the grub street diet

‘Hot Ones’ Host Sean Evans Puts Back Cactus Tacos and Maple Crullers

“A truly life-affirming breakfast pastry.”

Sean Evans taking on Los Tacos No. 1. Photo: Scott Heins
Sean Evans taking on Los Tacos No. 1. Photo: Scott Heins

As the host of First We Feast’s brilliantly dumb and wildly popular “Hot Ones,” Sean Evans interviews celebrities like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Da Baby while they eat increasingly spicy wings. This month the show entered its 11th season in five years, complete with branded hot sauces (the latest is Los Calientes Rojo), and launched a new spinoff called Hot Ones: The Game Show. After 177 episodes, you might think Evans is tired of hot sauce, but he swears he’s more interested than ever — though not so much in wings. He ate some for work, but otherwise spent the last few days celebrating the debut of his new show, and taking his girlfriend, who was in from out of town, to eat some of his favorite things at Roberta’s and Daily Provisions. Read all about it in this week’s Grub Street Diet.

Friday, February 14
My alarm went off at around 7 a.m. I was in a half-drunken stupor from the night before. We had a launch event with truTV for Hot Ones: The Gameshow and I could still feel the lingering effects from one too many Last Dab margaritas. The only cure was eggs … preferably smashed inside of a brioche bun.

I swing by Pret a Manger on my walk to work almost every single day. Usually I’ll get a juice and some yogurt, but this time I was waiting on a large latte and wolfing down an egg sandwich over the garbage can.

Sidenote: I love Pret. You’re in and out in less than a minute, and they serve up these exceptionally well-engineered hot wraps that don’t fall apart or drip all over your hands while you’re walking. What a restaurant! I ride extremely hard for Pret.

It’s an inside joke for us, I probably have eaten more Pret over the last six years than any other New Yorker. They’ve got the soup options, I like the drinks, I also like the brownie they give you. It’s so good, but then it’s only a bite so I don’t feel like I’m killing a whole brownie. It’s more like a sweet palate cleanser.

Around 1 p.m. I picked up an order from Los Tacos No. 1, which is right by our office in midtown. “Hot Ones” editor Colin Higgins and I are currently working on Will Ferrell’s episode just upstairs. Colin’s been a vegetarian for the last three months and this time he got us eating cactus tacos. “Not bad,” he said after the first bite.

You would think I’m never reaching for hot sauce if I’m off the clock or whatever, but I’m more interested in it now and understand it a lot more than I ever did. Hot sauce is such a compelling subculture — there’s a lot at play. There’s a heavy metal, extreme, sort of hardcore aspect to it. If you go to the Hot Sauce Expo that’s in Brooklyn every year, it’ll look like the parking lot of a Slayer concert. Everyone’s got long hair and boots, aggressive piercings and crazy bracelets. It really has that vibe, but then you also have maybe people who’ve substance-abuse issues in the past and hot sauce kind of fills that void for them. Or you have these pepper growers, like Smokin’ Ed Currie, all these guys are like architects trying to build the tallest building. Once you get past the Cholula on the shelf, you find so many fascinating characters.

Around 8 p.m. I headed for a Valentine’s Day dinner reservation at the Nomad Hotel with my girlfriend. We ordered the tortelloni and truffle roast chicken. It’s phenomenal. I should also take this moment to shout out the wine, a bottle of DuMOL 2016 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m on a mission to find the world’s driest cab. That’s my favorite kind of wine, but I’m still chasing the dragon. I want a wine so dry it feels like I’m sipping sand, and this was pretty close.

Saturday, February 15
I woke up, chugged a 12-ounce Red Bull, and hit Equinox while I was still peaking on taurine and B12 vitamins. You have a Red Bull, you do catch something off of it. I need the rocket fuel. I ran four miles and got about eight lifts in to make room for the pizza I was going to demolish in Brooklyn.

I do think about my health outside of the show, or maybe doing the show and the extreme thing week after week. I’m thinking about the job, and how long can I do it? Thinking about that has put so much more attention on the other things I do in my life — eating a lot better, drinking juice. I have to look at myself on camera all the time, I have to hear my voice, I have to look at my face, all of that. I feel like I have a burger and a milkshake and it’s all in my neck.

