Ask a Waiter

Michael Rankin of Diner: ‘I Think That Guy’s McLovin — You Should Card Him’

“They’re freaked out because their waiter just sat down next to them.” Photo: Melissa Hom

Yesterday we caught wind that Christopher Mintz-Plasse, the actor who played McLovin in Superbad, was at Diner on Friday night. Naturally, we wondered whether he had attempted to procure an adult beverage. And who better to tell us than Michael Rankin, who has been a waiter at the converted twenties railcar for three out of the nine years it’s been serving up slow-cooked American food? Rankin had plenty to say on the celebrity front (Bono biting a bartender?) and the foodie front — including a convincing reason the humble establishment might overtake its neighbor Luger in steak supremacy.

So McLovin was there the other night?
The waiter I was working with was like, “Have you seen Superbad? I think that’s McLovin!” He was in with two guys who were all hipstered out. I was like, “Are you sure that guy’s of age? I think he’s drinking beer.” The guy [one of the friends] had ordered a Stella and wine for himself and [McLovin] was drinking it. I was like, “I think that guy’s 17 years old — you’re going to be written up.” He came in again the next night, and I said, “I think that guy’s McLovin — you should card him,” and the same thing happened: His buddy asked for the drink for him.

Do celebs come in there often?
About a year and half ago, Bono bit a bartender’s ear. He didn’t [ask permission], he just did it. He was wearing those big bubble glasses. He was talking to her all night — she was like, “How do I know this guy?” Next thing I saw he was nibbling on her ear because he loved her so much. It didn’t go anywhere from there.

Do you ever get spillover from Luger?
Not really. We built our own butchering station in the back, and it’s pretty awesome. We’re basically buying whole animals from farms upstate and butchering them on the premises and supplying all the meat to the four restaurants. So we know where our animals come from. We’re dry-aging our steaks — we’re giving those grumpy old men up the street a run for their money.

What do the uninitiated make of it when you handwrite the specials on their paper table covers? Has anyone ever caught spelling mistakes?
I didn’t how to spell radicchio for a while till a schoolteacher told me to. We do have drunken people or hecklers. I love getting people from out of town — I can tell they’re freaked out because their waiter just sat down next to them. They look completely shocked and terrified.

What sorts of things do people draw on the coverings?
Last night a Turkish girl drew me a picture of a woman standing up and guy going down on her — it was pretty awesome. Earlier in the night we had a couple with a 2-year-old daughter, and the girl put a circle around her dad that said “Time Out Zone.”

Is there any way around the no-reservations policy?
If you give us an hour notice before you come in on any day of the week, we can make an exception.

Do you get people who insist on sitting in the front (the restored twenties diner car) rather than in the back room that’s attached to it?
I don’t understand those people. It’s really noisy in the front. If you’re on a date, I’d rather sit in the back. It’s very cozy. When I eat there, I sit at the far end of the bar, right at the corner where you can see everything and have the music off of you. We have customers that request that — they’re very smart.

Related: McLovin Eats Out, and Not At McDonald’s

Michael Rankin of Diner: ‘I Think That Guy’s McLovin — You