Archive for November 2006

Profile: Midtown Lunch’er “Liz”

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 Liz.  A Midtown East Saints fan who like me, would rather be eating Lunch in New Orleans!

Name: Liz



Where in Midtown do you Work?:
Near Grand Central

Favorite Kind of Food:
Specifically, macaroni and cheese… but really anything involving cheese (except for blue), anything from New Orleans, seafood and beans.  If it has any of those ingredients (or preferably multiple), or is from NOLA, you can count me in.

Least Favorite Kind of Food: 

Favorite Place to Eat Lunch in Midtown:
 Park Italian Deli (45th btw. 5&6th).  If I’m in the mood for hot food, the eggplant parm with whatever the pasta special of the day is.  Otherwise, a sandwich of usually tuna salad or ham, turkey and fresh mozzarella.

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often:  The Lunchbox (in the Graybar building attached to Grand Central).  Not necessarily for lunch (except on a rainy day), but definitely a go to breakfast.  Where else can you find a giant iced coffee for $1?

Place you discovered on  Oms/b.  Only tried it once, but it was pretty great.  And I really need to check out Sophie’s Cuban.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why?  Definitely New Orleans (nothing beats a fried shrimp po’boy from Rodosta’s), but since that angle has already been covered by another Midtown Lunch’er, I’ll go with the East Village… specifically Avenues B&C.  It’d be a toss up between the Fettuccine al Sugo Toscano at Max, the Manchego sandwich at Grape and Grain and the Kasespatzle at Zum Schneider.

Liz’s question to Midtown Lunch nation, our recommendations, plus how you can be the next Profiled Midtown Lunch’er, after the jump…

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Fake Shrimp Scam (!?!?) and the ML Guide to Buffet by the lb. Eating

Everybody in Midtown has a goto lunch, and although I try to eat at new places every week, my wife and I usually fall back on Cafe Duke.  Last week, we hit up Cafe Duke for a quick lunch, and I decided to forgo my usual Bi Bim Bap in favor of a few things from the buffet by the lb.  I don’t normally do the whole by the lb. thing, because although I love the variety, I can’t stand feeling the need to hold back.  Scooping tiny portions, all the time worrying that my lunch is going to end up costing $17.  While loading up with my normal items, something amazing stood out to me.  They had these amazing looking Jumbo Shrimp that had me wondering “How they hell can they afford to serve Jumbo Shrimp for $7 a lb.????”

I got two, and discovered one of the greatest scams I had ever fallen prey to.  They’re not real shrimp!!!  I couldn’t believe it.  Actually, I could believe it.  It reminded me of this thing I once learned about Professional Gamblers.  There are teams of gamblers who when a new table game opens up anywhere in the world, they find out about it, and run the numbers, trying to find a single wager that will beat the game.  While most of the games are tirelessly tested before being put into a casino, every once in awhile a game’s creator will make a mathematical error that leaves the game open to being “broken”.  The team will fly to his location, bet the one wager for hours and hours, until the casino realizes their mistake and shuts the game down.

I guess that’s why I wasn’t surprised about the shrimp.  Can you imagine if the Jumbo shrimp were real?  For $6.99 a lb?  Hoards of fat guys (like me) would be crowded around the buffet, loading up on jumbo shrimp… trying to ”beat the game”.  Thankfully, the fake shrimp were delicious so I wasn’t too upset about being duped.  I’m not sure exactly what they are made of, but I’m guessing it is a rice cake type of mixture (or imitation crab meat… although it didn’t have that fake fishy flavor that imitation crab has).  The best part about the scam… the “shrimp” are not only colored and shaped to look like shrimp, they even have the indentation where the tail was pulled off.  Such detail.  It’s like art.

The Midtown Lunch guide to eating at a Buffet by the lb… after the jump.

