Archive for August 2006

TONY to NYMAG… “We’re cheaper than you!”

A little over three weeks ago, New York Magazine released their 101 Best Cheap Eats issue and I wrote about the dissing of Midtown… clearly snubbed in favor of more chic neighborhoods.  Others took notice too (not so much about the Midtown thing… most people see it for the wasteland it is).  There was also apost on Chowhound  that was dedicated to discussing the non-cheapness of some of the choices (namely Momofuku Noodle Bar, Lupa, Casa Mono and Alta).  Well apparently TONY was paying attention…

Time Out New York’s answer finally hit the newsstands yesterday with a direct shot at NY Mag.”The Real” Cheap Eats, as it is labeled, goes out of their way to flaunt the superiority of their criteria (Under $5 for breakfast, Under $10 for lunch, and under $20 for dinner).  There’s also none of that ”the quality of the food at Lupa make it a real value” crap.  Oh… and their cover looks pretty similar too.  Coincidence?  Um… I doubt it. 

But aside from the “Cheapness” the real jem of the Time Out NY piece is that they separate everything by area, and meal which means…. there are whole sections dedicated to places for eating lunch in Midtown!!!  As a matter of fact, 5 of the 11 sections are either partially or entirely in Midtown.  A midtown coup if you will… and the best part is- the East Village was totally snubbed!  It’s like they are reading my mind… (or maybe they’re just reading my blog)

Check out what lunch places in Midtown made the cut in TONY’s Cheap Eats issue after the jump… Read more »

Cafe Zaiya

Work is tough.  Work is not fun.  And quite frankly, I don’t understand why more people don’t use their lunch break to relax- or even better, have some fun!  Of course most people’s idea of fun is probably different from my idea of fun.  My idea of fun, is lunch at Cafe Zaiya- the funnest restaurant in Midtown! (As declared by me of course… I’m clearly a very strange person.)

Cafe Zaiya is Japanese- but not in the way that probably first comes to mind.  They are not a Ramen place, and they don’t specialize in sushi (although they do have sushi as an option).  It’s more of a Japanese bakery, that also has a nice variety of bento boxes (or Japanese boxed lunches).  Clearly their specialty is baked goods.  They have Cream Puffs (or beard papas as they’re known by some) made fresh and filled right before your eyes.  They also have Mochi Donuts, Yakimochi, Mont Blanc’s and other delicious looking Japanese Pastries and cakes.

Now for many of you, I’m sure delicious pastries is all you have to hear to make this place worthwhile.  Lord knows I’m all for eating pastries as a substitute for real lunch.  As a matter of fact, my dream lunch would be a dozen Krispy Kreme glazed donuts if I thought I could do it without dying (either from stomach ache or sugar coma).  But in reality, pastries and donuts a lunch does not make (did that make sense?).

Lucky for us, they sell a ton of savory lunch choices as well… mostly in the form of pre-packaged bento boxes,  ready to be paid for, and eaten as soon as you walk in the door. 

For the rest of the fun, pictures and the +/- keep reading, after the jump… Read more »

Semi-Free Sandwich Alert!!!

Thanks to a tipster we have just found out that Pret-a-Manger is discontinuing their “Free Sandwich” Card Program as of today… but if you’ve got a card, you can exchange it for a free sandwich- no matter how many punches you have.  So if you went to Pret once, got your card stamped once, and vowed never to go back again… looks like this free sandwich is going to make you a liar.  (Hope you kept the card…)

The Pret business office said you could exchange your card anytime this week (or even beyond), but our tipster claims that the one in Rockefeller Ctr. said today is the last day to turn in your card for the free sandwich.  It may depend on the location…  If you just started a new card- you totally scored!  If you only needed one or two more punches… well, then all your hard work just went down the tube.  But at least you still get the free sandwich…

Locations in Midtown:

39th and Seventh
530 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10018
  646 728 0750
40th and Madison
287 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
  212 867 0400
42nd and 3rd
205 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017
  212 867 1905
42nd and 5th
11 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036
  212 997 5520
50th and 7th Avenue
135 West 50th Street, New York, NY 10020
  212 489 6458
54th and Lexington
630 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017
   646 497 0510
54th and Park
400 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022
  212 207 3725
55th and Sixth
1350 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10019
  212 307 6100
Rockefeller Center (The Rock)
30 Rockefeller Center, Concourse Level, New York, NY 10012
  212 246 6944

Got any tips?  Email me at zach@midtownlunch.com

Monotony for the Koshers… First Look: Milk N Honey NYC

For many types of eating groups, finding a good lunch in Midtown can be considered pretty difficult.  Foodies, people who like authentic Asian food (Korean & Vietnamese are noticeably absent), people who like Mexican food, or Vegetarians.  But for some eating groups, Midtown is actually a great place to work when it comes to lunch options.  Fast food fans, Halal cart fans, tourists, people who never get sick of eating the same salad or sandwich every single day for lunch, and finally- people who keep kosher. 

