the grub street diet

Lucy Dacus Believes Vegans Try Harder

“I think those restaurants have something to prove, so they put in extra effort.”

Lucy Dacus and her shellfish. Illustration: Lindsay Mound
Lucy Dacus and her shellfish. Illustration: Lindsay Mound

Last week, indie rocker Lucy Dacus finished her tour with three sold-out shows at Brooklyn Steel in East Williamsburg. Her band was out in support of her third album, Home Video, which our friends at Vulture called her “most personal and powerful work” yet. After an isolating lockdown, Dacus says getting back onstage was a relief. “It sounds corny, but I missed it so much,” she says. “It’s felt like a real victory to return to it and be like, Yeah, this is what I do, and I’m not a fumbling novice — it’s what I know how to do.” 

Monday, October 25
Leftover mashed sweet potato from Loving Hut. Our tour manager, Carly, is vegan, and whenever she’s putting in an order somewhere, I’ll check it out with her. It’s not always easy for her to do, but she tours a lot and knows where to get good food in every city. Vegan food is great a lot of the time because I think those restaurants have something to prove, so they put in extra effort to make sure it tastes good. One of my favorite restaurants is Vedge. It’s a fancy vegan spot in Philly that is out-of-this-world good.

I was a pescatarian for about six years. Why is that an annoying word? Anyway, I was eating fish more sparingly before, but I’m all in now. I stopped a couple of months ago when the tour started up again because I’ve been told since the beginning, by doctors and an EMT, that I should eat meat — for my overall health but also because I had a vocal injury, and there’s something in red meat specifically that is healthy for your vocal cords. It’s really stupid how night-and-day different I feel when I’ve eaten meat because I was without it for six years. I still would be, but I think I have to listen to my bod on that one.

Ate a cookie from a place in D.C. Someone brought them to the show at 9:30 Club, where we played before coming to New York, and I had one left over. I don’t know where they were from. They were just in my purse.

For lunch, I had the Wifey sandwich from Foster Sundry. I’ve come to find that it’s a beloved spot. That was my first experience. My friend Mac got it for me.

I felt like it had all of the aspects of a satisfying sandwich. It was big. The bread was good. The ingredients were quality. I had it around brunch time, and it had egg so it felt like breakfast. But it also had aïoli, whitefish, potatoes, and greens on it, so it felt like lunch. I just felt completely satiated. It had that kind of salty, hearty feeling.

We were playing our first night at Brooklyn Steel. A lot of times, I’ll just eat meals out of what we get from the rider, and I had a few things at the venue, including a seaweed snack, a Verona cookie — those Pepperidge Farm ones with jelly in the middle — and some cheese on bread. Sometimes the cheeses they get are really cool. Sometimes they’ll get Kraft. I think the cheese from that day was some local sheep’s cheese. Along with those snacks, my drummer, Ricardo, had a leftover chicken wing from the restaurant Dokebi, so I ate that, too.

My real meal was pad see ew with fried tofu from Sage. That’s one of my go-to comfort foods. I got it delivered. During COVID, we haven’t been going out at all while on tour, so it’s all been delivery. Generally, I really love going out. When I’m playing, my day’s really segmented, pretty much minute by minute, so there’s this gap between sound check and the show when you have time to eat. If you can squeeze in going to a restaurant, that’s always a fun treat, but I don’t know. I’ve been feeling really shy recently, and this tour was the first time people were lining up around the block to get in. So if I left the venue, people would see me. Sometimes it just feels easier to get delivery.

Tuesday, October 26
For breakfast, I had a banana from the rider and then the Hokkaido bento from Okonomi for a weird 4 p.m. meal, not really lunch or dinner. Oh my God, it was the best thing.

There were scallops and salmon and crab and roe and uni and rice. I want to get it again. It’s cute. It’s in a little box that’s packed to the brim, and it feels like a little package.

That was a recommendation. I have a friend who was living in that neighborhood and then moved to France. I hit her up and asked where to go, and she sent me to Okonomi. But they don’t have seating right now. During the tour, though, we’ve had pretty strict COVID rules, so all my meals have been delivery or takeout.

