Archive for July 2006

First Look: ‘wichcraft midtown

In my last post, I made brief mention of the new ‘wichcraft location in Midtown that just opened last week… but I’m aware that most people don’t read posts all the way through.   So for all you lazy bums who missed it the first time around, rather then punish you by allowing you to go through life not knowing about the new ‘wichcraft, I have chosen to post about it again- with pictures (I know how much you like those!).  A new ‘wichcraft location just opened up on 46th st. just east of 5th avenue.  The front of the building is kind of covered in scaffolding, so it’s easy to miss.  Here’s your first look:

Many people feel the sandwiches here are not worth the price, unless you’re enjoying them outside in Bryant Park.  But it’s been fricking hot out lately- so maybe you’d like your overpriced sandwich in the air conditioning.  Don’t let the picture fool you… the no line, empty tables thing isn’t going to last for long- and they don’t have the online ordering up and running yet, so get it while the gettin’s good.

‘wichcraft, 555 5th Ave. (entrance on 46th St. btw. Madison & 5th)

‘wichcraft in Bryant Park (and how to get to the front of the line!)

Famous Chefs in New York City seem to be expanding their empires at every chance.  One of the most popular trends seems to be opening up cheaper places where people can enjoy over-priced versions of items that are usually considered less then chic.  Most famously Danny Meyer (Union Square Cafe, The Modern) opened the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, where people can now stand in line for over an hour for a burger and fries.  Thomas Keller (Per Se) opened the Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center, Mario Batali (Babbo, Lupa) opened his gelOtto Cart in Washington Sq. Park and Tom Collichio (Grammercy Tavern & Craft) has opened 6 ‘wichcraft locations in New York, where people can get fancy pants sandwiches, soups and salads designed by the famous chef.

For many, paying $9 for a sandwich is outrageous… especially one that isn’t over a foot long and can be shared with friends.  But in Midtown our options are limited, and having two ‘wichcraft locations in the area could be the just the thing many people are looking for.  One is on 46th St. and 5th avenue, and the other is spread over four kiosks in Bryant Park on 42nd St. btw. 5th & 6th Avenues. 

On a nice day, when you have an hour, there’s nothing better then having lunch in Bryant Park… and a sandwich, soup or salad from ‘wichcraft could be one of the more convenient options if it didn’t take so long.  I have read complaints from people who say that during lunch time the wait can be almost 20 minutes… it’s not Shake Shack bad, but if you only have an hour, waiting for your food means less time to enjoy eating in the park.  Well last week I discovered a solution!  On-line ordering.

Last week I discovered the ‘wichcraft online ordering option on their website (http://www.wichcraftnyc.com/)  and it worked like a charm.  It was super easy to use, and the food was ready and waiting when we got to the park.

Screenshot of the on-line ordering system:

Wait time is not the only complaint people might have… so check out what we had, and the +/- after the jump… Read more »

First Look: Krunch Pizza

After only two days of being open (today is day 3) the backlash has already begun  against Krunch Pizza, a new place serving “Grandma Style” pizza pies on 2nd Ave. and 52nd St.  Complaints like not crunchy enough, too thick and “gummy” were tossed around… But for us in Midtown, looking for a cheap and decent lunch- beggars can’t be choosers, and a new place is always worth checking out. (Even if it is, slightly overpriced for the size, square pizza.)

Salads, panini, pasta and of course pizza is on the menu here with some really delicious choices, including: Bianchi Krunch (Ricotta, Marscapone & Truffle oil), Krunch Gamberi (Shrimp, oil cured olives, lemon, red onion tomato and mozzarella) Prosciutto Crudo (Prosciutto, arugula, mozzarella, and fresh tomato) and the Alla Funghi (Wild mushrooms, fresh tomato, garlic, mozzarella, fontina and thyme).  The nutella krunch also sounds interesting (what fat guy wouldn’t like hazelnut spread pizza)- although I didn’t see it out when I was there.  Slices range from $2.50 to $3.75, Salads are $7.50 to $14.00, the smallish looking panini are $6.50 to $9.00 and the pastas are $8.00 to $12.00.  Expect a wait at lunch time, and the seating area is super small so expect to take your pizza to go.