If you keep Kosher, there are few places you would find more eating choices then working near the Diamond District.  There are a ton of Kosher lunch options (especially if you are Glatt Kosher- which I understand to mean “super kosher”).  For sit down meals, you can climb a few flights of stairs to one of the kosher restaurants that sit atop a Jewelry store on 45th (like Taam Tov), or go to a take out Kosher Falafel place (like House of Pita on 48th).

But what about those people who keep kosher, but also want the true experience of eating in Midtown.  I’m not talking about the roast pork at Cafe Cello (the reason I could never really be Kosher-although I was Bar Mitzvah’d).  I’m not talking about the shrimp tempura roll at Kikku Sushi.  I’m not even talking about a Cheeseburger from the Burger Joint(washed down with a shake if you want to get real dirty).  I’m talking about the Midtown Deli- because after all, don’t people who keep kosher deserve to suffer the monotony of eating at Deli’s in Midtown along with the rest of us.

Well, now they can!  Milk N’ Honey (or as I like to call it- The Kosher Variety Cafe) is now open on 45th St. btw. 5th & 6th.  Pictures, and the rest of the First Look, after the jump… Read more »

Daisy May’s BBQ Cart: the best-scratch that- ONLY BBQ in Midtown

New Yorkers love their BBQ.  If you doubt that, try going to the Big Apple BBQ Fest at the beginning of the summer in Bryant Park Madison Sq. Park (I’m retarded).  I had read tons about it- but couldn’t believe what I saw when I actually went.  People waiting hours in line to buy these tiny $7 plates of BBQ from different vendors from across the country.  And if you want to try all the different choices, you’ve got to go with an entourage of friends, each waiting in a separate line.  Go alone and you have to sit in 3 different one hour lines to get what would be considered a meals worth of food.  And worst of all- what does it say about the BBQ places in New York City?  Are they so bad that you’d be willing to wait an hour for four baby back ribs from Illinois.

Well, despite people’s willingness to wait hours in line every June in Madison Sq. Park, there are *some* decent BBQ places in NYC.  Which one is the “best” is always up for debate- you know, when people aren’t arguing about where to get the “best” burger in town.  (Actually the irony of the BBQ fest being in Madison Sq. Park was not lost on me.  It is also home to the longest burger line in New York City.)

Lucky for us in Midtown there is no real dispute as to where the best BBQ is.  Seeing that Dinosaur, R.U.B., and Blue Smoke are all outside of Midtown- it leaves only one true choice for the best BBQ (for the purposes of this blog of course).  Daisy May’s BBQ.  (Beware those of you who feel the need to speak up for Virgil’s on 44th… unless you want to be accused of being a tourist who knows nothing of good BBQ). 

The actual Daisy May’s restaurant is on 11th Ave. & 46th St., but they have graced Midtown with the presence of THREE carts serving BBQ sandwiches and chili during lunchtime.  I thought everyone knew about Daisy May’s…  but once again, I brought my sandwich back to my desk, and the guy next to me asked where I got it.  I had to answer “The BBQ cart.  You know… the one that is right outside the entrance of our building”.  Of course, this is the same guy who asked if my sandwich from Cosi was a falafel…  (If you work next to someone like this- and I know you do, please forward them a link to this blog.  They need our help the most…)

Pictures, where you can find the three different carts,  and the +/- after the jump… Read more »

First Look… Wrong!?!?!

So apparently my superficial “first look” at the new coffee, sandwich and salad place Macchiato was not thorough enough for the owner.  Here is his email to me, presented unedited (except for parts that are soooo not true):

I still haven’t decided if the small review was good or bad.  However, I have my comments on the decency and injustice of the piece.