After the show, we had white pizza. Occasionally, we’ll order pizzas, or our wonderful vegan tour manager will order pizzas while we’re onstage so when we get offstage, there’s pizza. That’s pro-level moves.

I don’t usually eat pizza because I don’t eat tomatoes — a low-acid diet helps my voice — but man, that was good. I don’t know where it was from, but not only was the pizza good, just having midnight postshow pizza feels so good.

Wednesday, October 27
Bagels from Edith’s, mackerel spread. Our bassist, Dom, knows somebody who works there and said to come by. We got a bag of bagels and had a little bagel party on the roof of our Airbnb. We ate them with the band that was opening for us, Bartees Strange — who are incredible, by the way — because we were saying good-bye to them.

Got a banana smoothie from Shop on Metropolitan Avenue. I went to that spot with my dad because his hotel was across the street. He came to the show the night before. He loved it because there were some Aussies working there, and he loves an Australian accent.

I think he just gets a kick out of accents. He’s from Mississippi, so for the first half of his life, he didn’t meet that many people who were different from him. Now he’s traveled more. He comes to a lot of my shows. I get to introduce him to cool people. He’s just got a great attitude about life, and I think he just gets a kick out of interacting with various people’s lives. We had to sit outside because that’s our COVID protocol, and it was very cold but it was cute to have warm beverages and chill out together.

We went our separate ways, and I headed into the city because I was hosting a screening at Metrograph. I couldn’t watch the movies, though, because I couldn’t be in the room. I had chosen both of those movies, and they were The Beaches of Agnès, by Agnès Varda, and Amarcord, by Fellini. I’ve wanted to pair them because they’re both different approaches to a biography in film, and I’m so pissed I didn’t get to watch them.

Our COVID protocol means I can’t actually share a space for that long, so to kill time I went to Wah Fung No. 1. That felt so special because when I was in high school, I would take the Chinatown bus to New York. It was a $20 round trip from Richmond, Virginia. I’d do whatever I was going to do, go to a show or the Met or sleep on a friend’s floor. I’d always eat my first meal at Wah Fung and then again before catching the bus back because it would pick up and drop off nearby. Since I stopped eating meat, though, I had not had that meal, and it felt very nostalgic. It’s $4.75 for a giant, heaping helping of pork.

I was with Carly, and she wanted vegan ice cream. We dropped by Orchard Grocer, this vegan spot not far from Metrograph. It’s funny to eat ice cream in the cold, but it’s also kind of fun.

After, we went to McNally Jackson. I had met two authors last month, Lina Meruane and Horacio Castellanos Moya, and I bought all their books that the store carries. On the front table, I saw a new book from a friend of a friend, Melissa Lozada-Oliva, that was released that same day. I thought, This is so cool. I’ve been enjoying it.

My friend brought spanakopita and a fava-bean dip from Kiki’s to the theater, and we ate outside on the sidewalk. I could tell it was good food, especially the dip, but it had been sitting so it kind of hardened. I have it on my to-do list to go back there.

Thursday, October 28
Got an avocado-and-egg sandwich to go from Egg Shop. I went there with my manager and then walked around McCarren Park. We were just eating and walking and talking. We were having a meeting, basically, but it didn’t feel like that.

Later I had a fish burrito from Dobeki. It was good, but it was small and I was so hungry after. It was half the size of a burrito. When I get a burrito, I want a full meal. I want my stomach to feel fully to the brim. Luckily, somebody else donated one of their pastor tacos from some other restaurant because I had said I was still hungry.

That night, we played our third and final show at Brooklyn Steel. When we got offstage, the venue had bought us three bottles of Champagne, one for each show, and a box of macarons and some really pretty flowers. It was just such a sweet, generous gesture.

It gave us a chance for the whole band to “cheers” each other. We had brought this plastic folding table and a bunch of lawn tables on tour, and we’d just set up next to the bus on the sidewalk or street. We did that and drank Champagne and ate the macarons together. It was a really sweet moment.

