The Grub Street Diet

Comedian Wyatt Cenac Drinks Mint Juleps, Is Sorry He Doesn’t Eat More Vegetables

Cenac, at Rye in Williamsburg, drinking his mint julep.
Cenac, at Rye in Williamsburg, drinking his mint julep. Photo: Melissa Hom

“To anybody who’s reading this, let me apologize beforehand,” says The Daily Show’s Wyatt Cenac, whose one-hour stand-up special, Wyatt Cenac: Comedy Person, premieres tomorrow night on Comedy Central. “I don’t eat a lot of vegetables. I grew up not eating them. I’d like to say that it was for religious reasons, but it’s just one of those things.” And yet, when we spoke with him this week, he assured us, he’s working on it: “As we go through this, anyone who is reading will probably be like, Ugh, this guy eats horribly. I know that. I’m trying. Please be patient.” He says he knows there will still be people who “will write sarcastic comments afterward,” but he’s okay with that: “I’m sure some of them have had cookies for dinner, too.” To read all about it (and to, of course, offer your comments below), check out this week’s New York Diet.

Friday, May 6
Before we start, I have to backtrack a little bit. On Thursday, my friend Chris called me up and said, “Hey, do you want to go see Thor?” So I did that. I will never trust Chris again. It was a midnight screening, so it got out around two. There’s this restaurant near the theater called Sidecar. They serve food until 4 a.m. It’s pubby food, but it’s good pub food.

Normally I get a fried-chicken dinner there, with kale and root mash, whatever the hell root mash is. It just looks like mashed potatoes with orange chunks in it. I’ve gotten that a bunch because it’s really good, but the last time I was eating the fried chicken, this guy walked up to me and said, “Way to live up to the stereotype.” And then he was like, “It’s okay, I can say it. I’m Indian.” To which my response was, “It’s still racist.” He tried to make it okay and to explain it away, and it still didn’t take the racism away from it. And at some point he shared that he’s a med student, to which it seemed, like, well, way to live up to the stereotype.

But, I say all that to say that this night, when I got to Sidecar, I thought of getting the fried chicken, but because of that asshole, I got self-conscious, and I ordered a burger with bacon and blue cheese. And I had a mint julep, because it was the Derby the next day, but also, as my uncle said, it’s always the Kentucky Derby somewhere. So that was at two in the morning. Around 2:30 a.m.

The next morning I was still feeling the burger. It stayed with me, so I skipped breakfast.

Lunch was at work at The Daily Show. Normally we have a catered lunch, where our caterers find every single way to make tilapia horrible. You might say, “How can you do that? Tilapia is already horrible.” But they find a way. Why not make wasabi tilapia? Sure! Those are two things that don’t make sense together. But really, nothing makes sense with the cockroach of the sea. But on Fridays we’re on our own. So I ordered from Lenny’s: a grilled-cheese sandwich with capicola and Sun Chips. And water, because I can’t drink a mint julep in the office.

For dinner, my friends Chelsea and Nehal invited me to join them and their friends at Peking Duck House in Chinatown. I went there at ten, and that was really good. You may have noticed, there are no vegetables at this point. The trend continues. We had the duck, we had General Tso’s chicken, ginger-garlic shrimp, and the pork dumplings. There was some sort of green brought to the table. I didn’t take them because I was jamming my chow-hole full of duck. And it was delicious.

After that, we tried to go grab a drink. We went to Lani Kai. It was a lot of rum drinks. I don’t drink rum that much, which does my West Indian ancestors shame. I tend to drink whiskey. So I ordered one of their drinks, and thankfully the waitress, this woman Naomi, was very nice. When she saw I did not like my drink, they made me a whiskey-ginger-ale, which is my normal drink. And a little later I got them to make me a mint julep, and they made a great fucking mint julep. So, if you go to Lani Kai, get Naomi to take care of you.

Saturday, May 7
Slept in. When I woke up, breakfast seemed like a far-off place. It was just late enough that it’d be lunchtime soon, so I skipped breakfast. I know, commenters, you’ll take issue with that.

