The New York Diet

After Months Eating Cross-country in Caves, Photographer Ryan McGinley Dives Into New York Food

Photographer Ryan McGinley loves the Mexican food from Downtown Bakery.
Photographer Ryan McGinley loves the Mexican food from Downtown Bakery. Photo: Melissa Hom

If you read New York’s article “Warhol’s Children,” about Ryan McGinley’s escapades with his longtime friend the late Dash Snow, you know his photography captures the young, pretty things he keeps around. So it’s no surprise that the youngest artist to have a solo show at the Whitney (in 2003) has been courted by fashion designers. Currently, McGinley is collaborating with Stella McCartney (“a cool chick”) on her new line for Gap Kids; in two weeks, he heads to the Scottish countryside to shoot Tilda Swinton for Pringle of Scotland; and Marc Jacobs has even put his baby face in front of the camera. The campaigns haven’t interrupted personal projects, however. After spending the last two months shooting attractive people in caves throughout North America for a fall show, McGinley is back to hanging out with Michael Stipe, hosting a weekly gay party at BEast, and digging in to his New York Diet.

Saturday, August 1
I woke up at 9 a.m. and had a bowl of Kashi 7 Whole Grain Flakes with Almond Dream Almond Milk and a cup of “Get Charged” Herbal Tea for Energy by Republic of Tea.

I went and did yoga at Yoga High in the Lower East Side on Clinton Street and took a car service to my lab at Pochron Studios in Red Hook to look at photographs from the summer’s Cave Journey with my printer Donnie.

At 4 p.m. I had lunch in Red Hook at this place called Hope & Anchor. It’s really hard to find good food in Red Hook, so whenever I go out to my lab I always get food from there.

I had a Caesar salad, fish tacos with chipotle mayo, and plantain chips, and I shared the fish tacos with a dog named Goose, a pig named Emmit, and a cat named Noodles. They all live in the lab. The AC was broken at the lab and it was like a sauna in there, so I had a six-pack of Coronas with two limes. I shared it with Donnie and Julie Pochron and everyone who was working there, since we were baking [from the heat].

For dinner, at 8 p.m. I had cupcakes from Babycakes at Michael Stipe’s new apartment. It was a pre-housewarming, pre-curtains-on-the-windows party; he hadn’t been in town for three months. We drank coconut water and vodka. Michael’s friends’ kids were there, so I was playing with all the little kids and this little girl’s mom came up and we started talking and it was Jane Pratt, and that was really cool. I fanned out so hard. Growing up, I was really into Sassy and the boy’s version, Dirt. It was exciting to meet her. She definitely changed the face of magazines forever.

That was sort of dinner-ish. Then I went to an empty-loft party around the corner from my apartment on Eldridge and Canal. They were playing disco, and it was jam-packed, with everyone sweating and dancing. I went up to the roof to cool off, and it was full of people partying. I hung out and got home and realized I had silver roofing tar all over my ass and I was really bummed out about that.

Really late-night, around 3 a.m., I ordered Lil’ Frankies and just ate it in bed. I had the Lil’ Frankies Salad, which is arugula, roasted beets, tomatoes, green beans, new potatoes, broccoli, red onions, zucchini, and fresh fennel. Then I ordered ravioli with spinach and ricotta, and the Nutella Focaccino with strawberries; it’s a dessert they have.

Sunday, August 2
Sunday, I had brunch at Brown Café: granola with yogurt and fresh fruits, and baked eggs with roasted tomatoes, asparagus, and Manchego.

I had a really big wrap dinner for all of my models, interns, assistants from my trip. We started out at my studio and I made zines for everyone with outtakes from the past eight weeks and everyone signed each other’s. We did shots of Patrón around the kitchen table and drank Coronas and then we headed to BEast for a private dinner. I had to make him a long list beforehand of who was a meat eater, vegetarian, and vegan.