Friday, October 29
We had to head back to D.C. overnight, and I was up until 4:30 so I felt like shit in the morning. The lack of sleep was the real problem. I didn’t get too fucked up on the Champagne, but staying up until 4:30 is just brutal, especially when you have to sleep in a little bunk that’s going on bumpy roads all night. It’s not good news. Everyone else was getting food. I was like, “Just get me something.” So they got me an egg sandwich. I don’t remember having feelings about it, but it did revive me.

Ethiopian scraps. Other people went and got Ethiopian food. They all got super-full because each of them got a veggie combo, but none of them liked the cabbage. That’s my favorite thing, so I just cleaned up everybody’s cabbage, carrots, and injera.

I was so confused about other people not liking the cabbage, but I wasn’t going to question it because it was to my benefit. It seems like a lame thing to like, but I feel like it’s versatile. It can be crunchy. It can be not. It can be tender. It can be cold. It can be warm. It takes on flavor pretty well. It can kind of thicken up other things. I feel like it’s good. In soups, it’s good. In sandwiches, it’s good. I just had a pasta dish last night with cabbage in it that was amazing. You can kind of cook it like onions, and it sort of has a similar thing going on. Yeah, I think cabbage is underrated.

For dinner, I got Sushi Keiko delivered. Unagi and toro are probably my favorite two things to eat sushi-wise. Unagi is so hearty and sweet, and, if you want to eat it slowly, it’s always cooked. If I get a bunch of stuff, I know I can keep that in the fridge for a day if I need to.

I’m not a cook. I sort of wish I was, but I don’t wish it so much that I’ve actually put effort into being one. Growing up, I would eat the same five meals with my family. We’d have Hamburger Helper. We’d have pork loin. We’d have chicken breasts. And we’d have canned green beans. Simple-palate types of things. I only started eating good food when I went to college, and only recently have I committed to the fact that food makes me so happy.

I sort of have this complex where whenever I spend money, I feel guilt, so I don’t shop. I’m critical, and I wonder, Am I being wasteful? Am I being selfish? Am I not prioritizing someone else this money could have gone to? I have all this internal dialogue — but not with food, and that’s such a gift because you have to eat every day. To have a good relationship with it and to enjoy it is really special. It’s not always been that easy. I had complicated feelings about food when I was younger. I would just smell a dessert instead of eating it, just body-image type of stuff. I’m past that, and it does feel really good.

I do have a funny memory of when I was really young, like 8 years old, going to the grocery store near my house in rural, suburban Virginia, and seeing the sushi counter and being like, “What is that?” And my parents responding, “Oh, that’s gross. Don’t worry about it.” I was like, “I want it.” One, I loved it. Two, I loved having taste that wasn’t my parents’. It was an identity-building exercise to seek something out, engage with it, and like something that wasn’t handed down to me. I still really love sushi, and it’s one of the foods that makes me feel the best physically.

We played the last show of the entire tour that night. Maybe through this, you’ve realized that I tend to like luxe food. Maybe you didn’t. Maybe everyone loves luxe food. But our soundperson, Emily, she doesn’t. Her requests on the rider were Oreos, Red Bull, and Pop-Tarts. That’s what she lived on. People say Red Bull is an acquired taste. I’m like, Why would you try to acquire that?

When I saw a Pop-Tart on the bus, I said, “I’m going to eat a fucking Pop-Tart,” and it was awesome. I wasn’t allowed to have them as a kid, and I would eat them when I went to sleepovers at friends’ houses the next morning and feel like I was getting away with something. I don’t usually buy them, though. I feel like maybe I remember really liking the blueberry flavor. I’m not into the cinnamon flavor.

I have a band full of snobs. The guys really like pét-nats and orange wine and skin-contact wines. I’ll take a sip of stuff if it’s really good. Everyone’s a little bit older now; no one’s really trying to get fucked up. We’re kind of past the rock-band antics. We’re not trashing hotel rooms. We’re getting in our pajamas and splitting a bottle of wine. It’s really fun to be in our snob era together.

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