B.J. Novak is a successful actor and writer whose credits include The Office and The Mindy Project, but he’s been carefully considering his options outside of the entertainment industry. Novak has a genius restaurant idea, something he says he’s always wanted to do and still fully intends to do.
“It’s my dream,” he says. On the latest episode of L.A. food podcast Air Jordan, Novak even tells host Jordan Okun that he wants to find potential investors and a chef. So here’s the idea—an idea so brilliant that we hope, for the sake of Novak’s future career, doesn’t get ripped off by Hillstone or Bill Chait or Danny Meyer: “It’s a restaurant called Chain,” Novak says. “It’s a chain-themed restaurant.” Chain will be inspired by “TGI Fridays, Chili’s, all the best chains.” It will feature “the red leather booths, the onion blossom, the cheeseburger, all the classic items, the sports-bar TVs, a big laminated menu."
But, and this is where Novak drops the hammer, everything will be “done really well, and there’s only one of them.”
Novak has been thinking deeply about where the one Chain could open, and he says that L.A.’s San Fernando Valley could be ideal. But he also sees possibilities in neighborhoods like New York’s West Village.
“The cool thing about only having one means, zoning-wise, you can put it in one of these chic neighborhoods that are all over L.A. or New York that will not allow a Chili’s or a Fridays and will only allow one-of-a kind restaurants,” he says. “You put Chain there, which is where everyone really just wants to go.”
“This is such a good idea,” Air Jordan co-host David Stassen replies, and we agree.
Novak seems supremely qualified to open this restaurant, given how much he’s thought about the hierarchy of chain restaurants. For one thing, he’s ready to explain why he prefers TGI Fridays over Chili’s.
“Chili’s is a Tex-Mex restaurant officially, right?” he says. “Outback is an Australian restaurant, officially. These are chains, but they have a little spin on the ball. Fridays is a fastball down the middle. Its theme is, ‘We are an American chain restaurant.’”
And compared to Chili’s, Novak says he likes the food better at Fridays.
“I like that [Jack Daniel’s] sauce they have,” he says. “I guess I like sort of sugar and salt more than fat. TGI Fridays does more of the sugar and the salt, and Chili’s is more of the heavy, fatty stuff.”
Air Jordan is a food podcast, so you’ll also get to hear Novak’s thoughts on “shitty pizza” chains (but also one circumstance where Papa John’s wins over Mozza), why he despises Santa Monica despite the fact it has great restaurants like Cassia, and how much he loves Thai restaurant Jitlada and its proprietor Jazz Singsanong. You’ll want to stick around to the end of the podcast when Novak casually reveals how he could change the future of French fries at Chain.
But before we give Novak our 100 percent support of Chain, we have to point out that he’s crazy for saying steak and pasta are overrated on Air Jordan. His personal eating preferences aside, steak and pasta might be the biggest sellers at Chain. The San Fernando Valley, for example, has recently gotten some outstanding restaurants like Mister O’s, but that area of L.A. would flock in droves to a good steakhouse or good Italian restaurant.
There might be an easy solution, though. Chain can follow the lead of many excellent L.A. restaurants and serve Flannery Beef steaks. And Novak should hire a chef who can do a better version of Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Bowl. Look, Nancy Silverton, Casey Lane, Ori Menashe, we know you’re busy and have a lot of restaurants to run, but you could really change lives here.