photo. It’s this place in the Union Square area. There are a ton of Hawksmoor steakhouses in the U.K. But they took over this old room in New York. I don’t care what I eat there.
A: I just have to eat.
J: But I want to eat in this room because it looks — wait on. God forbid they post a photo of the room on their Instagram. This is the steak house dining room.
A: I mean, this is the most beautiful room I’ve seen in my life. I’ve eaten in some beautiful rooms.
J: It’s breathtaking. In New York?
A: It looks like it’s from both the future and the past.
J: It looks like where the villains eat.
J: In a Bond movie.
A: Yes. I love, love, love that vibe. For Natasha’s birthday this year, I’m just talking about her like she’s my wife, she’s just my best friend in college. But we hang out together all the time. We. We did drinks at The Grill.
A: None of us had ever been there.
J: That’s the Carbone Group, right?
A: Do you know The Pool and The Grill? It’s not an area of restaurants that I’m super familiar with because it’s out of my world. Sam. I had a $26 Gin Martinis. But it was just to sit at that bar. We had like two Martinis. So I spent like $100. It’s worth it because we’re just sitting and having a vibe. There were just four of us just kind of sitting and drinking. We were like, “Do you have any, like, bar snacks?” It was some almonds that were like $14. We were like “Do you have any bread.” And they were like, “No.”.
J: Your poor is showing.
A: Don’t eat bread. I guess we’ll get this crudité and It came in a mix. I’ll show you a picture of it after. It is the most outrageous presentation of crudité I have ever seen in my life.
A: It was fully vertical.
J: I’m excited. A crudité tower?
A: Kind of.
J: Moving away from that, let’s talk about Red Hook.
A: Let’s really talk about Red Hook. It’s time to talk this out.
J: Yes, the time has come. Walk me through your Red Hook. Why do you love it?
A: My Red Hook, OK. I live not too far from it.
J: Yeah, you’re like a straight shot.
A: I can walk there and during the stupid walk days of the pandemic, which I guess we’re kind of still in, I would just walk down there and back and listen to podcasts and be like, “Am I ever going to see somebody again?” Um, dark days. But then as you could dine outdoors and as the weather was warm, I used to go down there a lot. I haven’t because it’s cold and it’s just not a good area to be cold in.
J: With the wind, it’s Chicago.
A: It’s so awful. So I have two different versions of my Red Hook. One is the real good food. I love a Red Hook Tavern burger. It is worth it.
J: Red Hook Tavern is really special.
A: I don’t eat burgers very often. I don’t eat red meat very often. I’ll spend a lot of money on that burger because that’s the burger I’m eating, and then I’m not eating another burger for six months. $26 is a lot. My one complaint is they don’t have good fries.
J: That’s tough.
A: It comes with potato wedge-style fries. I need a classic McDonald’s style.
J: Everyone in life has a fry that’s not for them. And that’s sort of your cross to bear.
A: Some people don’t like a shoestring.
J: A shoestring fry really drives me nuts.
A: I really don’t like a shoestring.
J: A fry that crumbles in my hand whilst I try to pick it up and dip it into ketchup is a huge f*cking issue. This restaurant was a problem for a lot of reasons, but the fries at the Spotted Pig were an affront to my life. I would rather be served a salad. These are so hard to eat.
A: I don’t want there to be air between fries. They shouldn’t pile up in that way.
J: My fries should not look like they could go in the MoMA.
A: Yes, they shouldn’t be architecture.
J: There’s no architecture in my fries. OK, so the Red Hook Tavern burger.
A: The Tavern Burger, I’m a huge fan. Fort Defiance.
J: I’ve never been, but I’ve heard good things.
A: They’ve pivoted and now reopened. They were closed for a bit, obviously. But even before the pandemic they had closed down, I think because of Gage & Tollner. But I like to walk down there and if it’s warm out, get a frozen Margarita at the Lobster Pound when we had to-go drinks, which I think we’re getting back.