You might not care, and that is totally fine, but I believe that if you are writing a review on a restaurant, maybe a taste of the Danesi Coffee, or Jim’s Organic for American drip would excite you more than just how the price averages against Starbucks. I also think you somehow missed the fact that everything is baked on premise including the breads for the sandwiches and the croissants and muffins.  While many places in the US serves the tuna salad, egg salad, turkey and Swiss sandwich, a quick conversation with me would have probably revealed that all our ingredients are the highest grade you can get, including the Greek Halumi cheese for the Macchiato Sandwich, the fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, and the imported Proscuitto di Parma. Not to mention the Chunks of white Albacore Tuna that is used in our salads or the hearts of palm, imported goat cheese and roasted red peppers, which is a high ticket item not commonly used.

I would have loved to offer you a cup of coffee or even have you compare the taste to Starbucks’ cup and not just the price (and I totally understand that you cannot argue on taste and preferences).  I don’t think anything like this space exists in the vicinity in terms of design and whether or not you like the line or not is again a matter of preference.

When you asked to take a picture and I asked to see some kind of proof or an email before your review (as most bloggers, respectable magazines, or papers usually do) to check facts you wrote about, you said that you are just writing about places and not reviewing them

(NOTE: I said that I was not reviewing HIS place, only writing about how it had just opened.  Sorry to interrupt…)

Obviously this is not the case, and if you taste the food and coffee and hate it for whatever reason, I tip my hat off to you.  It is absolutely your prerogative to voice your opinion, but I beg of you before stating opinions, about fare, ingredients or preparation methods, to give them a try or verify the facts.

My offer to buy you a cup of coffee still stands my friend, whether you like it or not, or prefer it to other places, is entirely up to you and your opinion is what I value the most.  After all you are my consumer…

Well, my “valued opinion” remains that upon “First Look” “most of the choices looked pretty standard” and I *still* urge people to check it out and let me “know if the Turkey and Swiss sandwich or the Greek Salad transcends the usual Midtown fare.”  “Injustice” is a strong word for what I wrote, and “indecent” should only be used about me when talking about how much chinese food I can eat at a buffet.

Your sandwiches actually sound really good when you describe them.  Lord knows no respectable publication would ever hire me to write about food.  Good look with the real restaurant reviewers… my sarcastic, meaningless blog’s ”First Look” (that urged people to go try it for themselves) will end up feeling like a glowing review!

As always, everyone is welcome to email me or post comments (none are ever deleted).

First Look: Macchiato Espresso Bar PLUS the End of the Week Wrap Up

So many places… so little time.  On my way back to work from Just Salad earlier in the week, I swung by a “new coffee place” someone had emailed me about.  Macchiatto Espresso Bar on 44th St. btw. Lexington & 3rd opened on Monday.  A big fat who cares to most, but if you work near there, and you’re looking for a new lunch spot, maybe this will get you all excited:

 

No worry about forgetting the name of the place while you’re waiting in line… They’ve got 5 Salads, 8 Sandwiches, baked goods and H&H bagels, in addition to a host of coffees slightly cheaper then Starbucks- so if the food isn’t good, at least the coffee is cheaper then Starbucks.  Most of the choices are pretty standard- although the Prosciutto Sandwich with Buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, balsamic dipped tomato and avocado olive tapenade sounded mildly interesting.  And, everything is made to order.  Check it out, and let us know if the Turkey and Swiss Sandwich or the Greek Salad transcend the usual Midtown fare.

Has a new place opened up near you?  Email me about it so I can check it out…

Next week, I’ll finally throw the +/- down on the Daisy May’s BBQ carts, PLUS the Kosher Metro (with Kosher Sushi and a Kosher Salad Bar!!!).  So exciting…

Ho Yip

I am not a big fan of Buffets by the pound- for obvious reasons.  Or maybe it’s not so obvious if you are skinny and have any amount of self control.  Me, not so much.  I love the “buffet” part, but adding those other three words, destroys what is otherwise a wonderful, magical thing.  First, I don’t want to know how many pounds of food I’m about to eat (Is it true if you eat 2 lbs of chinese food, you automatically gain two pounds?).  Second, I feel hindered.  I’m thinking, “Gee what does this weigh?” and “Am I really getting a good weight to price ratio”.  Always trying to find that big money item and staying away from super heavy cheapo items like rice, and dumplings (my personal favorite).

Well, I’m happy to say I have finally found a price by the pound buffet that is not only a decent value- but is stocked with my favorite kind of food!  Ho Yip, a cheap chinese food place on 45th between btw. 5th & 6th that during lunch has an all chinese buffet by the pound (and the choices are tremendous!).  It’s $4.95 per pound- but here’s the real deal.  If you go after 2:15pm, the price drops to $3.75 a pound (the late lunch special).

