Eating With Jonathan Ames: Getting Kicked Out of Clover Club, Vegetarianism, Brooklyn Pizza


Jonathan Ames is the author of nine books, creator of the HBO series Bored to Death, amateur boxer, and a Brooklynite. We caught up with Ames to talk about his adventures with food, and eating in and around his neighborhood.

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

Almost nothing. Some cheese in a plastic Tupperware thing and some olives. An old coffee I must have planned to reheat. A jar of jam and a jar of relish given to me as presents. Two old bottles of Perrier. One old kombucha. One old bottle of cod-liver oil.

What do you think are the best eating neighborhoods in Brooklyn?

I’m a bit limited, but for yuppie food, Smith Street and Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn are good. For Russian food, Brighton Beach is good.

What do you eat before a boxing match? After?

Before: A banana. After: Anything one wants. But I’m no expert. I’m a rank amateur who’s had two very amateur bouts.

This summer, you tweeted (is that a verb now?) that you got kicked out of Clover Club–what happened?

My friend was coming upstairs from the bathroom and gave me a shy, funny look and then disappeared back down the stairs, so I called out something like, “Hey!” I said it loudly but playfully. It was late at night — we had just gotten off work, it may have been close to midnight — and I had just ordered a ton of food from the waitress; there was one other couple in the place and they were just getting ready to leave. After my friend disappeared back down the stairs, I noticed that the bartender was glaring at me. I apologized for being loud and asked if a Prosecco would be delivered to the table for my friend. He said he wouldn’t serve me. I was shocked. He thought I was intoxicated, which I wasn’t. I had just gotten off work and was very tired, which may have seemed like intoxication.

Anyway, I had just ordered nearly $100 of their most expensive items — I was wanting to treat my friend to a good time and also planned to give the waitress a nice tip, since the place was so quiet and she probably hadn’t earned much. But since the bartender wouldn’t serve me a Prosecco, we left.

I then told myself I would never return there, but then a few months later I was starving late at night and went back there because I’m morally weak and it’s hard to hold a grudge. Nevertheless, they didn’t serve me again because the kitchen had closed, which was like a double-blow — I felt like a loser for not being able to maintain my boycott of the place AND I was still hungry.

I should mention that when we left the place that first time, the couple, whom ostensibly I could have offended by calling out “Hey!”, told me they were fans of my books, which was very nice to hear. I then asked them if they had been annoyed by my calling out “Hey” and they said they hadn’t even heard me. I don’t know why it bothered the bartender so much, but it did. Anyway, unless I weaken again, due to hunger and having a weak spine, I probably won’t go back there. Regardless, it’s not a big deal, and I’m sure it’s a perfectly fine place.

You often write about your adventures and exploits–can you tell us about one that involved food?

Well, as I’ve often recounted, I once bought a tuna sandwich, without a napkin, out of the palm of the hand of a French bum in the city of Montpelier. Immediately afterwards, my colon exploded. I’ve written about this extensively in my essay “I Shit My Pants in the South of France.”

What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever eaten?

I think I’ve bitten into things with worms, but I can’t recall the exact moment.

Is there anything you refuse to eat?

I’m not much of a meat-eater, so I would definitely not eat any of those very scary things like a cow’s tongue or a pig’s ear or a brain. In fact, just writing that all down further confirms my need to be a complete vegetarian, though I do like sardines and fishes that are low on the food-chain and have less mercury.

Where’s your favorite place to get pizza?

Savoia on Smith Street.

What about Italian food in general?

I used to love this little spaghetti place on First Avenue in Manhattan, between St. Mark’s and 7th Street, but it has since closed. Now I don’t have an Italian place…

Where do you eat most often?

I probably like my sushi place on Smith Street, but I don’t know its name.

What was the most memorable meal of your life?

I liked it when I was in high school and my mother would make me breakfast on Saturday mornings. I think those were some of my happiest meals for some reason. It was just scrambled eggs with toast, but it was always so delicious. Maybe because I didn’t have to go to school and, too, I may have been hungover from my fledgling experiments with canned beer.