Channel Guide interviews Mikey Roe of Travel Channel’s Feed The Beast

Lori Acken

Feed the Beast star Mikey Roe is the Adam Richman of the late-night crowd — and he’s perfectly cool with you saying so. The affable, grungy-cool Roe credits his Travel Channel colleague for opening the door for regular guys like him to bring his passion for food (and a grand old time) to TV.

“When Man vs. Food came out, that really helped pave the way for a guy like me, who’s not a chef — but I cook four nights a week for myself, I love food and have always been into it, and I know great places,” says Roe. “People look at me and go, ‘I want to go have a beer where that guy is having one, and I want to go eat that.’”

But unlike Richman’s family-friendly itineraries, if you want to eat where Roe eats, you’re going to have to share his passion for staying up late. Real late. Because Feed the Beast is all about Roe’s quest to find the best eats to be had into the wee hours of the morning in cities like Austin, New York, Seattle and San Francisco.

That’s not just because Roe’s a young guy who likes to party. He says his penchant for dining is downright genetic.

“My family was kind of like the Griswolds when it came to family vacations — or I was a wrestler, so wrestling tournaments, too,” Roe explains. “We would jump in our big van and drive cross country to Grandma’s house or skiing or Disney World or wrestling tournaments. A lot of times, we would drive through the night and with three boys in the family, the kids got hungry, so we would stop at places throughout the drive. My parents didn’t want to run through drive-throughs, didn’t want a burger in a bag, so we’d always find a sit-down place that was still open. Because that was always important to my family, that we’d sit down for dinner.”

As Roe grew older, his grandma, an early riser who lived with his family for months at a time, wouldn’t yell at her grandson for coming in late with his friends — she’d cheerfully heat up the stove. “We would come home and she’d be happy as hell to make whatever — and she was a great cook. So we would sit down and Grandma would make us biscuits and gravy and eggs, or a milkshake, or whatever it was we wanted. She was always down to make stuff, because she got to spend time with us and we’d chat it up with her and we always loved her food.”

And after Roe moved out, heading to Arizona State University and then Santa Barbara to pursue an entertainment career, he brought his knack for finding inspired late-night eats with him — securing the role of after-hours nosh finder for his friends. Eventually, as he observed the rise of food television and Richman’s success with Man vs. Food, Roe realized he might be just the guy to make a show for a hungry population not served by other series.

“I was amazed that there was not a show on about late-night food, because it’s such a big thing for so many people,” Roe says. So when he found himself talking with some reality-TV producers, he pitched them his idea, got a good response and headed to his Dallas hometown to shoot a sizzle reel, hoping Travel Channel might take a look.

The result is Feed the Beast — named for Roe’s favorite post-party battle cry — which premieres with back-to-back episodes tonight at 9pm and 9:30pm ET/PT, which gives his fellow night owls plenty of time to tune in before heading out for to live (and eat) it up.

In the show’s first six-episode season, Roe and his crew travel to New York, Austin, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles in search of the best food and the best time to be had after midnight. Which means that sometimes he is called upon to have a quantity of colorful beverages that might make other food TV hosts blanch. And sometimes his fellow revelers — and even his hosts — are inclined to ignore the rules of personal space. Or proper attire. Or when to use your inside voice.

“We really wanted to show these places on nights when people are out — so we tried to hit them on Thursday nights, Friday nights, Saturday nights,” Roe says. “The social scene is very important to me, too — you want not only good food, but you want a good time. Somewhere people are finishing their night strong and different things are happening and the night’s not over when the bars close or the concert gets out or the club shuts down or you just got off work.”

And above all things, Roe wants people to embrace the idea that there’s more to late-night dining than a run to the taco-joint drive through or watery eggs and white toast at the 24/7 diner chain.

“I don’t want you to just go to a place because it’s open,” Roe says. “I want you to go someplace because it has good food and a good time. Even if people are living in that city, there are still some places that they might not even know about. So it was a cool thing to do to try to uncover some spots that people had no idea about. … And if you’re going to a new city, don’t just go somewhere near your hotel. Learn about it all you can and see everything that you can and enjoy the travel aspect of eating.”

Roe says he also hopes Feed the Beast will inspire people who left the bar scene behind long ago to rethink their regular dinner reservations.

“I think it opens the door for people to get out a little bit more and stay out a little bit later — and that’s for everybody, for all walks of life,” Roe explains. “I’m from a big movie family — they love movies and love going to movies. Instead of going to dinner and a movie, I like going to a movie and dinner, because I like sitting down and talking about the movie with whomever I went with. It doesn’t matter what age you are. If you’re going to a late movie, go to one of these places after and have some good food and talk about your movie. It doesn’t mean that you’re out somewhere partying.”

Roe says that learning to love late-night dining can also lead to discovering new facets of the joints you love during normal business hours — especially if you never realized they had a post-midnight alter ego in the first place.

Biscuit Bitch in Seattle is a perfect example,” Roe says. “It’s Caffé Lieto during the day — and you may go there every day to get your coffee and not realize that that’s what it turns into at night. At night, it’s a totally different vibe and it’s a blast. They open at 10pm and they don’t shut down until they run out of biscuits, whether it’s one o’clock or three o’clock in the morning. The people that own it, Kimmie Spice and her daughter, work there as well and they just have a good time. That was probably one of my favorite stops on the whole trip. They were fun people, it was a cool crowd and biscuits and gravy is my number one go-to for late-night food. It was like walking into heaven there.”

Even Roe’s longtime favorite haunts had new experiences in store for him when he returned with the Feed the Beast cameras in tow. For example, San Francisco’s Yuet Lee, where owner Sam Yu decided to surprise his regular patron.

“He just told me he was going to make me something special and I’d have to guess what it is,” Roe recalls. “I don’t know if it’s all going to be portrayed in the episode, but it was really funny. When I can’t guess what it is, he says to me — and he has a very strong Mandarin accent — he says, “Fox!” I go, “Fox?!” I turned totally white and looked up at my director and said, “Man, fox! I don’t know about this! I’m a little thrown off about fox!”

To find out the more palatable product Yu really fed Roe, tune into Feed the Beast’s San Francisco outing tonight at 9pm.

Then, Roe says, go out and find a late-night food adventure of your own, using reliable consumer driven web sites like Yelp — or better yet, the after-hours experts that are at your disposal at every local watering hole.

“People always ask me, ‘Well, where should I go and how do I find these places?’” says Roe. “And I tell them that the No. 1 best source is to ask a bartender about where to eat late-night. A lot of times when they done, they don’t want to eat at their own restaurant because they work and they eat there all the time and they’re tired of it. So ask the bartenders where they go eat when they get off work.”

Feed the Beast premieres March 6 at 9pm ET/PT on Travel Channel.

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About Lori Acken 1195 Articles
Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.