Archive for October 2006

PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Serena”

Every Tuesday I try to keep my opinion to myself (a little gets in at the end), and let a genuine Midtown Lunch’er take over the site to give their opinion about eating in Midtown.  In honor of the Vendy Awards , which are taking place this Sunday night (Midtown Carts were totally snubbed!), I present to you, Serena, the Teriyaki Cart loving Midtown lunch’er…

Name: Serena

Age:
28

Occupation:
Editor

Where in Midtown do you Work?:
49th & 6th Ave.

Favorite Kind of Food:
Japanese (or anything from the Pacific Rim region)

Least Favorite Kind of Food:
Fruit… especially the stuff that is sold on the street.

Favorite Place to Eat Lunch in Midtown:
 My favorite used to be the tofu teriyaki from the Japanese Market on 41st btw. 5th+Madison (just East of Cafe Zaiya)… but now I can’t get enough of the Tofu Teriyaki at the Cart on 50th btw. 6+7th. (NOTE: Serena is actually one of the two people who recommended this cart to Midtown Lunch)
The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often:  Bagel Feller, on 48th btw. 5th and 6th. Partly I just like to say the name, but they also have really good wraps.

Place you discovered on MidtownLunch.com: I actually rediscovered Yips– the Chinese place.  I used to go there when I was an intern like 8 years ago, and it had been completely erased from memory until I saw it here on MidtownLunch.  Ridiculously cheap, and I’ve never gotten sick from eating there.   And again– a great name! How can you not laugh asking someone if they want to go to “Yips” for lunch?

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why?  Washington, DC circa 1999.  There used to be the best sandwich place I’ve ever known in an office building near my high school called Frisco’s.  Every sandwich had a San Fran related name.  The best was the Golden Gate.  Sadly, it has since closed down and I’m not sure it exists anywhere anymore–nor am I sure it ever existed in San Francisco.

Any question you’d like to pose to the Midtown Lunch readers?  Does anyone know where I can find (during the week) that really cheap pad thai that is sold at street fairs on weekends? (I have really unsophisticated taste because I work in publishing and I’m poor.)
Ah yes… the $1 Thai Food stand at Street Fairs.  How can you not love it?  Our recommendation to Serena, plus how you can be next week’s Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er- after the jump…

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A Look at Zagat 2007… Midtown Lunch Style!

The 2007 Zagat Guide to New York Restaurants came out last week, and I was very disappointed to discover that Midtown Lunch is not one of the special categories!  They’ve got “Business Lunch: Midtown”, and they added a ”People Watching: Hipsters” category- but no Midtown Lunch.  Which is sort of strange, because I can think of 5 times last week where I thought “Where should I eat lunch today?”, but didn’t once think “Gee, I’d really like to eat at a place where I can stare at a guy with a Rollie Fingers mustache drinking a PBR.”

Anyway, despite being snubbed again as a legitimate food category, I have dissected the guidebook to bring you all the interesting Midtown Lunch tidbits.  As always, we ignore the expensive “Business Lunch” options, in favor of the cheaper eats.  Here are the places that received over a 20:

  • 24 Burger Joint (56th btw. 7+8th)- Not surprisingly one of the best Burgers in the city, is also tops of Midtown Lunch Zagat list.  “Secret no more” and “out the door lines” confirm what we already know about this place hidden in the Parker Meridien hotel lobby.  What is surprising is that the Midtown institution, Prime Burger did not make it into the guide.
  • 22 Kati Roll  (46th btw. 6+7th) I was most happy to see this one on the list!  One of the first places ever to be written about on Midtown Lunch and the third most viewed post (after Chipotle & Oms/b).  The term “Indian Burritos” made it into the guide, as did the mention of the incredibly “slow” service.
  • 22 Dishes (2 Locations)- It’s what every deli in Midtown aspires to be… they have a buffet by the lb. but still good enough to be listed in Zagat!  “High end” “huge variety” but the “prices add up” at this “mobbed” Midtown lunch joint… so “expect to wait”.
  • 21 Chop’t (2 Midtown Locations)- Tops of the build your own salad bars… the “super fresh fixins” and the “ridiculous lunch lines” both get mentioned.
  • 21 ‘wichcraft- Any place opened by Tom Colicchio is going to get mentioned in Zagat’s.  His Grammercy Tavern (which he gave up control of a few months ago) has been voted “Most Popular” in Zagat’s for the past 493 years straight.  The ”Impeccably crafted” sandwiches are an “amazing value considering the quality”.  I don’t know about amazing value… but it’s a darn good sandwich.

