Long before she was one of the stars and creators of Hulu’s excellent teenage comedy Pen15, Anna Konkle was an aspiring actor who worked in Manhattan restaurants to pay the bills. During these pre-fame days, she became fascinated by the New York dining scene, often spending her free time checking out the hot restaurants of the day, credit card debt be damned. “There were certain experiences that stuck in my mind just like an amazing play or great movie or great TV show,“ she remembers of her New York days.
Because she is both a voracious diner and one of the break-out TV stars of 2019, Eater thought Konkle would be the perfect candidate for the Famous Original Eater Questionnaire, an interview series where we talk to our favorite people in Hollywood about their dining habits. Shortly after Pen15 got picked up for its second season, Eater hopped on the phone with Konkle to chat about her favorite NYC restaurant experiences, her dining habits while writing, and her favorite nostalgia foods.
Welcome to the Famous Original Eater Questionnaire. What’s the last thing that you ate?
Anna Konkle: I had veggie ramen last night, and I added an egg.
Did you make it at home, or was it restaurant ramen?
I went to Silverlake Ramen, it was really great.
What was the last thing you drank?
It was a smoothie with way too many ingredients. I’ve become this person now who puts supplements in my smoothies like my mom did, and I never thought that would happen. But yeah, I made a smoothie this morning and I had that with an espresso and I felt like a real adult.
When and where was the last time you had a hot dog?
I’m having an image of shoving it in my mouth before a movie, or it could have been before a play. But I think it was at a movie theater, and it was just kind of like a classic hot dog where you don’t know what it’s made of.
What do you want to eat right this second?
Well, the smoothie was a couple of hours ago, so I’m definitely getting ready. Maybe some toast, eggs, and cheese, or something like that?
When you are writing a show like Pen15, what are your eating habits? Do you order a lot of delivery, or find yourself eating a lot of one particular thing?
Well, it was our first time doing this — creating a TV show from beginning to end — so the stress level was high. And it was such a short timeline that I don’t think that any of us had the wherewithal, to be like, “What’s best physically and mindfully?” We were either just eating to forget or eating to survive. Everything went out the door that year with health or self-care or whatever. It was like, “What do you want today to eat?” And then we would go through the binder of take-out menus, and I would eat as much cheese and things to make me forget my stress as I could. That was kind of the norm.
Since the show premiered and became this huge hit, have you treated yourself to any splurge meals?
Yeah, I was just thinking about it before we got on the phone. I used to work in the food industry, for like 10 years in New York. And recently [Pen15 co-star/creator] Maya [Erskine] and my friend Jessie and I were in New York, where we used to live, and I made them go to Gramercy Tavern with me. I used to work around the corner at Craftbar, which is now closed — that was one of my first waitressing jobs in New York. I was remembering that I was so poor, but I would still go around the corner on my breaks and get a cheese plate at Gramercy Tavern, which I could not afford. I forced them to go with me and it was really fun.
Did you go to the back room, where the tasting menu is served?
We didn’t, actually, we were in the tavern. But it was nice to get wine and I got the cheese plate again. Different types of food experiences make me feel like an adult. But I will say that even when I was younger and in New York, I would go into credit card debt to go and experience fine dining or whatever. It wasn’t smart, but I was always fascinated by that side of things.
Was there any restaurant meal from your credit card debt days that you remember blowing your mind?
Yeah, Le Bernardin.
Wow, that’s a big one.
I know, right? I’m saying... it was not wise. And I was paying off school loans at the time, so I don’t know what I was thinking. And, actually, a place that doesn’t exist anymore that I was obsessed with was wd~50. I loved that place.
Do you have any favorite, but admittedly strange food combinations?
You know, I’ve been made fun of for most of my life for how much cheese I put on things. But I would not not advise somebody to do that, I just have gotten the hint that people are like, “That’s kind of gross how much cheese is on there.”
Is there anything you’ve never tried that you still wish you could try someday?
I just want to travel more and experience more food around the world. I love sushi and it would be fun to have more of that — I’m no expert on that at all.
What’s your favorite drink, if you go to the bar?
I’ll do a gin and soda, or I just had a sidecar the other day — that was really good.
What is your go-to dinner party soundtrack?
It depends on the vibe. If I put more thought into the food than the vibe, then maybe Nina Simone or Billie Holiday or something like that. And then if it’s a different [kind of party], Talking Heads or like a Janet Jackson album or something.
Do you have a favorite chain restaurant?
I love the McFlurry at McDonald’s with the mini M&Ms. It brings the world together.
Do you have any food that’s like your “Proust’s madeleine,” something that instantly brings back childhood memories?
Ritz crackers and spreadable cheese. My grandfather would live with us on and off, and he was obsessed with that, so I just remember Ritz crackers and spreadable cheese and he had brandy. And then microwave nachos — classic, with my dad — and for special holidays, my mom would make amazing angel hair pasta with shrimp, chives, and cheese.
That sounds very ’90s.
Angel hair pasta feels ’90s, for sure.
Is there a food secret that you feel like more people should know about?
Maya talks about a time in our lives when we were going through break-ups, and I would always get pints of some citrus sorbet at a deli and dark chocolate. We’d chop it up and mix it all together. The chocolate would kind of freeze, and you could crunch on it. It was really good. I need to do that again.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.