Next week, we’ll tell you how to skip the line at ‘wichcraft in Bryant Park (if you like overpriced gourmet sandwiches), and give you a replacement for Variety Cafe that also has Korean food (!?!)- plus more…

50th St. Taco Cart (w/ Sombrero)

The lack of good Mexican food in New York City is a well known fact.  You saw what happened when Midtown got a Chipotle.  It shows how pathetic our choices for Mexican really are.  In L.A. (where I used to live) taco stands are a way of life… and it boggles my mind that so few places in NYC are able to recreate something that seems so simple.  2 Soft corn tortillas, some good roast pork or chicken, and some salsa (preferably salsa verde).  If anybody wants a place to try after work, trek over to 10th avenue btw. 47th and 48th- Tehuitzinga is outstanding.

Anyway, I’ve heard rumors that Pampano Taqueria on 3rd Ave. is the only worthwile Taco in Midtown- but on this day I was on my back from a failed trip to the Burger Joint (line was too long) and decided to stop at this taco cart that some people from my work had eaten at.  And quite frankly, how could you blame me?  Could you resist a cart that looks like this one.  I mean, nothing says authentic quite like a giant sombrero with a picture of Speedy Gonzalez on it (aren’t there any Trademark lawyers in Midtown?).  But that’s typical Midtown for you.  Dumbing it down for the business lunch crowd… “Can you tell we’re not a halal cart by our big stupid looking Mexican hat?”  I wonder if you can see it from the top of Rockefeller Center?

Despite the sombrero, I decided to try the place out.  I love trying dirty, annonymous carts- and this one certainly fits the bill.  For $4 you get a Taco with Chicken or Beef, Spanish Rice and Beans w/ melted cheese.  $7 will get you the same combo with two tacos.  For the sake of comparison (and because I’m a fat bastard), I went with the two taco combo (one beef, one chicken).  The minute he started making my meal, I had a sneaking suspicion I was in big big trouble.

Pictures of the food, and the +/- after the jump… Read more »

Men Kui Tei

I’m not a ramen expert.  I’ve never been to Japan.  But I love Asian food, and the few experiences with ramen bars I’ve had here in New York City have been positive.  I’m a huge fan of Momofuku.  Probably because I love pork, and they do pork pretty darn well.  Reading alot of the Momofuku backlash on places like Chowhound has gotten me well acquainted with what ramen afficianados consider more traditional ramen places in New York City.  The truth is for someone just looking for decent lunch in Midtown, all three Midtown recommendations will yield delicious food.  In fact I find it hard to compare three places that are all really good- but there are some small differences that may make a difference to different people.

One of the three places is right next to my office, and I wrote about it a few weeks ago.  Sapporo.  Highly recommended, and considered pretty authentic, many people claim it is the closest thing to a real Japanese ramen place.  I enjoyed my lunch there, and I’ll definitely recommend it and eat there again.  But for some people, Sapporo might be a far walk, or a little too authentic (i.e. dirty) and the ingredients are on the cheap side.  So with that in mind, you have another option:  Men Kui Tei on 56th between 5th & 6th ave.

In comparison to Sapporo, Men Kui Tei is definitely a more “business” environment.  The decor is a little nicer (if that’s what you’re into), but it’s also a lot smaller, and fills up much easier (a big drawback if you are in a rush and don’t get there early enough).  In fact, we got there at 12:15pm, and still have to wait 5 minutes for a table.  By the time we left at 12:50, there were about 8-10 people lined up along the wall inside the doorway.  I would definitely recommend getting there early.  In fact, they even offer an Early Bird special.  Get there before 12:15pm and an order of Gyoza are $2.50 (instead of $4) and the “Set Menu” Curry Rice or Fried Rice is $1.50 (instead of $3.00).