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Job Opening at Award Winning Sausage Cart, Midtown Links and the end of the week wrap up

Every dreamed of ditching your crappy Midtown desk job, and slinging sausages on a New York City street corner?  (I have very strange dreams…)  Well now is your big chance… there is a prime Midtown Cart opening at the award winning Hallo Berlin Sausage Cart.

Getting hired to work at the Hallo Berlin Cart would be like getting a golden ticket into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  All those hidden compartments filled with various German treasures.  How does it all work?  I need to know!!! 

I’m not sure what kind of qualifications you need, the pay, or what kind of benefit package is included with the job- but if we’re talking free Weisswurst, I might need to consider a career change.  Interested?  Call Rolf at 212-947-9008.

After the jump… midtown links about things you definitely want to know about.  PLUS a sneak peak into where I’ll be stuffing my face next week.

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KFC (or… The Best Excuse Ever for Eating Fried Chicken)

There are a lot of reasons I choose to write about a place.  Being “Cheap” is a given… but other than that the first, and most obvious is the food.  A lot of the places I write about do something interesting- something that isn’t available everywhere.  Whether it’s the Indian Burritos at Kati Roll, the rice balls at Oms/b, the various ramen places, or the meat pies at Tuck Shop- these postings are most popular because they are destination lunches- worth walking that extra 5 or 10 minutes if you don’t work right near the place.

I write about carts because there are so many of them, and it’s hard to know which ones are good and bad.  Plus, a lot of people are scared of them… and would rather read about my suffering after eating at a bad cart- then experience it for themselves.  I don’t usually write about the deli/salad bar places, because there is one on every block of Midtown- and they bore me.  I will, however write about one if they are doing something different or interesting… like the Korean Food at Cafe Duke, or the Soups @ Dishes

I very very rarely write about fast food- so the next question is obvious… Why the hell would you write about KFC???  Well the answer depends on who’s asking.  If you haven’t heard yet, New York City is considering banning artificial trans fats from all restaurants in the city.  In light of this possible ban, KFC has taken preemptive action, phasing trans fats out of the fried chicken at all their Manhattan restaurants (it’s still in the biscuits) as of the first of this month.  They plan on rolling out the change in all of their restaurants Nationwide by April of next year.

Clearly this is topical.  People need to know if this new KFC, fried in trans-fat’less soybean oil is as good as it used to be!  Right???  I’m doing a service to the community.  How does the new chicken compare to the old chicken.  (The real reason I’m writing about KFC, pictures and a less than helpful +/- after the jump)

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Tacos/Burritos Cart on 54th & Madison (No Sombrero)

I love burritos, and have often lamented about the fact that there is not a good one in Midtown (here, here, here and here).  More than anything that comes from past experience, and experiences.  I have had some truly great burritos over the years, that hold special places in my heart…  the Carnitas Super Burrito at Anna’s Taqueria (Boston), the Chicken Mole Burrito at Casa Diaz in Los Feliz (Los Angeles), the Baja Chicken Burrito at Baja Fresh (locations everywhere in the U.S. except Manahattan!), the Huarache I had two weeks ago at the Ballfields in Red Hook, and finally, the gigantor Carnitas Burrito at La Costena (Mountain View California)… it’s what all carnitas burritos aspire to be.

Erasing all of those delicious burritos out of your mind, there is another category of Mexican food, or tex-mex, or whatever you want to call it that is a decent meal as long as you don’t compare it to the top of the heap.  For example, the Chicken Gordita Supreme at Taco Bell.  A tasty concoction that is perfectly good, and with none of the “side effects” commonly associated with eating at a place like Taco Bell.  It’s a deliciously soft and squishy pita type tortilla, with plain grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream on top.  No fake ground beef, no weird refried beans that send you to the toilet 15 minutes later.  I wouldn’t call it “great Mexican food”, but it’s a decent meal if you have to eat fast food.