The rest of the pack, and the worst rated restaurant in Midtown… after the jump:

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First Look: Kyotofu, Midtown Links & the end of the week wrap up…

It’s not exactly Midtown Lunch, but I couldn’t help myself with this one…  In the September 18 issue of New York Magazine my interest was totally piqued by the recommendation Kyotofu, a new Midtown West located, “Japanese dessert bar designed by the same Japanese architect who did Jewel Bako and Momofuku.  Share the saffron- sake-poached-pear tartlets and yuzu-citrus-tofu cheesecake.” 

A week and a half later, on September 28th, Time Out New York got into the action printing a recommendation of Kyotofu as well… the “Japan pastry chain that has just opened its first New York (and U.S.) location.“  Naturally I was really excited for the prospect of a Japanese bakery opening in Hell’s Kitchen, the western border of Midtown (and the area I live in).   Only one problem… the place hasn’t even opened yet.  Despite being recommended by two magazines in the past month (one of which specifically said it was open), here’s a picture of Kyotofu taken last night:

Don’t these people go to a place before writing about them???  How do they know what the pear tartlet tastes like?  (It is a chain with locations in Kyoto and Tokyo, but what is  more likely?  The writer visited Japan, and ate the recommended dessert- or just decided to trust the PR material announcing the opening of the New York location.)  Anyway, I’m still excited- and Kyotofu is supposed to be opening sometime in October.  Thanks to a tear in the paper in the window, I got a shot of the inside.

The picture of Kyotofu inside, links about Midtown stuff you definitely want to know about, PLUS the end of the week wrap up, after the jump…

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Happy Teriyaki BBQ Cart

Food carts are a funny thing.  Some people love them, some people hate them.  They are universally accepted for some things, like hot dogs, or pretzels but seem mysterious for other things (the term “street meat” comes to mind).  I’ve seen very few restaurants that specialize in the ”Halal Food” you get at a cart, and there are not many carts that stray from serving some form of Gyro, Falafel, Hot Dog or Pretzels.  You’ve got your breakfast carts (bagels, donuts and coffee) which are popular for their price, and the fruit carts, which offer people who love to be healthy a chance to eat at a cart.  (Those people don’t tend to enjoy skillet fried lamb, covered in white sauce.)

Midtown Lunch Bali.... sorry- this one isn't in NYCSome carts are destinations (Hello Berlin Cart, Daisy May’s BBQ Cart, The Arepa Lady in Queens, or the Carts at the Ballfields in Red Hook), while others remain nameless, taking advantage of a highly populated corner of the city.  I love eating at carts.  It’s not because the food is so great, but it just seems like more fun.  There something about the immediate gratification, the fact that their kitchen is on the side of the road, and of course- weird meat sort of excites me (that didn’t come out right).  (My favorite street meat ever… the lady on the right selling street meat on a stick- in Bali)

A little over a month ago, I walked by a new cart near my office… Happy Teriyaki BBQ on 50th between 6+7th.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Teriyaki Cart before in Midtown… and because of my love of Asian food I was immediately interested.  Shortly after, I started to receive the emails… the first one said it was terrible.  Worst food ever.  But then I got two more, one that recommended the spicy pork and another that swore by the BBQ Tofu.  I’m always up for trying a new cart… so yesterday I headed over with my reluctant wife to check out this new cart.

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

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Minar Indian Restaurant

The complaints against eating in Midtown are many… but the one thing you can’t complain about is a lack of good Indian food.  There are tons of Indian places for every appetite and price range.  Expensive sit down restaurants, expensive buffets, cheap buffets, cheap take out, and even an Indian food cart.  When you look at the cheap options, it seems as if there is one for every neighborhood.  If you work on Park in the 50s, there’s the super cheap Indian food cart on 53rd.  If you work on the East side of Midtown in the 40s, there’s Hurry & Tasty Curry.  If you work on the west side there’s Minar.