J: We’re coming back. I think we’re getting them back.
A: I’d take that and walk down to Red Hook Tavern, pick up the burger, walk to the water and sit and eat it on the water at a giant rock.
J: Oh, OK. I love that.
A: The other version of Red Hook that I love is I like going to the public pool. I’m a NYC public pool advocate.
J: I have never gone to a public pool. The people who are into it, they’re really into it.
A: It’s like pool advocacy. I’m a swimming person. I was a swimmer growing up. I love swimming. I still swim at the YMCA. But everyone’s like, “Ew, the NYC public pool.” They have regulations. Do you know who doesn’t? The hotels. The public pools of New York are 1,000 times cleaner than the cleanest that the Williamsburg Hotel’s pool has ever been.
J: 100 percent.
A: They’re kept nice and cold.
J: Also, cleanliness is not your issue. You’re swimming in bleach, right? If anything, it’s bad for your skin, but germs are not the issue. You’re swimming in bleach. There’s more chlorine in there than you can possibly imagine.
A: You have no idea how much chlorine is in there.
J: I was a public pool kid growing up. My mom got divorced and was like, “I have these two kids for all the summer, what do I do?” We got a public pool membership and we would just go to the pool and swim all day. I was a full blond because the pool bleached my hair every summer.
A: I live closer to a different public pool that’s a lot easier. But sometimes make a day of it. Go down to the public pool at Red Hook, they’re open from like 11 a.m. to 230 p.m. and then they close from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. to clean it. Go for the first few hours and then go down to Brooklyn Crab and sit upstairs. Do I think that the food there is good? No. Is it the perfect place to sit and have some popcorn shrimp and a frozen Margarita?
J: I would not say the food there is bad.
J: I guess you’re from Maryland and are being harsher on seafood.
A: Judgment is pretty high. Yeah, it’s not bad. It’s not somewhere I would travel to, just to eat. But the vibe there on a warm day, you see the Statue of Liberty on the water, and you feel like you’re at the beach.
A: So that’s a fun day.
J: Mine would be similar.
A: What are some of your others? I know there’s an incredible Thai place down there that I haven’t been to yet.
J: I haven’t been there yet either.
A: I really want to go. Should we go?
J: Let’s do it. OK. So I’m a big walker. I live in Bed-Stuy. If it’s nice out, I’ll make a plan and I’ll do this with my boyfriend. One of my best friends, Holly and her husband, Peter, are neighbors of ours. We’ll do a walk. A standard Saturday practice for us would be to walk to the Court Street Grocers in Carroll Gardens.
J: If we’re really feeling adventurous, instead of the Court Street Grocer in Carroll Gardens, we will extend a walk to Red Hook. No matter which, we’re stopping by my demand at Le French Tart Deli on Court Street. Do you know about this?
J: It is a French bakery on Court Street.
J: Le French Tart.
J: It is one of the most amazing places in the world.
A: What do you get?
J: These are the best pastries I’ve had in New York. There is a strawberry and cheese croissant. It’s a strawberry jam and cheese Danish filled croissant. There’s a spinach and cheese croissant. Everything is amazing. They have these small madeleines.
A: I love madeleines.
J: OK, incredible.
A: I think it’s maybe my favorite kind of cookie.
A: For a little treat.
J: They’re incredible. They have small tarts, like fruit tarts and jam tarts. We all go, everyone gets one pastry, and then you just share bites. It’s the perfect sustenance to get you to the next destination.
A: OK, I’m going to have to go.
J: It’s incredible. It’s one of those places that imports everything. So you can buy all the European stuff you can’t get.
A: All the weird oils and stuff.
J: They even sell that European water that starts with a V. Why do you need the water here? But whatever, respect. You can have pasta and pate. They really have it all.
A: I love that. OK.
J: There’s usually a little bit of a line, but they move it quickly. It’s really good. I highly recommend it. So that’s my No. 1 move and that’s happening. Then we’re walking. If we’re going to Red Hook, it’s either going to be a stop at the Brooklyn Lobster Pound for a lobster roll. I love a lobster roll, they do a great job.
