Archive for June 2006

Kati Roll

Oh Indian Burrito!  Where have you been all my life???  I don’t really know if the owners of Kati Roll would refer to what they sell as an “Indian Burrito”, but as far as I’m concerned, if the shoe fits…

It’s Indian food.  It’s a burrito.  Indian Burrito.  Done.  Sure, there’s no rice, no beans, and instead of a tortilla, it’s a piece of fresh paratha (Indian flat bread).  But it is rolled up, and it is eaten with your hands.  Indian Burrito.  Indian Soft Taco is also accepted.

Very rarely do I find a place that serves something I’ve *never* eaten or seen before… so Kati Roll was definetely one of my more exciting finds when looking for places to eat near work.  Sure, I’ve had tons of Indian food before, but never in such a convenient, made for New York lunch kind of way. 

The menu has ten options, or fillings for your fresh made piece of paratha.  The fillings are Aloo Masala (spicy potato), Achari Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese in spicy pickle), Chicken Tikka, Beef Tikka, Shami Kabab (Spiced mutton mince kebab), or any one of those fillings mixed with Unda (spiced Indian Egg omelette).  Or you can just get the Spicy Egg Omelette by itself.

You can order one roll for $3 to $6 (depending on the filling), or two for slightly less (they give you a discount when you order two of the same roll).  I’ve had the Chicken Tikka which is fantastic.  The chicken is really good, and covered in red onions with a slight lemon flavor.  Really, really good.  I’ve also had the spicy potato- which is really spicy… but also delicious, if you like potatoes.  Very similar flavor to a samosa, just without the fried stuff around the outside.  The paratha is grilled fresh on a gigantic skillet in the back, so it is really really good (albeit pretty greasy).

There are a few tips to make your visit a little bit easier… so check out the +/- after the jump Read more »

Variety Cafe

Riding down the elevator yesterday on my way to lunch, I heard a very funny and ironic (considering where I was headed) conversation. One guy asked another guy where he was going to lunch… and when he responded “Downstairs for a salad”, the question asker was like “Nice, another one of those $11.00 salads”.

I asked the guy where he was talking about. “Metro”, he responded. “You start adding all the good stuff, and by the time you’re done- it ends up being 11 bucks.” Well, my friend- your days of spending $11 on a salad are over. Solved by 1 trip to the Variety Cafe.

Now, let me first say I’m not a big fan of all the one-stop-shop delis/salad bars (i.e. Metro, Europa Cafe) that litter Midtown. Usually, pre-made sandwiches are a bad idea, and I’m definetely not a big salad eater. And while I like the idea of a buffet, one that charges by the pound is never a good thing for a fat guy like me. 

Which is why the salad bar at Variety Cafe is so great. For $6.45 ($6.99 with tax) you get a bowl of lettuce, and get to add any 6 items you want from their gigantic selection of toppings. Sounds like other places you’ve been to, maybe? Well here’s the best part… they have good, fat guy toppings… what I like to call “big money items”. The things you always want to get more of, but are afraid it will lead to a 17 pound salad that costs $436. 10 different kinds of chicken (including my personal favorites Thai Grilled Chicken, Cajun Chicken and Fried Chicken Cutlet), salmon, cubes of ham, avocado, mini fresh mozarella balls, blue cheese… everything. And of course all the fruits, vegetables and beans you find at every other salad bar in the city. And to top it off, your choice of 20 different kinds of salad dressings.

And the best part for a fat guy like me is, you get *whatever* you want. Want letuce with 4 kinds of chicken and two kinds of cheese, they’ll do it. They look at you like you weigh 700 pounds, but they’ll do it.

My perfect salad, and the +/- after the break…

Read more »

Aaron’s Restaurant

Day 5 of Falafel Week

Well, falafel week ended with a whimper this week.  I was unable to find Miriam's Falafel Cart on 46th & 6th, which has disappeared into some sort of falafel netherworld… and with no other suggestions from friends or message boards- I was forced to go to a place that I don't think is known for it's falafel, but I've alway been curious about… Aaron's Restaurant.

Because Aaron's Restaurant is on 46th between 5th & 6th avenue, I walk by it all the time (on my way to Hing Won, Variety Cafe or House of Pita).  Their sign hangs right over the sidewalk, but the place itself is on the second floor, so you can't see in.  Only a staircase leading up to god knows where.  And when I say "god knows where", I mean that literally, because Aaron's is a Glatt Kosher restaurant, which I think is loosely translated to mean "extra" kosher.