A few months ago I discovered the world of Midtown “Taco” Carts when I ate at the Sombrero topped cart on 50th btw. 6+7th.  A world where nacho cheese reigns supreme, and ground beef and stewed chicken are your only two meat choices.  Soft corn tortillas are nowhere to be found, replaced by those crunchy yellow things that I’ve only seen at Taco bell, and in Ortega boxes in the Supermarket.  There are a lot of burritos and tacos I would choose above this type of place… but that doesn’t take away from the fact that if you are into hard shell tacos, and ground beef and nacho cheese- than this kind of place is going to be perfectly satisfying.

Thanks to an email tip, I discovered another Taco Cart (sadly, with no sombrero) for eastsiders looking for a lunch of nacho cheese and ground beef… with a surprisingly decent “chicken burrito”.  Pics and the +/- after the jump….

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PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Chris”

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 Chris- author of and lover of burritos

Name: Chris


Communications Analyst

Where in Midtown do you Work?:
53rd & 7th Ave.

Favorite Kind of Food:
Pretty much any type of burrito.  If it can be wrapped in a tortilla, I probably like it.

Least Favorite Kind of Food: 
Olives.  I don’t mind olive oil (it’s the only oil I cook with), but despite my Italian heritage, I just can’t get into olives. 

Favorite Place to Eat Lunch in Midtown:
 The pulled pork sandwich from the Daisy May’s BBQ Cart.  I’m heartbroken that I’ll have to walk an extra three blocks in the dead of winter to get it, but it’s a winner.  I wish it came with some decent side dishes though.  The slaw is good, but the other items need slaw too!  When I come back from Daisy May’s, it always attracts a crowd in my office, since I have to sit at my desk and construct the sandwich.

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often:  West 53rd St. Deli (btw. 6+7th).  Nothing special, but it’s close and the hot sandwiches are decent.  There’s usually a couple of specials for around $5 – a hot teriyaki or BBQ chicken wrap, chicken or meatball parm, and a quick burger that’s decent for the price.  The salad bar is fresh and full of crisp fruits and veggies, but the hot food bar is soggy, tasteless and absolutely awful.

Place you discovered on  Yips.  I really don’t know why I hadn’t ventured across 6th ave.  It’s amazing how quickly you can get a lunch there.  The other day I was on the phone with a friend, and told her I’d call her back after I got my lunch.  I walked in the door, ordered, paid, and was back on the phone in 45 seconds.  It’s nothing authentic and nothing particularly special, but it’s the perfect quick lunch:  filling, cheap, and fast.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why?  I envy my roommate who works across the street from Madison Square Park.  The junior level analysts and assistants in his company do more standing in line at Shake Shack for their bosses than real, actual work.  Plus, for a business lunch Grammercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla and Blue Smoke are a quick walk away.

Chris’s suggestion for a new burger in Midtown, a preview of tomorrow’s lunchtime post, and how you can be the next Midtown Lunch’er… after the jump.

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Todai (aka the buffet formerly known as Minado)

Here we go again.  I love the buffets… and on Friday I visited another one (with my wife and a few of her co-workers).  I had actually been to this buffet back in March for my brother’s birthday- when it was known as Minado.  We went for dinner, and it was pretty good.  Decent sushi, some good hot things, not too crowded- but things were still fresh, and a huge selection.  A couple of months later, I had read that it was sold to Todai, a Japanese buffet chain with locations mostly in the west coast, Texas, Illinois, Virginia & New York.  My one previous visit to a Todai (in Los Angeles) left me with a bad taste in my mouth (literally).  The rice they used to make the sushi was disgusting, and the warm food was not so great either.

With that in mind, we went to the New York Todai, hoping that some of the Minado goodness was held over in the transition.  Todai is what is known by buffet aficionados as a “Super Buffet”.  It’s a very technical term, and might be difficult to understand for the buffet lay-person.  ”Super” refers to the awesome size and nature of the buffet in question.  Most Super Buffets have many stations, and at least 50 items (I just made that up… I don’t think there is any real measure). 

