The New York Diet

Comedian Sara Benincasa Drinks a Whole Lot of Ginger Ale

Benincasa sips some watermelon lemonade at Bubby's.
Benincasa sips some watermelon lemonade at Bubby’s. Photo: Melissa Hom

As a stand-up comic and late-night-radio host, Sara Benincasa keeps a nocturnal eating schedule. “I generally don’t do breakfast,” she says. “Breakfast is for daywalkers. I eat like a frat-boy stoner.” But she doesn’t drink like one, preferring instead to pound ginger ales. It’s partially the drink’s stomach-soothing properties, and partly a matter of positive association: “My grandma used to feed me ginger ale when I was sick, and I find it deeply comforting.” Benincasa is hosting a sing-along screening of the 1997 movie Spice World at the 92Y Tribeca this Saturday night, where the ginger ale will probably make another appearance. She expects more from her audience, though: “I’m hoping people will arrive already intoxicated and will continue to get wasted once they’re there.” Find out what she had to eat this week in the latest New York Diet.

Friday, June 11
I commenced my nutritional day on Friday at approximately 3 p.m. with ice cream from Sedutto on the Upper East Side. I used to live up there, and now I go up there for two reasons: my eye doctor and ice cream. I got pistachio ice cream, but they also have wine ice cream, which is really peculiar. It’s actual ice cream that’s in some way infused with Pinot Grigio and Shiraz. I tried it once and I didn’t like it, but I admire their courage in selling it.

I followed that up with a hearty nosh of a hot pretzel from a street vendor, and then I had a hot dog. I hang out on the corner of 49th and Sixth, because I host a live radio show every night for three hours, and the office is there on that corner.

Later that night — technically Saturday morning, since it was 2 a.m. — I got a plate of chicken, rice, pita, white sauce, and hot sauce at Tiger Halal, on the corner of 49th and Sixth. I haven’t ventured into the early fifties to [the carts] people are obsessed with, but I like my dudes. They know my eating habits, which are that I generally don’t eat all day and then eat crap at night. So the guy I see the most will see me walking by and give me free falafel because he knows I haven’t eaten all day. It’s delightful.

Saturday, June 12
I was at my boyfriend’s house that morning, and I was sent out to obtain coffee and bagels. I decided I’d get him coffee and bagels, and I’d have Chinese food for brunch. It wasn’t even dim sum, it was straight-up munchies: a rousing brunch of wonton soup and an egg roll from some Chinese joint on Ditmars near 28th.

For dinner, we wandered into a Japanese restaurant in Astoria. I had wonton soup, because they also had a Chinese menu, making two times in one day that I had wonton soup. I had a cucumber-avocado roll with no fish, because fish weirds me out, a salad, and a ton of ginger ale. I was really hitting the ginger ale hard; it was an intense night.

I had a show that night and could’ve gotten free drinks, but I didn’t want alcohol, so instead I went to the Bean and got something called Persian Nectar iced tea. I don’t know where the nectar comes from, or what the nectar is. I mean, I’ve dated Persian guys, and I’ve experienced the Persian nectar, and it definitely didn’t taste like that.

Sunday, June 13
Sunday commenced with a brief brunch at a place in Astoria, Agnanti. We ate so much. We had grilled sausages with oranges squeezed over them, tzatziki, and tons and tons and tons and tons of grilled bread. I don’t know who in Greece or here decided it was time to put bread on the grill, but they’re genius and should be lauded as a hero. There’s nothing like having bread that’s strategically burnt in places. Usually when I have dolmades I get the vegetarian ones, and I usually have them cold — in this case they were warm and I really enjoyed them; they were falling apart on my fork. I pounded some more ginger ale.

For dinner, we ordered Thai takeout. I had mango with sticky rice, which I’m pretty sure is the greatest dessert invented by God or man, and chicken pad Thai.

Monday, June 14
My man-friend went out and got me an everything bagel and tea from a random cart in Astoria. I eat out of carts a lot.

I went home and feasted on Special K with skim milk for lunch. I also had that for dinner. And then I had delicious coffee at work that night.

Tuesday, June 15
I had another Special K; it’s the breakfast of champions. I had a bowl again for lunch.

And then it was time to go to Bubby’s, my favorite place ever. They have a pie called Banoffee, which is bananas, toffee, and whipped cream. I had watermelon lemonade, which is brilliant: It’s salty and sweet, this tart-sweet combo, and they gave me this big hunk of watermelon to go with it. They have great biscuits, so I had biscuits with butter. I had some pulled pork with Texas-style barbecue sauce. I respect mustard and vinegar barbecue sauces, but I am definitely pro–Texas barbecue sauce. They have huge slices of white bread, and it’s home-baked, so kudos to them, but it’s ginormous — you could cover your whole face with it. I ordered greens, thinking, Sure, greens are good for me, but I had literally one forkful. I had coleslaw, too. I was so full I thought I would die.

I went and did my radio show and thankfully I did not die, probably because I drank another assload of ginger ale. I walked by the halal cart and the dude was like, “Where’ve you been, what’s going on?” and I said “I’ve eaten so much pork today,” which was probably a bad thing to say to a guy who runs a halal stand, but I have enough issues with other relationships; I wanted to keep this one pure and honest.

Wednesday, June 16
I went to the café at the 92nd Street Y in Tribeca and got a big bowl of their black bean soup. They had strawberry-mint lemonade — everybody is doing delightful naturally flavored lemonades!

After that, I walked over to Chinatown and stopped at the Golden King Bakery, where I got almond bubble tea, which I love. Some people don’t like the slithery tapioca balls, but I really like the mouth-feel for whatever reason. It probably says something poor about my character. I had a roast pork bun, which is my No. 1 favorite thing to eat in any Chinatown in the world. I stopped at a fruit shop on the corner of Hester and Elizabeth and got a big bag of cherries. I love cherries so much — not Maraschino, that stuff is gross, but straight-up summer cherries are the best.

We get free pretzel sticks at Sirius — it’s one of the job perks — so I ate maybe five pretzel sticks and washed it down with ginger ale and some coffee.

Comedian Sara Benincasa Drinks a Whole Lot of Ginger Ale