Michael Allen Rose is the author of Hard Boiled Americans and Embry. He is a great showman. His novels are great on their own, but to get the full experience you have to see him perform. Its high energy and deeply bizarro and fun loving.
Lets see what the strange man likes to eat.
You live in Chicago. I heard there is food there. Can you tell us about some good places to eat? Maybe some strange, creepy places too.
Chicago has the distinction of being a huge multi-cultural Metropolis like New York or L.A. while at the same time having that classic fat n’ happy Midwestern love of food, so there’s an endless variety of chow to be found here. We’re mostly known for our pizza and hot dogs, I think? But honestly this is such a great burger town. There’s one place I like a lot called Lockdown, and they’re basically a burger joint with a prison theme and also a heavy-metal theme at the same time. You can go in there and order burgers like the “Punk Bitch,” the “Arson” and the “Cruelty to Animals” while they blast Slayer concerts on the surrounding screens. The atmosphere is loud and crazy, but the food is amazing. They have one burger that’s this huge patty stuffed full of molten hot cheddar and other stuff. You leave that place and you can barely roll out the door, but it’s so satisfying.
There are a lot of weird little diners and dives in this town. You can’t walk a block without hitting a place that’s slinging Italian Beef or sausages or something. Some of the ethnically concentrated neighborhoods are the bomb. Sometimes you walk into this little, crazy family owned place and the food is amazing, even if the atmosphere is kind of surreal. There was this awesome Middle-Eastern place that used to be on Chicago Ave where all the food was based on “mom’s old recipes” from the old country. She was there most of the time, and would sometimes just show up at your table and sit down and ask how the lentil soup was and stuff. One of my favorite Indian restaurants in town that is no longer open was the same way, where the family ran the place. I went there often enough back in the day where they would recognize me and usually my friends or family would get treated like their friends and family. I love places like that.
Where is your favorite place to eat?
That’s almost impossible to answer, given the sheer number of places in Chicago to feed. In addition to the above places, there are cool joints like Tweet, which is a brunch place in Uptown attached to a popular gay bar, or Piece which is a groovy Wicker Park pizza joint, or for that matter Coalfire, over on Grand Ave, both of which specialize in those super awesome fire blasted thin bubbly magic pizzas. Then there’s Bakin and Eggs, which is a brunch place with an actual bacon “flight.” They have five kinds. It’s badass. Come visit me and we’ll eat our way around the city until we’re fat and warm and happy, then we’ll nap in the park.
Tell us about your novel, Embry, how it came into existence. And has it affected the way you view omelets?
Embry: Hard Boiled is about a chicken detective who finds himself framed for a murder he didn’t commit. He lives in a society of eggs, and one of the important ones has been scrambled, boiled and chopped. It’s definitely a noir detective story, but there are lots of stupid, fun egg and chicken puns and gags throughout the book.
I don’t know if it changed my views on eggs or chickens really. More like what I already knew imprinted itself on the book, and anyone who reads it is going to think twice before they bite into a nugget of what might have been a femme fatale with a heart of gold. There are also some bits about fake meat “chick’n” in the book, which amounts to a group of incredibly dangerous synthetic attack monsters that the egg cops use to track down fowl that have gone astray. It’s a good time for everyone.
What was your favorite food when you were young?
Cheese. Grilled cheese. Snacking cheese. Cheese on pizza. Cheese on burgers. Cheese on tacos. Cheese. Cheese, cheese, cheese. Still applies.
I was a super picky kid. I hated vegetables, and didn’t really like meat very much either, honestly. I didn’t like gooey, slimy, saucy foods much either. Cheese and carbs were my mainstays, and they kind of still are, although I’ve expanded my palate a lot since then.
How has your taste in food changed over time?
It’s gotten more diverse for sure. Nowadays, although I still love cheese and starches more than just about anything else, I’ll try just about anything at least once, if I think there’s even a remote chance I’ll appreciate it. I’ve tried octopus, alligator, snails and even… ugh… Brussels sprouts. In the end though, give me a nice spicy Cajun style hamburger slathered in habanero jack cheese and crispy bacon, or a straight up high quality pepperoni pizza, and we’ll probably be friends forever.