My girlfriend and I headed out to Bushwick for Roberta’s. Outside of my beloved Lou Malnati’s deep dish in Chicago, Roberta’s is the only pizza I actually crave from time to time. While we waited for our table, I walked across the street to pose for some pictures in front of a new Hot Ones: The Game Show mural. I got embarrassed when a group of fans recognized me, flapping my arms around like a chicken.

For lunch we ordered the Millenium Falcon, a sausage-and-onion pizza that’s truly one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my life. Shout out to the dish’s architect-slash-friend of the brand, Pizza Czar Anthony Falco.

After a day of shenanigans in Brooklyn, we stopped at the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg for some oysters. The fourth-floor bar offers a ridiculous view of Manhattan. I’d have been content sitting there all night sipping Sancerre, but alas we had a movie to catch.

For dinner, we went to Nitehawk to see The Lodge. I’m obsessed with going to the movie theater and often fantasize about taking a year-long sabbatical to just review movies every single day under a pen name. The two theaters that are closest to my heart are Arclight in Hollywood and Nitehawk in Williamsburg.

The Nitehawk serves you dinner at your seat. We split a burger and for dessert order the toasted marshmallow soft serve. I ride extremely hard for the Nitehawk, almost as hard as I ride for Pret.

After the movie we grabbed a nightcap at Maison Premiere. Very good vibes.

Sunday, February 16
Again, I woke up and went to the gym. My favorite thing to do on Sundays is run that ice-cold eucalyptus towel over my bald head after a long run on the treadmill. It’s a very sacred part of my week.

For brunch we went to Daily Provisions on the Upper West Side for what I’ll say is definitively the best breakfast sandwich in all of NYC. I don’t know what it is. It’s just the way it hits. We also grabbed some maple-glazed crullers to go, a truly life-affirming breakfast pastry if ever one existed.

I think that’s my ideal Sunday-morning breakfast: that coffee, that cruller, that breakfast sandwich. It’s always the same exact delicious sandwich. It never bricks; it never fails me.

For the next eight hours I was in a research K-hole, figuring out all I could about Pete Davidson. We were set to interview him the next day over spicy wings, so a good chunk of my Sunday was spent grazing on a Santa Fe salad from Chop’t while I pored over magazine profiles and podcasts.

Finally for dinner, we ordered in. It’s important to wind it down on a Sunday. Our plans were to watch all the Oscar-nominated short films over a bottle of red wine. We ordered piselli e prosciutto pasta from Bigoi Venezia on the Upper West Side. My favorite short films of the night were The Neighbors’ Window (live-action), and Memorable by Bruno Collet and Jean-François Le Corre.

Monday, February 17
I woke up at about 5 a.m. to head to the office. We had our interview with Pete in about eight hours. I was meeting my “Hot Ones” brother-in-arms Chris Schonberger to bang out the run of show. He brought coffee and breakfast from Maison Kayser. “Hot Ones” is fueled by Maison Kayser pastries. It’s kind of a tradition for us.

The only time I’ve ever gotten in trouble during a shoot is if I overeat before. I remember a long time ago, I was starving a couple hours before the shoot, I ate a whole thing of sweet potato fries and half a sandwich, and then sat down with Thomas Middleditch and we each had four vegan wings, which were way bigger than the regular wings. I was like, “okay, I’m going to puke or pass out on my own show.” I learned early on never to overeat, but you want something in there. So I’ll get a chocolate pastry from Maison Kayser and eat half before we do the run of show. Then I have something in my stomach, so it won’t just be doing backflips off the hot sauce.

For lunch I sat down across from Pete Davidson for some of the hottest chicken wings ever assembled. He said he’s never had spicy food before, so I knew it was going to be wild ride. Our crew and his team were stifling laughter the entire shoot. Any time the whole room is cracking up, it’s a guaranteed banger.

I needed a milkshake.

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‘Hot Ones’ Host Sean Evans’s Grub Street Diet