Everyone who reads this blog knows how much I love Kati Roll (the “Indian Burrito” place)… but sometimes you just want the real thing.  And when that urge hits, Minar is right next store to feed my Indian food fix.  The one thing I’ve realized about these Indian food places is, you get what you pay for.  You pay $4 for Indian food out of a cart, it’s going to taste like $4 Indian food (it’s good, but not the best).  Minar costs a little more then that, and it’s a little better.  Not as good as a nice Indian restaurant where you are going to pay $10+ an entree, but if you are looking for some quick and tasty Indian food for lunch- and you work in this area of Midtown, you can’t do better then Minar.

What I got, pictures of the food, and the +/- after the jump…

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PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Mark”

Every Tuesday I turn over Midtown Lunch to a random Midtown worker, for their favorite places to eat lunch in Midtown.  This week, it’s Mark- a cart junkie, click monkey, whose Mom I want to cook for me…

Name: Mark

Age:
34

Occupation:
Click Monkey (Editor’s Note: Apparently this is what Contract/Temp Lawyers call each other)

Where in Midtown do you Work?:
44th & 6th Ave.

Favorite Kind of Food:
Good cheap ethnic food. My Mother’s fried potatoes with chorizo and jalapenos.  Non pasteurized milk.

Least Favorite Kind of Food:
I’ve never overcome a childhood aversion to Brussel sprouts.  The smell…

Favorite Place to Eat Lunch in Midtown:
 Probably too far west but the combination salad and a split pea soup at Azuri Cafe (51st btw. 9+10th),  if you can put up with the “Pita Nazi”.  My new favorites right now are Margon’s Roast Chicken plate or the Double Soul food dish at the Hallo Berlin Cart.

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: 
John’s Pizzeria on 44th & 8th.

Place you discovered on MidtownLunch.com: Kwik Meal CartHallo Berlin CartDaisy May’s BBQ Cart.  Lots of cart action thanks to Midtown Lunch.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why?  Chinatown, so I could eat at the Dumpling House on Eldridge everyday.  Or Argentina so I could eat yummy giant $3 steaks every day until my arteries sealed shut.

Any question you’d like to pose to the Midtown Lunch readers?  The Chatuchak Weekend market in Bangkok sells this “BBQ Thai Chicken”… this fried chicken with special seasoning, chopped up into pieces.  Some Thai restaurants here sell “BBQ Thai Chicken”, but it isn’t fried.  Does anyone know where I can get this delicious dish in New York City? 

Got an answer to Mark’s Question?  Food porn, and a Midtown Lunch sneak preview (plus details on how you can be the next Profiled Lunch’er) after the jump…

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Chicken Bar vs. Ranch1 (The Epic Battle!!!)

I love Ranch 1.  I wrote about it a few weeks ago, and while I know not everyone is on board- I stand behind what I originally said.  If you are looking for a grilled chicken sandwich, that tastes like real chicken, and french fries that taste like they are made from real potatoes (plus you don’t mind a chicken breast that has been pounded thin before being grilled) then Ranch 1 is your place.  It’s one of the few fast food places my wife actually likes (loves is a more appropriate word)- and any place she’s into, where I can “get fries with that”, is alright with me!  (Click here to read the original Ranch 1 post)

So, you can imagine my confusion when I started seeing these new Chicken Bar’s popping up.  The first one, I saw on 8th Ave. and 45th St…. and then another on 52nd and Lexington.  Same colors… similar logo… it’s chicken.  Very strange.  I couldn’t believe that this new chain was clearly ripping off Ranch 1.  Did they really think that their chicken sandwich was going to be that much better to support 2 chicken chains like this in the city???  I decided a visit was in order, and last week I headed to this “Chicken Bar” with every intention of pitting it against Ranch1 in a “one on one” fast food chicken battle of death.  (I would have liked to have made it a 3 man battle royale, but sadly there is no Chick Fil-A in Midtown…)

Arriving at the Chicken Bar on Lexington & 52nd, I was reminded again of how similar the logos are to each other.  Both have got the yellow, red and white thing going… but the Chicken Bar sign is clearly newer- and a bit nicer.  I like the abstract, “hidden” chicken head in the Ranch1 logo, over the obvious big chicken in the Chicken Bar logo, but a vinyl awning can’t touch the class of a 3-D neon style sign.  Chicken Bar 1, Ranch1 Zero.