A: They do a really great job.
J: And then we would walk to the water and just eat that and then hang out or maybe get a drink there. Have you done a tasting at The Red Hook Winery?
A: No, I’ve always wanted to.
J: It’s very fun. It’s like $20. The wine is much better than I would have expected. It’s interesting and they do a good job and it’s a really fun vibe. It’s quick and it’s easy and it’s on the water and it’s a great hour.
A: Red Hook is fun. People that don’t go to Red Hook have no idea what they’re missing.
A: Hometown BBQ is a good spot. I also love the Chelsea Gardens Plant Center down there.
J: Oh, I’ve never been.
A: It’s really nice if you’re looking for plants. But it’s because there’s space in Red Hook. They can really spread out, and you can just wander around.
J: We’ll usually do dinner or late lunch or whatever at Brooklyn Crab or Hometown Barbecue and then walk back up and get drinks at a bar in Carroll Gardens. I’m never in Carroll Gardens, so it’s good to get drinks.
A: I really like Carroll Gardens.
J: I wouldn’t want to live there. I love going out there. That’s usually the wrap-up of the night. Frankie’s has turned that property into a little wine bar. It’s phenomenal.
A: I haven’t been yet, and I really want to go.
J: Highly recommend.
A: I was supposed to go and then we ended up pivoting to a different neighborhood.
J: The fact that we’re already on 50 minutes is insane. This went by so fast.
A: I could do this all day.
J: Me and my friend Holly went and we went to the Red Hook Winery and then we went to Brooklyn Crab and then we ended up at Frankie’s bar. It was just really nice.
A: They have some good little snacks there and good wines.
J: The walk pays off because it’s not as expensive down there as it is in other areas.
A: Yeah, it’s true.
J: You’re saving a little bit of money.
A: In Red Hook, things can’t be Midtown prices. I mean, Red Hook Tavern is expensive.
J: But that’s OK. You know what you’re getting.
A: It’s not like, “Oh, let’s get a burger here. Oh, my God. $26.” It’s a destination.
J: Yeah, you know what you’re going for.
A: You’re a Court Street Grocers fan. Have you been to The HiHi Room?
J: No, what’s that?
A: They own a restaurant in Boerum Hill; it’s on Smith and Bergen. I believe it’s them, I’m 99 percent sure.
J: I believe you.
A: It’s a great little spot. They have a backyard that was from before “we got to find a way to eat outside.” It was very quiet. It’s gorgeous. It’s big. It’s heated, it’s really nice. They have great oysters, great little snacks, and really good fries. I go there sometimes with my friends Josh and Robert and we’ll each get some stuff to snack on. Their chicken wings are chicken soup-flavored.
J: I’m obsessed.
A: Everything is just thought about enough more than just an average place.
J: Which is a Court Street sandwich, to be honest.
A: Exactly. They really think about things and they have great cocktails.
J: Nice. What’s your Court Street order?
A: I really like the breakfast sandwiches.
J: OK, respect.
A: I like the one that’s egg and cheese and something spicy with bacon. Maybe there’s chorizo in it?
J: That sounds right to me. I never got the breakfast sandwiches.
A: I love a breakfast sandwich.
J: I’m a staunch, dedicated turkey delight.
A: Oh, yeah. I love a turkey sandwich.
J: Have you tried the turkey delight? It’s turkey reuben with coleslaw instead of kraut.
A: Oh, wow.
J: And with sour pickles.
A: Oh, wow. OK.
J: It’s really f*cking special.
A: Every sandwich there is so special.
J: So special. Have you dabbled in the celery soda?
A: That’s up my alley. I like things that are disgusting, I guess.
J: If someone’s like, “This is gross,” I’ll probably like it.
A: Yeah, I like the super-bitter drinks. I’m a raw seafood person. I’m a horseradish person.
