Restaurant Road Test: BLT Burger
Comedian Dave Hill Bites into the Beef
Not to be confused with the master hypnotist/illusionist or the ‘70s Brit-rock guitarist from Slade of the same name, Dave Hill is a writer, comedian and host of Dave Hill Explosion – a talk show that has featured guests like Rufus Wainwright, Sandra Bernhard, and Dick Cavett. The fact that this Hill also plays guitar (with Children of the Unicorn and Valley Lodge) and likes to trick himself into staying sick to avoid work is also purely coincidence.
Because we’re Hill fans and it’s National Hamburger Month, we decided to combine two loves, and ask Hill to test out French Chef Laurent Tourondel’s take on an American classic. So, we invited Hill and fellow comedian Max Silvestri to BLT Burger, the latest edition to Tourondel’s highly-praised BLT restaurant pack – BLT Fish, BLT Prime, and the nascent BLT Market at the Ritz-Carlton in Central Park included.
Despite feeling under-the-weather, and having two back-to-back nightly performances on his plate, Hill met us, along with Silvestri, at BLT Burger for a meal. Below, the verdict:
I hope you like hamburgers…
Hill: Yeah. I live in the West Village now [home to Corner Bistro, Jane Tavern, etc], so I’m eating like four hamburgers a week. I’m getting to know my hamburger-eating self.
And have you been to any of the other BLT restaurants?
I’ve been to BLT Prime. I had a lovely time. Some showbiz people took me there. I’m a simple man; I probably wouldn’t go there unless someone else brought it out. I would now… basically I try to get other people to pay for stuff [laughs].
Silvestri: The spiked milkshakes look good...
Hill: It’s too early for me.
Silvestri: I probably have an Airborne you could dissolve in it.
Hill: I’ll have a coffee milkshake.
Is it allergies?
Hill: I have an overall body debilitation that started a week ago. I’m prolonging it because it’s keeping me from having to do anything and I’m enjoying not doing anything.
How long do you foresee it lasting?
Hill: Until Monday.
What happens Monday?
Hill: I have to work. I’m shooting something for Adult Swim. And I’m doing this thing that I can’t really go into detail about. It’s for a large, unnamed corporation; they hired me to do all this stuff… it’s internal so it will never be seen.
So, how did you get started doing comedy?
Hill: Do you want the long story or the quick version? The long is actually kind of interesting and has bits of things you can learn from.
Let’s go for the Long…
Hill: I’m a writer and a musician so I was used to playing in rock bands. I always liked talking in between songs; I would always talk for as long as it seemed like a good idea, even though the rest of the band would be like ‘shut up.’ I was writing for a TV show, I’d just come to NY, and the producer was like, ‘You should try performing.’ When you’re writing something you always want to do it yourself. I didn’t know the comedy scene at all, but I always wanted to do a talk show in a bar with some friends. So I started the Dave Hill Show, I did it five times at Siberia Bar in the basement. It was going well and people really liked it so I started trying to make it good and it started to suck. I learned a lesson that way – do it naturally because, if you over-think it, it’ll suck.
And now Dave Hill Explosion is going strong…
Hill: Yes. Sadly I was reading message boards - because I need to know that people like me - and after the last show someone said ‘this reminded me why it’s cool to live in NYC.’ I liked that.
[The waiter brings over orders of BBQ and Spicy chicken wings, as well as Coffee, Grandma’s Treat and The Go-Go milkshakes.]
Silvestri: What are these candies on top of the shake?
Waiter: They’re tiny milk duds.
Hill: That’s from the future.
Silvestri: I’m really impressed with the milkshakes.
What do you think of the chicken wings?
Hill: I think they should combine the two sauces into one crazy sauce.
As an alternate option, or as the only option?
Hill: For my purposes I would be ok with it being the only option. But, for other people, maybe keep it separate. The BBQ could use a little heat [to note: Hill once won a jalapeno eating contest in Cleveland, won two tickets to a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert and then sold the tickets at face value and pocketed the money. He still feels bad about it.]
How do you feel about the handy-wipe [tucked in the basket with the wings]?
Hill: I’m pro handy-wipe. They’re one of those things… you’re not used to getting a handy-wipe and then you have one and you’re like, ‘I could use this at least once an hour.’
Silvestri: I like that it’s just there. It’s not like, ‘Oh, do you want a handy-wipe?’ so you feel like a dirty baby.
Hill: They’re not judging you.
Silvestri: It’s like: ‘If that’s used when we pick up the wrapper we’re not going to know who did it.’
Hill: It’s like in a hotel room that has that romance kit or whatever. ‘We’re not saying that you order prostitutes, we’re just saying that you might want to order a prostitute, and we’re ok with that.’
Thoughts on burgers?
Silvestri: I would be down for any sort of burger but not the turkey, veggie or salmon burger.
Hill: Nah, that’s a waste of time. That’s an affront to my senses.
[Chili cheese fries, sweet potato fries, a BLT burger, an American Kobe burger and a Lamb Merguez burger arrive.]
Hill: [Holding up the BLT Burger – Angus Beef with Bacon and a house sauce] This is really good.
What do you think of the sauce?
Hill: I think it’s great! I think I may have tainted it by putting it in ketchup and mustard.
And the Kobe?
Hill: The Kobe was good, but there was too much mushiness going on.
And the Lamb?
Hill: Excellent, and spicy. It’s really good, but I don’t know if I’d come here and order it…
Silvestri: Those are perfect [gesturing to the sweet potato fries]! It’s really easy to overcook them, but these...
Hill: They’re delightful.
So you’re truly a beef-only burger guy?
Hill: Yeah. Even though the Merguez is a burger-shaped food item, it’s not really a burger. I’m against the healthy alternatives. If you’re going to smoke, smoke Marlboro Reds and pull the filter off.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hill: Part of me always thinks that each thing I do will be the last and I’ll be working in an auto-parts store… I’d like to see Dave Hill Explosion make it to TV. And my friend David Rakoff and I just sold a script for a film. I hope that we make that. It would be fun to make movies.
If you could have anyone on your show, who would it be?
Hill: Isabella Rossellini. She said she’d do it. Her manager came to the last one and liked it.
Final thoughts on the place, the music…
Hill: It seems like a hip joint. If they played Kansas [which is playing now] the whole time, you wouldn’t get any complaints from me.
I think that should do it.
Silvestri: Your people will love this.
Hill: My people [sighs]… I want to meet them.
Wish you could cook like Tourondel? Get one step closer this fall when BLT releases its namesake cookbook.