Eugene Mirman is a very funny man–so funny that this very publication dubbed him New York’s best stand-up comedian in 2009. You’ve probably seen him on Flight of the Conchords or at Union Hall, where he hosts Tearing the Veil of Maya with Michael Showalter. Last year was a busy one: He released a live comedy album, God Is a Twelve-Year-Old Boy With Asperger’s, and a book, The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life. We asked the Russian-born comedian about his favorite restaurants in his neighborhood (Park Slope), what he eats when he’s on the road, and if he receives the sweet VIP treatment in restaurants.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in your neighborhood?
I think some of my favorites are the favorites of many people, like Al Di La, Brooklyn Fish Camp, and Blue Ribbon. I just had brunch at a place called Get Fresh Table and Market and it was really good. That’s very exciting for me, to live near a great brunch place. Nana is really good sushi and Thai place that’s pretty inexpensive and fantastic.
Do you stay up with the dining scene?
Yes, certainly in my neighborhood. I mean, I don’t know what just opened on the Upper West Side but in Park Slope I feel reasonably in-touch.
Do you ever try to use your celebrity to get a table?
[Laughter]. Me calling up a place and being like “I’m from the background of a show you like!” is not going to get me a table at a restaurant. So the answer is essentially no. Unless right now someone reads this and gives me a seat at their fancy restaurant.
Does anyone recognize you?
On occasion. Probably less restaurant owners and more hosts and waiters, people who get home at 3 a.m. and turn on Comedy Central. I do think there is a connection between the restaurant service industry and the entertainment industry. They share a similar lifestyle, except I cook less and they write jokes less.
Do you cook at all?
I do cook. I like to grill a lot, fish and other things. On my roof, of course. I’m not like grilling inside or anything. I like to have people over in the summer and grill. I like fish a lot, I love seafood. That’s why I mentioned Brooklyn Fish Camp before, they have fantastic seafood.
What’s your favorite kind of seafood?
Everything. I like oysters, and also lobster and sea bass, although I certainly won’t make them fight to be my favorite.
Do you have a bar that you consider your Cheers?
I would say Union Hall. I do shows there on Sundays and it’s a few blocks from where I live. Like any bar, it can be a little crowded on weekends, but on weekdays, especially in the early evening, it’s super pleasant. I hang out there even when I’m not doing a show.
Do you have a favorite beer?
No, unless you count Scotch.
What’s your take on the whole babies in bars controversy?
It’s funny that it’s an issue. I mean, I haven’t been to a bar where a baby is drinking or something crazy like that. Of course, babies drinking is probably not the complaint. I mean, I’ve certainly seen babies in bars. As long as nobody is telling me to talk quieter because it’s scaring his baby or something–not that I go to bars to yell–I think its fine, I don’t care. In New York, bars are like people’s living rooms.
Do you have a favorite corner slice joint in the city?
No, I don’t, but I have to say I do love a lot of the Chinese restaurants in Brooklyn’s Chinatown, Sunset Park. Ha, I know you were like, “Do you like pizza?” and I was like “No, but here’s a place that has beef navel soup that’s really good!” Anyway, there’s a place called Lucky Eight that I ate at with a friend that was awesome.
Do you go to Sunset Park a lot?
Um, not all the time, but sometimes. I do like to go and walk around. Brighton Beach is another neighborhood I like. There’s this place, I think it’s called Skovorodka, or is it called Frying Pan? You know, I think it’s the word in English spelled in Russian. It’s a great restaurant.
Is there any food you won’t eat?
Maybe tripe? I tried it once and wasn’t happy. But maybe if someone made a stew with it that was really top-notch … I mean, I try different things and I’ll taste a lot of things to see if I like it. I had duck tongue recently. It was pretty good, but I don’t know if I’d get it again.
You’re heading off to Austin for SXSW soon. Do you eat a lot of barbecue when you’re down there?
I do have the barbecue when I’m down there. There used to be a place called Ben’s, but now maybe it’s called something else; that’s my favorite. I think it’s on 11th Street across from I-35. It’s great. I’ve gone to SXSW for the last nine or 10 years. I’ve gotten to know it pretty well.
Any other favorite food cities?
Seattle. Tom Douglas has a lot of great restaurants there. Not that I know him, I just know that he owns a lot of great restaurants. San Francisco has House of Nanking, which is like the freshest Chinese food I’ve ever had.
Have you ever had really bad food on the road?
Yeah, but not like exciting bad food. Mostly I try to seek out really good places when I’m on the road. There’s this great place in Michigan … I’m kind of blanking on its name. It’s like this awesome Jewish deli place. I’m sure if you Googled “awesome Jewish deli place” it would come up right away.
How do you find about new places on the road?
A lot of it is people telling you about it. House of Nanking in San Francisco is a place someone told me about. The place that used to be called Ben’s Barbecue in Austin. I literally walked out of my hotel and there was this amazing smell of barbecue and I walked across the street and found it. Usually, somebody will just be like “You’ve got to try this place, it’s really good.” A lot of it is friends who also travel a lot recommending things.
Well, thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
Oh, I just remembered the name of deli! It’s Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor. That place is great.