After climbing the stairs you find yourself in the front of a bare bones restaurant, with a buffet style counter where you can order things to go, or a seating area where you can order off the menu from a waiter or waitress.  The food behind the glass counter looked pretty good… but once again- it's falafel week, so I ordered a falafel with everything to go.

I'll try not to spend too much time on this falafel, because to be honest with you, it was pretty bad.  It was edible… and I finished it (after all I'm a fat man who loves to eat)- but every other place this week was better.  The first sign of trouble… after stuffing the pita with hummos and falafel he then put it in a microwave.  Once that happened, I had pretty much given up any hope of this place earning a second visit (for the falafel that is… I will be back but more on that later).

The pictures and +/- after the jump…. Read more »

Bread & Olive

DAY 4 of Falafel Week

It’s day 4 of Falafel Week and I was supposed to go to Miriam’s, which I have never seen but was told is on the SW corner of 46th & 6th.  It was recommended on Chowhound… but when I walked by on Wednesday it was not there- so for today I decided to go to Bread & Olive (also recommended to me on Chowhound), and find another place for tomorrow.

Bread & Olive has falafel, along with a ton of other options, including chicken and beef schawarma, numerous pastries, vegetable entrees, and what looked like lebanese style flat bread pizza.  All of it looked delicious… but alas, this is falafel week, so falafel is what I got.

This is a lebanese place, so a beet juice pickled vegetable made it’s first appearance of the week (I’m pretty sure it was turnip, but not positive).  It was one of the first layers to go down on top of the fresh baked flat bread- that I believe they make on site (another first for the week).  It also had lettuce and slices of tomatos, and then the falafel and tahini, all rolled up burrito style in the flat bread.

A picture of the sandwich, and the +/-, after the jump… Read more »

Kwik Meal

DAY 3 of FALAFEL WEEK 

Finally, after two days of mediocrity- I finally hit the goldmine.  A fresh, hot falafel- that isn’t dry in the middle, or messy.  Happy times.

Definitely the tastiest falafel so far this week.  The pita is that pillowy soft kind of pita, so they have to roll it up with the falafel inside, rather then cut a hole in it and stuff the falafel inside.  They also brush it with butter and stick it on the skillet- so it’s hot and delicious.  The falafel is made fresh right in the cart, so it’s still hot when you eat it and the balls are small so it’s not dry.  They are served on top of a little bit of lettuce and tomato, and some yogurt sauce, which is a really refreshing change from some of the tahini heavy falafel in Midtown.  The only downside is the size… definetely the smallest, but at only $3.75 you can afford to get two (if you’re super hungry), or a bag of chips!

All in all, the butter grilled pita, and the lack of veggies make this the least healthy of the falafel I’ve had this week… but sometimes, least healthy translates to tastiest.

THE +

  • Fresh falafel that are not dry in the middle
  • Pillowy pita bread, that is brushed with butter and grilled
  • If you like yogurt sauce instead of tahini, this is the place for you

THE -

  • The size
  • If you’re into veggies, this place isn’t for you.  There’s only a little lettuce and tomato on the falafel
  • If you’re not into carts… it’s a cart

Kwik Meal, Cart on the SW Corner of 45th and 6th

Moshe’s Falafel

Day Two of Falafel Week!

It's day two of my search for the best Falafel in Midtown… and while nobody has ever recommended Moshe's to me- I have walked by it many times, and it usually has a really long line.  Well, in most places, long lines means good- so I figured I'd try it.

I'm not sure if I was there on a bad day or what, but the falafel I got was a mess.  There was so much tahini poured over the top it was impossible to eat.  I asked for hot sauce, but couldn't taste any under all the tahini- so I'm not sure if it was there, or they forgot to put it on. 

Because this is a cart, and the falafel are made right there, they were warmer and a little fresher then yesterday's falafel (House of Pita), and had a really delicious outer crust that tasted sort of like the batter that you find around fried seafood in New Orleans (definetely not a bad thing!).  Unfortunately the inside was a little a dry.  You would think the tahini would have helped, but all of that was on the top, and the falafel was on the bottom.  Their layering could definetely use a little work.  Four falafels on the bottom of the pita pocket, lettuce and tomato on top of that, and then one falafel on top to make it seem layered… with the whole thing smothered in tahini.

I basically had two bites of falafel covered in tahini, four bites of just lettuce and tomato, and then the bottom was all falafel.  The pita was better then yesterday, but it started falling apart after bite two, because of the tahini.  Pretty disappointing.  Usually taste rules, but when considering a place to eat a quick lunch on your break from work- messiness has to be taken into consideration. 