Pictures of what we got, and the +/- after the jump…

Read more »

What does the E. Village have that we don’t? Oh yeah…

Like everyone who works where we work, I have a love/hate relationship with eating lunch in Midtown.  It’s sort of like how you feel about your family.  You can make fun of them all you want- but as soon as someone else says something about your Mom, you get all pissed off and defensive.  “What are you talking about?  Midtown has some amazing lunch places!  You just have to know where to go.”

This is the reaction I had reading this week’s New York Magazine, which published it’s “101 Best Cheap Eats” in the city issue.  I usually get pretty excited for issues that center around food- but this one got me a little defensive.  Starting with #1, I scanned through the list- waiting for NY Mag to bestow praise on some of my favorite places in Midtown.  The ones I’ve written about on this blog…

Brooklyn, East Village, Queens, Bouchon Bakery in Columbus Circle (close enough right?), West Village,  more Brooklyn, more East Village, more Brooklyn, more Queens,  the Bronx, Downtown, Harlem, Daisy May’s in Hell’s Kitchen (they have two carts in Midtown- that sort of counts, right?), more Brooklyn, ‘wichcraft (all of them.  There’s one in Bryant Park so I guess we get 1/5 of a point), Union Square, and of course- more East Village (man they love the East Village!).  The list went on and on, and I waited to hit that first true Midtown Lunch place. 

Finally, in the One Star section (noteworthy), #83 OMS/B, a Japanese Omusubi place on 45th st. between Lexington and 3rd Ave.  A true Midtown Lunch place… but here’s how the blurb started:

“Anyone who has ever worked there knows that there is nothing to eat in Midtown.  Not a morsel.  Mangia may seem like lunchtime nirvana the first few times around.  A hundred or so salad bar visits later, you want something else.”

Sure, I wrote the same thing on my “Navigating a Wasteland” page.  Sure I call Midtown a wasteland.  But it’s my wasteland… and I would think we warrant a few more places in the 101!  Come on New York Mag.  You work in the hood… haven’t you been to Kati RollSapporo or Men Kui Tei? Margon or Cafe Cello?  We’ve got Indian Buffets!  Have you not been to one of our fabulous Indian buffets?

Anyway… here’s the places New York Magazine deems worthy in our wasteland:

IN THE HEART

  • #57 ‘wichcraft:  Tom Collichio’s (Grammercy Tavern, Craft) Sandwich, Soup and Salad kiosks.  Locations around Manhattan, but for us, there’s one in Bryant Park on 42nd St. & 6th Ave.
  • #61 Yakitori Totto:  Japanese chicken parts on a stick.  Unfortunately, they’re not open for lunch.  55th st. between 7th & 8th
  • #83 Oms/b:  A Japanese omusubi joint on 45th st. btw. 3rd & Lexington
  • #92 Burger Joint:  Cheap delicious burgers, literally a hole in the wall of the lobby of Le Parker Meridien, a super fancy Midtown hotel
  • #94 Taam Tov:  Uzbeki/Kosher food on 47th between 5th & 6th

GOOD BUT NOT THE ONE IN MIDTOWN

  • #54 Daisy May’s BBQ:  Great BBQ restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.  NY Mag fails to mention they have two carts in Midtown.  One on 48th btw. 6th & 7th, and one on 47th btw. Park & Lexington.  You can’t get ribs, but their Pulled Pork sandwich and Chili are delicious
  • #88 Tuck Shop:  Aussie Meat Pie shop in the East Village.  They just opened a Midtown outpost strangely located inside the Cyber Cafe on 49th btw. 8th Ave. and Broadway

ON THE CUSP (Can’t we say they’re in Midtown?  Please!)

  • #6 Bouchon Bakery:  Thomas Keller’s new bakery/boulangerie on the 3rd floor of the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle
  • #86 Tony Dragona’s Cart:  Chicken with rice and “white sauce” cart on 62nd & Madison Ave.

