Walter Martin is an acclaimed indie rock star who — judging from his recent record release party at Littlefield that featured build-your-own Ample Hills sundaes — knows how to throw a good Brooklyn party. Formerly of The Walkmen, he’s recently launched a solo project. If you haven’t heard it already, his release “We’re All Young Together” (featuring collaborations with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O and The National’s Matt Berninger) is a delightfully fun and sweet album that’s great for all ages. He also craves the occasional Wendy’s chicken sandwich and bribes his kids with ice cream.
We caught up with Martin about his decidedly down-to-earth eating habits. Read on to find out what he calls the “best burger in Brooklyn” and stream his summer BBQ playlist, which is currently jamming in our offices:
Edible Brooklyn: In an older interview, one of your band mates said you were the only one of The Walkmen who ever ate well on tour. Was that true?
Walter Martin: It’s really hard to eat well on tour. I guess you could say I ate more salads than other people. But I think we all eat well now, because there’s more available. When we first started, the food was terrible. In some random town you would go to some random restaurant, just like Denny’s or something. But in the last few years there’ve been great restaurants everywhere. You still definitely have to do your time at Wendy’s, though.
EB: What’s your order at Wendy’s?
WM: I get a #6 — the spicy chicken sandwich. Actually, I think it’s now #7 — I haven’t gotten one in a while. If I’m really hungry and I think really hard about the spicy chicken sandwich I can definitely crave it.
EB: Do you prefer to eat out or cook?
WM: Our house is very hectic, with a 4 and a half-month-old and a 19-month-old, so we don’t cook as much as we used to. My wife likes to cook, though; on the weekend she’ll make a day of cooking.
We do try to eat in about four days a week. I’ll do one or two dinners and she’ll do one or two. And I’ll sort of approximate her very thoughtful dishes — but they get worse and worse the more often I make them.
EB: That’s not how it’s supposed to happen!
WM: Well, when she makes something I really like, I’ll start making it too. The first time I do it, it’s ok. Then I get excited about whatever the distinguishing flavor of the dish is, so I say, “Let’s add a little more…” It’s so hard to resist. But the result is that it goes downhill each time.
EB: Where do you like to eat when you do go out?
WM: When I look at my credit card statement I see, “Mayfield… Mayfield… Mayfield… Barboncino… Barboncino… Barboncino…” We go to those places about once a week, because they’re very kid-friendly and the food is great.
We’re definitely regulars at Mayfield. The whole family orders the exact same thing every single time. I get a burger with bacon and cheese — in my opinion it’s the best burger in Brooklyn, and I’ve had a lot! My wife gets a trout and a kale salad. Our older daughter Louise usually ends up eating the entire trout — which we don’t mind, since it’s really good for her. My wife ends up eating Louise’s fries. The younger one sits and spaces out, drinking her bottle.
EM: How have your eating habits changed since becoming a father?
WM: We used to cook more. I’d say we would cook almost every night, before. We just don’t have the patience or time for the cleanup, or time to sit down and enjoy it anymore. We still eat dinner together, ‘cause the kids go to bed at 7:30. We just quickly feed them and put them to bed.
If we make something nicer, we’ll put the kids to bed so we can sit down and eat it. I’d say we do that, like, twice a week.
We haven’t changed our diet much — in general, Louise eats what we eat. She doesn’t seem to mind spicy, too, which is cool. She’ll say “it’s spicy!” but it doesn’t bother her.
EB: What do you guys normally cook?
WM: My wife cooks a lot of Italian. She has a Franny’s cookbook and has cooked from that a lot over the past 6 months. She also cooks from that Frankies‘ cookbook.
I’ve actually used that cookbook to make really good tomato sauce. It’s just stewed tomatoes and, like, eighteen cloves of garlic and you just cook it all day. I’m pretty good at that one. I make meatballs to go with that. It’s fun to cook meatballs, fry them and make them all oily and crunchy — I like doing that.
EB: How about dessert?
WM: We love ice cream. We use it to bribe Louise sometimes. If we want to stay a little bit longer at a restaurant, we’ll get her really excited about having some ice cream.
EB: Any other favorite New York restaurants?
WB: The old Franny’s on Flatbush — we used to go there all the time and sit at the bar and eat. We’d always go at off hours, when we weren’t that hungry, so we wouldn’t spend huge amounts of money
There were a lot of weird little Italian dishes. It was fun to order things you hadn’t heard of, cause you knew it would be good no matter what. All the crostinis and the pizza were great; I used to get their sausage pizza. That was incredible. We haven’t been to the new Franny’s so much.
EB: Where do you buy food?
WM: We go to the Grand Army Plaza farmers’ market. We used to go to Fairway but now we go to the new Whole Foods cause my studio’s right there. I’m there, like, every day for lunch. I get their sushi and I get their coffee.