J: Absolutely. I’m usually down for anything.
A: I’ll give anything a try.
J: Oh, absolutely.
A: I have two or three things where I’m like, “I don’t like that. Get it away from me.” Everything else I’ll eat.
J: So I hate that I’m allergic to shrimp, specifically shrimp. All other seafood is safe, though. I’m ripping clams and ripping oysters. I can do crab. I can do lobster. I can do anything.
A: I have friends who are allergic to shellfish. I’m like, no, you should kill yourself.
J: I eat shellfish a lot because I’m like, “You better stay used to this f*cking sh*t.” You’re not getting allergic to this.
J: So I have a shrimp allergy. That’s annoying. I have the thing where cilantro tastes like soap.
A: Oh, that sucks. I’m a big cilantro person.
J: You pick it out and I can kind of ignore it. I’m not insane about it. It’s my cross to bear. So those are my two really annoying things. Outside of that, I can’t really think of anything. Oh, this is specific. Gouda is maybe my favorite cheese.
A: Wow. OK.
J: Smoked Gouda is really bad.
J: And I think smoked Gouda is what people think of. I don’t like that, but I like an aged Gouda.
A: Or like a goat Gouda.
J: I just love a Gouda and I think smoked Gouda is really bad.
A: I don’t love a smoked ham, either.
J: I wouldn’t say I’m anti that flavor. But smoke is not a flavor that I’m going to get excited about and be like, “Ooh, that’s smoke. I’m going to do it.”
A: It ends up being sweet somehow in a way that I don’t want. Because to balance out the smoke, people always add sweetness. I don’t want that.
J: Obviously I’ll do Southern barbecue or whatever and I’d be down.
A: And I love mezcal. It’s smoky, you know?
J: Yeah. I love mezcal, too. But when dishes say that they have a smoky barbecue sauce, it’s going to be tough for me. Those are the only things. With everything else, I’m down. But what about you?
A: I very controversially do not eat ketchup.
J: Whoa. Even on a burger or fry?
A: When we order fries, I get so anxious that somebody is going to just dump a bunch of ketchup on them. I’m always paralyzed. I’m like, “Don’t put ketchup on there.” And they’re like, “OK, we’re not going to.” Nobody would do that, that’s a psycho move.
J: Are you eating them raw?
A: I like it if there’s an aioli or mayo or whatever. I will eat a fry raw. When I was younger, I didn’t really like ketchup. And I probably would have grown to like it if my mom hadn’t recognized that and then used it as punishment when I was lying — because I was a pathological liar as a child. Which is, I think, the makings of a comedian. Every time she caught me in a lie, she would make me eat a spoonful of it. So I have this really emotional connection.
J: Oh, you have Pavlovian training to hate ketchup. That’s very valid.
A: She trained me to hate it. I’d be crying and she’d be like, “Just eat it.”
J: That’s so funny.
A: My mom is not abusive. She’s wonderful. She was like, “How do I make this kid stop lying to me about every single thing that happens?” I don’t like a ham sandwich, but a really good ham and cheese croissant from an actual French place is different.
J: That’s what I had for breakfast today. My other thing is, and people are probably going to get mad at me for this: I’m not super excited when I see a super-cheesy, creamy pasta. If someone has a five-cheese mac and cheese, that is not worth what’s going to happen.
J: And I’m not even that dairy-sensitive.
A: It’s still going to make my stomach hurt.
J: I’m not like a health nut. I’m eating, but it’s just not exciting. Like an Alfredo.
A: White cream sauce does not do it for me.
J: I actually pretty much will never order that. The only cream sauce I would ever order, and do love, is a vodka sauce.
A: It still has the tomato in it.
J: It has vodka.
A: Yeah, exactly. It’s still better than just a white cream sauce. I’m like, “Is this just cream and butter?”
J: When I hate-watch TikTok restaurant review videos, it’ll be the lobster mac and cheese.