Reviews with pics of all these places are coming soon…  if I don’t decide to try and get a job in the East Village.

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(Not so) Yummy Sushi

Does cheap, pre-packaged sushi that’s good exist?  Or is it some sort of enigma- like cheap General Tso’s made with real chicken.  Is it even possible?  Or, is pre-packaged sushi all bad, because it is pre-packaged?

Now, I should probably quantify what I’m talking about, because the word “sushi” can mean so many different things.  I feel like when talking about good sushi, you can divide people into two main camps.  The first camp is the real fish eaters.  People who love sashimi (just the raw fish) and/or sushi (slice of fish laid over some rice).  The more you spend, the fresher and better the fish, so you don’t really want too much of a bargain when it comes to eating this kind of sushi.  If you are in this camp, and can’t imagine eating sushi that doesn’t fall into this category- you might as well stop reading… because my search is for something totally different.  You might say “The cheap stuff”.

The second category, is the rolls camp.  When someone in this camp says ”I love sushi”, they really mean, I love rolls.  Totally different animal, because in this camp the flavor of the roll doesn’t necessarily come from the fish.  In these rolls the fish comes prepared in many different ways.   Fried in batter (tempura), chopped and mixed with mayo (spicy tuna rolls), or sometimes in a special “imitation” form that isn’t actually fish (that crab stuff in cheap California rolls).  Liking rolls also means that you can probably tolerate eating at cheaper places…

Which brings us to my dilemna.  I’m one of those people who falls in both camps.  I can enjoy the $100 omakase at a real deal sushi place, but I can also eat a $4 pre-packaged Eel & Avocado or Spicy Tuna roll with the best of them.  And when it comes to having lunch in Midtown, I’m looking for that elusive cheaper, quicker option. 

With that in mind, I had lunch at Yummy Sushi the other day.  It’s a take out only, quick sushi place underneath Rockefeller Center.  It’s fairly cheap, good selection and like most cheap sushi- not particularly great.

What we ate, the +/- and my plea for help, after the jump… Read more »

How quickly we forget… or forgive.

Is there anything that shows the resilience of Midtown eaters more then Variety Cafe… re-opened and a line at the Salad Bar (9 days after being closed by the Health Department… ahem, I mean “closed due to improve our service“).  Either that, or we’re a sad bunch that refuses to venture more then a block for good food during lunch.

Come on people!  Is there no other Salad bar on the block?  I know it’s hard to find one in Midtown.  No word yet on why they were shut down, or which section was affected (hot plate, salad bar, sushi, sandwiches…).  Eating there again is a game of russian roulette that I’d rather not play…

Coming next week on Midtown Lunch: My not so Yummy quest for cheap take out sushi, a Taco Cart (with a big sombrero), and cold noodles at Men Kui Tei.

Indian Fast Food Cart

I know not everyone works on 48th st. between 6th & 7th ave., so I’ve been trying to branch out whenever possible, and try places that while out of the way for me- might be your favorite lunch spot.  Some of the places that might be close to you- but far from me that I’ll be hitting up in the next few weeks:  ‘wichcraft, Burger Joint, Pampano Taqueria, Men Kui Tei, Zip Burger, Jiannetto’s Pizza Cart, & Arang- just to name a few.

The other day, I ventured out of my way (based on a suggestion from a reader) and tried the Indian food vendor cart on 53rd & Park.  While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend walking too far out of your way to eat at this cart- it could possibly be one of the greatest deals in all of Midtown for anyone who works close to it.

Ordering is really simple.  You have two choices, the vegetarian meal ($3.99) or the chicken meal ($4.99).  Each day, both entrees will change- but the menu doesn’t.  It’s either the vegetarian choice, or the chicken choice.  Both entrees come with rice, dal (lentils), bread and salad (which is just some lettuce).  On the day I was there, the vegetarian entree was mixed vegetables, and the chicken, was Chicken Tikka Masala.

What I ordered, pictures and the +/-, after the jump…

Read more »