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  “Late lunch” and “Price drop” at a buffet by the pound does not exactly instill confidence in the freshness of the food you’re getting.  But I was very surprised to learn that they restock the buffet just before 2:15 in preparation for the big crowds that come late looking for the deal.  Apparently they keep putting food out until they run out.  It really is a wonderful thing… if you like cheap and greasy Chinese food (and don’t mind waiting with a horde of other bargain hunters).

My plate, the rest of the menu, something for free(!) and the +/- after the jump… Read more »

First Look Denied! Just Salad (and apparently discreetness)

It’s not often a lunch place opens up in Midtown that warrants a piece in New York Magazine- so on Monday when I read about Just Salad, I figured I had to go check this out for myself.  The catch is, it wasn’t in the food section, because salad is not the main draw of this lunch spot… apparently it’s a great place to meet good looking single women.

Started 2 1/2 months ago, by two twenty-somethings (Nick & Rob)- Just Salad caters to a “young, hipper crowd… in Midtown” (NYMag) looking for healthy salads, and dates for the weekend.  One guy was even quoted as saying he met his current girlfriend on line there.  So with camera in hand, I trekked to Lexington and 51st, fully expecting a gigantic sausage fest of dudes, fresh from reading the article, trying to score with one of the ladies in line.  But much to my surprise, it was exactly as advertised.  Two very handsome gentleman (the owners) standing outside welcoming everyone in, and a long line of young ladies on the inside.

Here’s where the fun started.  I told the owners that I write a blog about eating in Midtown- and asked if they would mind me taking some pictures.  They told me they didn’t allow pictures to be taken inside the restaurant, because of an incident that was too complicated to explain…. something about not being able to control where pictures end up, and people seeing them who shouldn’t have??? 

Um… we are talking about a salad place right?  So, I figured it could be one of two things.  Either it’s girls gone wild in there… or maybe they’re just protecting their clientele from being photographed flirting with someone other then their significant other.  Very good business decision boys!  So, if you’re single and looking to do a little flirting, or married and need some flirting without fear of being photographed, Just Salad is the place for you.  (No idea how the food is.  I’m a fat, married man- I have no need for flirting or salad.)

Just Salad, 320 Park Ave. (on 51st. St.) 212-758-8900

(The Hidden) Cosi

Deep in the heart of Midtown, there lies a gem, buried where few are willing to go… alright, maybe that’s not true- it’s just a Cosi, on 48th St.  But surprisingly it’s got no sign or awning sticking out- and despite its closeness to 6th avenue you can’t even see the place until you’re right up on it.  It’s pretty unassuming, and I’ve got to think alot of people don’t even know it’s there.  Even when you walk in front of it, it sort of blends into the building. 

I feel like everyone knows Cosi, and it’s silly to write about it- but the other day, when I returned to my desk with a Cosi sandwich, the guy next to me said “What’s that?” “Cosi” I said.  “What is it, a falafel or something?”.  Yes, people like this do exist.  To top it off this “Hidden” Cosi is on the SE corner of 48th & 6th.  Our office is on the NW corner and he hadn’t ever even *heard* of Cosi.  Pretty unbelievable. 

For those of you who rely on this blog for truly hidden gems, and ethnic delights- I apologize, but every once in awhile I gotta throw the normal eaters a bone.  So, for those who have not been to Cosi, consider this your intro.  It’s not that Cosi is that great… or everybody should know about it- but it’s better then most chain sandwich places, and they owe it all to one thing: the bread.

The bread at Cosi is delicious, and if you go during peak time (i.e. lunch) it’s about as freshly baked as you can get.  After spending some time in a wood brick oven, the bread comes out, is sliced, and passed off to be stuffed with the toppings of your choosing- minutes after coming out of the oven.  The bread is so good, they give out little hot free samples in a bowl that sits in front of the wood brick oven.  It’s a great treat while you wait in line to order- plus there is nothing more fun then watching Midtown suits take two and three pieces of free bread out of the bowl (you know who you are people).  Good times.  Also, if you haven’t been to Cosi in awhile they’ve added a fresh baked wheat bread option- so now you have the choice between standard or wheat.

My special Cosi creation, a list of not so hidden locations, and the +/- after the jump… Read more »