Like I said, there was a really long line, so people must like this place- and maybe I just got one bad falafel.  Next time I will definetely ask them to go easy on the tahini… maybe that will be an improvement.  $4.25 for a whole, $3.00 for half… although I'm not sure what would constitute half… maybe less filling?  That might be an improvement as well… If you've been here before please comment and let me know if your experience has been the same as mine.

The +/- and location info after the jump… Read more »

House of Pita

House of Pita was the first falafel I had when I started working in Midtown.  One Avenue away from my office, on the most visited food street for my building.  (46th between 5th and 6th is also home to Hing Won, Variety Cafe, Lenny’s, Cosi, City Market Cafe, Pronto Pizza & Wu Liang Ye- among others)  What better place to start then the original…

I really liked the House of Pita falafel the first time I had it… and there are some good qualities to it- but as I’ve tried more and more falafel’s in this area I realized there a few areas where it falters.  First off, if you’re not looking you could easily walk by this place.  It’s not a cart, or a restaurant, but more of a counter where you order, and they prepare your meal.  There’s no door, or seats, and the entrance is in a “knick knack store” filled hallway that connects 48th street with 47th Street.  There is usually a line/crowd of people in front of the counter, but it moves pretty quickly.

A description of the falafel, and the +/- after the jump… Read more »

It’s Falafel Week on MidtownLunch…

That’s right… it’s Falafel Week.  I’m guessing I don’t have to explain what a Falafel is… if you work in Midtown I can’t imagine you’ve never tried one.  But nevertheless, if you haven’t- it’s a fried ball of ground up chickpeas (although it can be fava beans as well).  As a sandwich, it usually comes wrapped in Pita bread with tahini (sesame seed paste) or Hummus (chickpea spread) or both.  Often there will be vegetables in the sandwich as well, ranging from lettuce and tomato, to cucumber salad to pickles or cabbage.  It usually depends on the region of the Middle East it is coming from.  Sometimes the balls will be green on the inside, which happens when an herb (usually parsley I think) is added to the ground up chickpeas. Many places will offer a hot sauce as well.

Every Falafel place in the city is different… and there are plenty of them.  So, every day this week I will go to a different Falafel place and write about it- here on MidtownLunch.com.  With the help of past experience and the good folks on Chowhound.com, I’ve chosen 5 places to go to (one each day).  Since taste can be very subjective, everyone has their favorite place- so I’ll try not to talk about what I think is the best or worst.  I’ll just tell what variation of this delicious treat they’re serving, and you can decide which one sounds best to you.  If you have any other suggestions, feel free to post comments.  Here’s the Plan:  

  • Monday – House of Pita – 48th btw. 5th & 6th Avenue
  • Tuesday – Moshe’s Falafel – SE Corner of 46th & 6th Avenue.
  • Wednesday – Kwik Meal Cart – SW Corner of 45th & 6th Avenue.
  • Thursday – Miriam’s Falafel – West side of 6th Avenue on 46th St.
  • Friday – Bread and Olive – 45th between 5th & 6th Avenue.

 Thanks to everyone for their suggestions…

HELPFUL LINKS:

Europa Cafe?!?!

europa1So we're only a few weeks away from McBurrito (I mean Chipotle) opening it's doors on the bottom floor of my building… but to hold me over, I discovered a burrito in the most unlikely of places.  Europa Cafe.  And you know what?  It's not that bad.

After knocking Chipotle for it's lack of authenticity, I feel bad endorsing a burrito that a) comes from a place with Europa in the title, and b) specializes in salads and sandwiches.  Clearly the "burrito bar" (another embarassing detail), would be a mere afterthought.  If you have never been to Europa Cafe, it is another one of those chain deli type places that litter the city where you can make your own sandwiches, wraps, and salads, or choose from a ton of pre-made options.   With the exception of Variety Cafe, I tend to steer clear of these places- but I was intrigued by the Burrito Bar.

What I got after the jump… Read more »

Sapporo Restaurant

DSC00399There seems to be a big split among ramen eaters in this city.  Those who love Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village, and those who crave a more “authentic” experience.  In many of the anti-Momofuku posts there are lists of authentic Japanese ramen bars in the city… and lucky for us one of them is right here in Midtown.

Now let me just say in advance, I am big fan of Momofuku, but I’m also up for trying new and more authentic places… and Sapporo is definetely worthy of a trip.  The first tip off is the crowd.  They are always crowded during peak lunch hours, and it’s a sit down place- so be prepared to wait. There was a line of about 8 people ahead of us, and we only waited about 5 minutes- so don’t worry too much if you only have an hour for lunch.  The food comes out pretty quick.  If you are a party of one, you should be able to get seated right away at the bar.

What we ate, and the +/- after the jump… Read more »