We had a Greenmarket salad, an heirloom tomato salad, and pan-sautéed diver scallops with smoked bacon, peas, and garlic broth. Then for an entrée I had wild salmon with sweet-corn purée and baby leeks. For dessert: a peach-and-blackberry cobbler. And then we just danced all night.

Monday, August 3
Monday, I had a fried-egg-and-cheese sandwich from Cup & Saucer, which is, like, right outside my window. They always give me free glazed doughnuts with sprinkles in the bag whenever I get stuff, because when Juergen Teller shot my Marc Jacobs ad, one of them was in Vogue — it was the one where I was in my bathtub and you can see Cup & Saucer in the background. They were really excited. I never eat them, but I’m kind of fascinated by them. I just put them in my refrigerator because they’re so beautiful, with pink icing and sprinkles. I eventually throw them out, but they stick around for a while. No coffee, I don’t have any caffeine in my diet.

I had a conference call in my studio with Tilda Swinton, Pringle of Scotland, and my agent, Shea Spencer, about a collaborative film between me and Tilda. We’re shooting it in two weeks. I had a Caesar salad from Whole Foods while I was on the call; I was pressing the mute button every time I chewed the lettuce.

Dinner, I met my gallerist Jose Freire; he’s the owner of Team Gallery on Grand Street. We walked over to Mezzogiorno. On the way I had to pass the Dash Snow Memorial show at Deitch, which was really hard for me to do because Dash was one of my close friends. There is a big tag of his across the entire face of the gallery, and that just brought me to tears. I knew they were doing it, but I didn’t remember; I wasn’t thinking that I was going to pass it. I just haven’t had enough willpower to go in yet, but It comes down on August 15, so I know I have to go before then.

We went to Mezzogiorno and I had the Mezzogiorno salad, which is arugula, artichokes, celery, mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese, then the pan-seared swordfish with fresh garlic, parsley, and red-pepper flakes. We just sat there and I told him stories from the road and the caves and we talked about the upcoming exhibition at Alison Jacques Gallery in London.

We got a quick check and zoomed up in a taxi to Imax Lincoln Center to see Harry Potter in 3-D. We were thinking we weren’t going to get good seats, and got there an hour early, and then there were only like twenty people in the theater. We got a large popcorn and ate the entire thing before the movie even started. I also got Milk Duds and we had Diet Cokes. It was one of those package deals. The movie was so boring. It was terrible. [Only] the first twenty minutes were in 3-D; I feel like they were going to make the whole movie in 3-D and they just cut their budget or something. It wasn’t a good Harry Potter. After that, I went home. The popcorn and the Milk Duds were enough.

Tuesday, August 4
Yoga at Yoga High again, on an empty stomach, which you’re not supposed to do, but whatever.

Then I went to Village Yogurt for breakfast on Sixth Avenue between 14th and 15th. It’s cool; it’s like mom-and-pop dining. They have a big window that looks out onto Sixth Avenue. When you eat, you kind of feel like you’re in a fish tank. There’s lots of people coming off the subways; it’s a strange group of people to watch. They have super-healthy, great food, and the nicest Korean owner. I had a large green juice, an “Everything Super Fantasy” with a steamed veggie dumpling, brown rice, and a salad, and a peanut-butter cookie. I just sat and stared out the window at this really big ad of one my best friends, Brennan’s, face with mud all over it. It’s an ad I shot for Levi’s maybe four or five months ago. Then I counted thirteen ads on my bike ride home.

For dinner I went to Takahashi and had sushi with my friend Stephane, who’s Stella McCartney’s right-hand man. And we just talked about our next collaboration.We had blackened tuna, the Tower of Power, sake Jala Maki, spicy tuna tartare, and hamachi jalapeño.

We left and went to see Brüno at 12th and Second, and before we went we stopped at Liqueteria. I got a Royal Flush, which is pineapple, pear, ginger, and aloe vera, and an organic oatmeal cookie. I drank and ate those during the movie, which, oh my God, is amazing. He’s so crazy; that guy is pushing comedy to far new levels. He’s basically an artist. So many people told me they hated that movie and I just thought it was so funny. I just imagine people outside of metropolitan cities watching it.