Both places have “employees” giving out $1 off coupons around the corner from their respective restaurants.  I think it’s pretty obvious who wins this one.  No offense to the lady on the right… I’m sure she cleans up real nice- but she is clearly not a gigantic yellow chicken.  Ranch 1 ties it up… One to One.

The truth is, who cares about the coupons, and the signs and the big yellow chicken (well, actually- I care about the chicken so that’s a bad example).  The food is the most important.  What I ordered, and conclusion of the fierce battle that will literally cause your brain to explode in disbelief…. after the jump.

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Cafe Duke Redux… Midtown Links… and the end of the week wrap up!

For most people who work in Midtown, lunch is dictated by laziness.  More then two blocks away?  Forget it!  Plus, if you go with co-workers you all have to agree on a place.  So, you probably eat at the same place multiple times a week, occasionally branching out so you don’t get too sick of eating the same sandwich or salad every day.  For me, it’s a little different.  I write this blog… so I try to go to new places every single week.  Well, Wednesday I visited an old favorite.  When I first wrote about Cafe Duke I spotlighted the Bulgogi.  Today… meet the Bi Bim Bap.

 

It’s a cold version, but still pretty good- and reasonably healthy, especially compared to the Bulgogi.  Plus it comes with rice, and kimchee- and if you get the beefbi bim bap, you’re essentially getting a little of the bulgogi as the “beef” part.  Not bad, and once you smear the sweet red chili paste everywhere- it’s all delicious.  PLUS, I saw a new sign for some daily specials they just started serving. 

The new Cafe Duke Specials, Midtown Links about stuff you definitely need to know about, plus the end of the week wrap up- after the jump…

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Madeleine The Crepe Lady (or the Hidden Gems of the CyberCafe- Part 2 of 2)

A little while after discovering Tuck Shop hidden inside the CyberCafe, I noticed another sign go up in the window.  “Madeleine ‘The Crepe Lady’.  Making Crepes Wednesday -Sunday 10am to 4pm”.  I’m intrigued.  Tell me more, oh window of the CyberCafe…  An article posted next to the sign went in depth about this “Crepe Lady” who served up delicious crepes in a kiosk in Central Park.  Well apparently she’s at the CyberCafe now… and Central Park’s loss, is Midtown’s gain!

Tuck Shop in the CyberCafe was weird enough.  But now this place has got a “Crepe Lady”.  Total craziness…  what kind of internet cafe is this???  But who am I to argue with this kind of deliciousness.  Thankfully I didn’t let the surroundings fool me into not trying a crepe, because Madeleine is the real deal.  And by real deal I mean this sweet, charming, amazing “Crepe Lady” is actually from Brittany…  the birthplace of crepes.  And she’s been making these French treats since she was 13 years old!  I think it’s safe to say she knows what she’s doing.

Food porn, the complete list of what she serves, and the +/- (with not so much of the minus), after the jump…

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Tuck Shop (or the Hidden Jems of the CyberCafe- Part 1 of 2)

Nothing is more fulfilling then finding a hidden food jem in Midtown.  It can come in all forms too.  There’s the place that is well known, but literally hidden- like the Burger Joint, hidden behind a curtain at the Parker Meridien Hotel.  Then there’s the place that looks like a boring deli, but has a hidden specialty- like the Korean food at Cafe Duke.  And of course there is discovering that good food cart, which in Midtown is literally like finding a needle size hot dog, in a haystack size pile of gigantic sausages.

But the most rewarding find, is the truly hidden jem.  The one that nobody tells you about.  The one you find on your own, without reading anything about it, or getting an email from a reader.  It’s pretty tough too.  There are very few places that I haven’t been emailed about, and somehow this double jem has managed to slip through the cracks.  Lucky for me, I walk by it every day on my way home from work…

I’m talking about the CyberCafe, a euro-style internet cafe that caters to backpackers and tourists looking to jump on-line while they sip on coffee or eat boring sandwiches and pastries.  But this is not your ordinary internet cafe.  Actually it is… in every way but one.  The food.  The CyberCafe is home to two of the best (and most unique) Midtown Lunch options:  Tuck Shop & Madeliene “The Crepe Lady”.  I have no idea how it happened, or what the business arrangement is, or who thought it would be a good idea to put these two delicious lunch options inside an internet cafe for tourists… but who cares.  It’s there, so we might as well take advantage of our stroke of good luck!

What’s a tuck shop, pictures, and more- after the jump…

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