Lunchtime hit, and I made food. Here’s where it gets boring. I baked chicken and made some pasta and put a little bit of spinach in there — I get points for that.

Saturday was the Kentucky Derby, and even though I had a mint julep before, I didn’t watch the Derby. Instead I watched the Manny Pacquiao fight with my friends, Donwill, Che Grand, and Danny Glover. He’s not the guy from Lethal Weapon, but he is a firefighter, who is also an actor, who is also a black guy named Danny Glover. I could just say “my friend Danny,” but it’s way more fun to say, Oh, my friend Danny Glover is calling me, so people are like “Danny Glover the actor?” No, Danny Glover the firefighter.

I decided to make food, so I made lamb burgers with Kettle Chips and a poor man’s mint julep: You make sweet mint tea and then you put bourbon in it. They used to make a mint-infused Maker’s Mark, called Maker’s Mark Mint Julep, which is just liquid candy. But they’ve stopped making it for some reason. I’ve been hoarding bottles of it and hoping that maybe they’ll change their minds.

Sunday, May 8
Got up around nine, had breakfast at nine-thirty. Oatmeal and an apple. I generally eat oatmeal for breakfast, so that was my go-to.

I don’t drink coffee. I just never got into it, which is tough. I see people who go through that little afternoon dip in energy, and I do that, too. But I don’t have coffee. I’ve tried it. But I’m so not used to the taste that it just makes nauseous. I’m then awake, but it’s just because I’m nauseous.

Lunch hit around 12:30 p.m. or so. Leftovers time. I had the pasta with the chicken, again. I made a lot of it. It may even come back into play a little bit later. I told you it was going to get boring here for a minute.

I wound up meeting a friend who was going to look at an apartment in Dumbo, and she got lunch at Vinegar Hill House. I didn’t eat. I had a whiskey-ginger-ale and watched her eat. She had scrambled eggs with ramps. I don’t even know what a ramp is.

Dinnertime was late, around ten. Another repeat: lamb burger with more Kettle Chips. I made a lot of lamb burgers. The weekends are my opportunity to make something and put it away, then during the week I can get to it. When I’m working, and work gets out, I’ll go grab dinner. But during the weekend, I like to hide in my apartment and catch up on all the TV I missed.

Monday, May 9
I try to eat oatmeal every day. It’s just become a Pavlovian thing. That’s just how the day starts: oatmeal. I guess how some people do coffee. Normally we have oatmeal in the office, but there are only a couple flavors I like, which are the maple-brown-sugar, or the cinnamon-spice. Or also cinnamon roll, but it’s just cinnamon-spice with brown sugar or something. Our interns usually get the breakfast stuff, and the most upset I will get in a day is if there’s no oatmeal. What they’ll do is buy the variety packs, which have like two maple-and-brown-sugars in there. And then there’s, like, banana-nut. Or raisins-and-garbage. They buy a lot of the fruit-and-cream ones. Nobody in this office eats the fruit-and-cream oatmeal, but they keep buying it. And if there’s no oatmeal, I’m sad. So on this morning, at 8:30 a.m., there was no oatmeal. It’s my own fault. I should just buy my own box of oatmeal and bring it work. But we have mice. So I had a bagel with butter … meh.

After that, we had to shoot an interview in Greenwich, Connecticut. We hit the road to go interview a guy, so we were in an office park, in this guy’s office. And we got sandwiches from the office-park cafeteria. The sandwich I had was a honey-turkey panino. There was spinach in that, and I remember thinking, Ha-ha! The person who’s going to take umbrage at my lack of vegetables might appreciate this. But probably not.

After this, my producer Tim and I decided to get dinner. Our offices are at 52nd and Eleventh. We’re sort of in between horse stables and a Subway sandwich stop. And now is the lovely time of year, since winter is over, when you can smell the horse shit again. And as long as I’d been here it smelled like horse shit all the time. But then the Subway opened and it’s like, Oh, they bake their own bread. But it’s the worst-smelling baked bread ever. Now when you go outside it smells like bad bread and horse shit, so it does smell like a shit sandwich. So it’s like, how can you keep an appetite? But we find a way.