Then, I got home and had a bunch of work to do late-night. I’m on deadline: I have a new book coming out called Moonmilk, with all my new cave work. So I called the publisher in London as he was just getting up and we talked about layouts, dedication pages, and dust jackets. I ended up going to Blue Ribbon on Sullivan Street around 3 a.m. I’ve been going since I was a teenager. It’s definitely my favorite late-night spot. I just went alone to eat and hang out and had a warm goat-cheese salad and a dozen oysters.

Wednesday, August 5
I woke up pretty late because I was up so late the night before, and I ordered La Esquina delivery around noon. I ordered tortilla soup with chicken, tomato broth, avocado, and tortilla strips, and I had three avocado tacos topped with queso fresco, black bean, pico de gallo, salsa verde.

After that, I walked over to Babycakes and got a gluten-free vanilla cupcake. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t like that place. It’s just amazing, and pretty close to my house.

Then, I ate a late lunch at Downtown Bakery in the East Village. I got takeout and rode my bike over to the steps of the park on Houston between Chrystie and Forsyth. I just people-watched while I ate on the steps. I would say Downtown Bakery is one of my favorite places to eat in New York. It’s the best authentic Mexican south of 14th Street, and so cheap. I have to ride my bike there from Chinatown, but it’s worth it. You know how people from Cali are like “You don’t know what real Mexican is … “? The family holds it down, and it has kind of a mom-and-pop feel. I got rice and beans with guacamole, two chicken tostadas, and a guyava stick for dessert, like a pastry.

For dinner, I went to Bacaro . I met Amy Kellner from Vice magazine and she brought proofs of the next cover. It’s a photo of Dash Snow and a eulogy spread I wrote. I used a photo of him taken at Key Foods on Avenue A in the East Village from 2001, and I’m really happy about it. The first cover that I ever shot was of him for Vice, so we really have a history. Dash had been on two previous covers over eight years, and this is his third.

Amy and I shared the food: asparagus with baked egg, spicy fried meatballs, snails with garlic and parsley. For an entrée, I had pork shank over polenta. I just had sparkling water to drink.

Thursday, August 6
I didn’t have any dessert last night. I’m preparing myself because today I start my five-day fast from Organic Avenue. Everyone uses it to fast. I started hearing about it this year and I would see people with these bottles. I’ve done the Master Cleanse six years in a row. It’s always really difficult for me and I was sort of bored with it, so this year I started Organic Avenue, and I’m really into it because it’s really easy. This is my third time doing it this year.

I just came back from two months on the road eating like Taco Bell and Subway and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches in caves all day long, and I feel like I need to clean the pipes. But I wanted to wait until I got back to New York, and eat really nice for a week before I did it. I got the LOVEdeep fast, just juices.Today I start with a shot of wheatgrass, then a fresh-squeezed orange juice, then an all-greens juice, a cucumber-basil soup for dinner, and coconut water before bed. They prepare everything for you in the morning and you can either pick it up or get it delivered.

Tonight, I’ll be hosting my weekly party, “Main Man,” at BEast. The artist Terence Koh and designers Patrick Ervell and Jack McCollough are regulars. I do it with Greg K from Misshapes. We started it about a half a year ago and thought there was a need for a really good gay party. We play rock and roll, Belle and Sebastian, Rolling Stones. Not your stereotypical gay club. It’s free and anybody can come; there’s not any list. I just wanted to have a party for anybody. I’m pretty much there every week, except when I’m traveling. They serve a healthy dinner before, but I won’t be eating.

You’re not supposed to be drinking, but BEast is a really organic place as well, so sometimes I’ll just tell myself, “Oh, it’s organic vodka!” But tonight, I probably won’t. In the past, I’ve slipped up a few times.

After Months Eating Cross-country in Caves, Photographer Ryan McGinley Dives