A: That’s disrespectful to both mac and cheese and to lobster.
J: Thank you. Why are we doing this?
A: It’s lobster and cheese.
J: Eat lobster or eat a lobster roll.
A: I will say that when I was in college, we went to Mexico, but not Cancun. My friend lives in San Diego — It’s Natasha.
J: This episode is going to be called “Natasha.”
A: A group of us flew out to San Diego and then we drove down to Baja California. We went to this little seaside town. It was not like “spring break — woo.” We were still drunk the whole time. On the way back, we stopped at this little restaurant on the water or whatever, and they had lobster quesadillas. I will say, that was good.
J: But again, the cheese is accenting. I’m looking at lobster mac and cheese and I’m like, “This is swimming.”
A: Yes, exactly. This lobster quesadilla was a freshly made tortilla with fresh salsa. This is the right application for using lobster. And also, you’re on the ocean. It’d be crazy to have something that didn’t have seafood in it.
J: Absolutely. Coastal Mexican food is probably very seafood-focused but we just are used to the chicken and El Paso food. But they’re on the seafront.
A: Yeah, so that was my one exception. Which is crazy because I grew up in Maryland. There was crab on everything you ate. I remember going to Whole Foods, which has its own global menu where everything is the same, and picking up a sandwich and it was a chicken sandwich on a croissant. And there was crab on it. But crab dip is a creamy dip with a ton of crab in it and I make it at home for special occasions. To me it’s very similar to a lobster mac and cheese, but it’s not presented as that idea.
J: Crab dip is an iconic dish. Lobster mac and cheese feels like this thing that we all decided was OK 10 years ago.
A: And it’s not OK.
J: Thank you.
A: It’s not OK.
J: I guess that’s what we’re ending on, that I’m anti-mac and cheese.
A: Mac and cheese is not my first choice for a side. Maybe with barbecue when you get a little bit of mac and cheese.
J: I would rather have macaroni salad. I love macaroni salad.
A: I would not agree.
J: No, I respect that. When I was in college, there was a grocery store. I went to college in Burlington and we had this incredible grocery store and it’s the best. They had a macaroni salad that was really, really delicious. I was broke and you could get a pint of macaroni salad for $2. So I had that for a lot of meals and I never got sick of it. Also the thing about mac and cheese is — I’m not going to lie to you — the homemade ones are delicious, but if I’m going to do it I do want Kraft or Annie’s.
A: I guess even with the best mac and cheese, I’m just like, “OK.” It doesn’t really excite me in the way that other sides do.
J: I think I’m just drawn to briny, sweet and savory, acidic things. At Bonnie’s last night, all the food was amazing. We got cacio e pepe, which is a cheesy noodle. I had a couple bites and was like, “This is good.” But actually, I literally don’t care because everything else is so much more my vibe.
A: I get that. I like a couple of bites of something like that. I’d rather have a mozzarella stick than a mac and cheese.
J: Yeah, because it’s about texture. It’s a little mushy.
A: It’s got a texture and it’s crunchy on the outside. And then you’re also getting a marinara dip.
J: Yeah. This is we’re going to land because where we have to go immediately is Bernie’s. They have the best mozzarella sticks.
A: I’ve been hearing people talk about it and I’ve been seeing it.
J: We’ll do mozzarella sticks and Martinis.
A: OK, done. And then we’ll go to Red Hook.
J: Perfect, we’ll jump on the G. We’re going to do that.
A: OK, bye.
J: See you later.
Thank you so much for listening to “Going Out With Jake Cornell.” If you could please go and rate and review us on whatever you’re listening to this on, that would be really gorgeous for me in a huge way, so thank you.
And now, for some credits. “Going Out With Jake Cornell” is recorded in New York City and is produced by Keith Beavers and Katie Brown. The music you’re hearing is by Darbi Cicci. The cover art you’re probably looking at was photographed by M. Cooper and designed by Danielle Grinberg. And a special shout-out to VinePair co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for making all of this possible.