There are a few restaurants if you go further east. And last year there was this ramen place that opened on 52nd called Totto that’s really, really good. I’d never been a ramen fan; I’d only knew the packs that you could get eight-for-a-dollar in college, but one day Tim took me there to get ramen, and I was blown away. Now I probably eat ramen once a week. And there was a good stretch where every week we could get into Totto, but then some asshole — probably New York Magazine — wrote an article about how good Totto is, and it’s a fucking shitshow now. So thanks a lot, New York Magazine. The wait is now good if it’s an hour. And every day when I leave work, I’ll walk past Totto. So whether I’m hungry or not, if the line’s not bad I’ll try to take advantage of that. And then I eat it and hope that I can store it someplace else in my stomach for when I’m ready for it.

So for dinner that night, Tim’s wife mentioned that another ramen place opened up in the area, called Terakawa. So we figured we’d give that a try, because it could be a nice backup if Totto’s crazy. I had the Terakawa ramen with pork dumplings. And … if Totto’s packed, I’ll find ramen elsewhere. It kind of left me with a stomachache. So normally Totto or Momofuku Noodle Bar. I’ve still never been to Ippudo, but I’ve heard that, like Totto, you have to be the child of nobles to get in.

Tuesday, May 10
Breakfast was oatmeal. Back in the office. They had it. So I did.

Lunchtime came, and so we have catered lunch. And the catered lunch was chicken cacciatore, but I think it was really tilapia cacciatore. And I didn’t do it. Sometimes there’s good stuff, but it’s a lot of tilapia.

Over the weekend, I was supposed to meet up with a friend to get roti from a place called Gloria’s in Crown Heights. When I was a kid, my grandmother lived not too far from there, and my stepfather would always get us rotis from there. I still kind of had that stuck in my head, and so I went to this place Jamacian Dutchy on 51st and Seventh Avenue. It’s just a Jamaican food truck. I snuck out of the office, because I figured nobody would notice and it was a nice day. So don’t tell anyone. I grabbed a jerk chicken over white rice and got one for my co-worker as well. And I had a beef patty. I wanted a Sorrell, but they didn’t have it.

That evening I had to duck out early for a meeting at 6:30 p.m. at McSorley’s Ale House. Had a couple of beers there — one of those fancy Hollywood meetings where you go to an Irish pub and knock back a couple beers. I’d never been there. It’s interesting because they only give you two choices: light beer or dark beer. And the lighter beer looks a lot like the darker beer.

Two of my co-workers had a reservation to go to Momofuku for the fried chicken. I was still feeling a bit insecure about the racist dude. I thought, I would like to do that, but I don’t want the racist dude to feel somehow vindicated. But I was debating whether or not I’d stick around, because I eat at the Noodle Bar and Ssäm Bar quite a lot and I really like their food. But the reservation was at ten, and at some point I got too hungry, so I skipped out on the dinner, which they said was really good. Instead I went home, and had the rest of the chicken and pasta. And finished it. So that’s done, if you were worried about the chicken and pasta.

Wednesday, May 11
Breakfast was oatmeal. Maple and brown sugar, the way God intended it.

For lunch, the caterers did arroz con pollo. It wasn’t really arroz con pollo. Well, if you’re just going on the translation of, yeah, rice and chicken, that’s what it was. It was good, I mean, it was exactly that. I eat a lot of rice with chicken or turkey or whatever. I basically have the diet of a Labrador — a lot of lamb and rice. And two little mini chocolate-chip cookies.

For dinner, I should go back to Sidecar and eat the fried chicken, just to spite the racist dude — he’s not gonna win. Although I might walk by Totto. I’ve got options here.

Comedian Wyatt Cenac Drinks Mint Juleps, Is Sorry He Doesn’t Eat More