Super Buffets also require a totally different technique from your small scale and regular size buffets.  With the small buffets it is easy to load your plate up with the 10-20 items they have available… but with a Super Buffet you need to be more cautious.  I like to take small bits of as many items as possible, scope out the real winners and then return for larger portions of the 3 or 4 things that I really loved.

Tackling Minado, the food porn, and the +/- after the jump…

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Kyotofu & Gyu-Kaku Menus, Midtown Links plus the end of the week wrap up…

I know it’s not really Midtown Lunch, but I promised news about Kyotofu when it opened, so here it is… the Kyotofu website says the Grand Opening is on November 6th- but the Hell’s Kitchen Japanese Dessert place has been open every night this week starting at 6:30 PM.  Everything I read made it sound like a bakery AND dessert bar (like a Japanese Amy’s Bread)… but at first glance it appears to be a pretty upscale dessert bar- with no sign of a ”bakery” or anything you could take to go.  Here’s the menu for those interested in a little after work Sake & Dessert (click here for a larger image):


There’s also a little controversy as to whether this place even exists in Japan.  There is no sign of a Japanese website, and some questions were raised by the comments on my last post.  Very interesting…. hopefully the “grand opening” on November 6th will include some cheaper things you can actually take to go.

Directly across town, the Midtown branch of Korean Japanese BBQ chain Gyu-Kaku has opened for lunch on 50th and 3rd Ave.  It’s a little pricey to be one of my Midtown Lunches, but if you are looking for one of those grille your own meat places and don’t want to venture below the 40s you can check this one out.  Here’s a link to their lunch menu.  (As much as I liked Gyu-Kaku the one time I went to it in L.A., I think I’ll probably just stick with the Korean BBQ places in Koreatown.)

More Midtown Lunch news, and Midtown Links you definitely want to know about (including one about Chef Ming Tsai being at Rock Center today) all after the jump…

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Profiled Midtown Lunch’ers

Every Tuesday we profile another Midtown Lunch’er… want to share your favorites with the adoring public?  Email me at 

The Ever Changing Face of Midtown Lunch…

On Monday I finally headed over to a place called Lahavash Co. on 8th Ave. in the high 50s to redeem a $2 off coupon that I had gotten a few months ago when they first opened up.  I had been meaning to try it, and the coupon expired on Monday… so it finally spurred me into action.  I think the owners were Lebanese, and the menu featured sandwiches served on a traditional flat baked bread (called Lahavash) and filled with all sort of delicious ingredients like avocado, portabello mushrooms, markouk grilled chicken, hummus, and more.  I use the past tense, because when I got there on Monday, this was what I found:



A totally closed up Lavash Co.  Who knew the coupon’s expiration date would actually outlive the restaurant itself.  So disappointing.  I love coupons, and was pretty pissed that I missed out on my chance to use this one (… oh yeah, and I was upset this place closed before I got to try it.)  Midtown lunch is a very volatile thing.  Places open and close all the time for all sorts of reasons.  I wonder where these guys went? Were their sandwiches bad or was it the location that did them in.  No PR company is getting out the word on this sandwich place…

I try my best to keep the site up to date, but I only have an hour for lunch and Midtown is a big place.  Remember Jaques-Imo’s To Geaux, in the Grand Central Terminal Food Court:



It closed about a week after I wrote about it, to make for a Manhattan Chili Co.  Carts are of course the hardest to keep track of.  Changing locations, going on vacation, construction- all take their toll.  That teriyaki cart that I wrote about a few weeks ago:



It’s been M.I.A. all week.  Is that cart gone for good?  Will it ever be back?  Maybe it’s back today.  Nobody knows… until you go and are disappointed by the cart that no longer is there.  The Mexican Cart with the Sombrero that used to be next to it… it’s on the opposite side of the street now.  Who knows why…

Some sought after carts are a total mystery.  I’m still searching for the ever elusive Miriam’s Falafel cart that is supposedly located on 46th & 6th.  People still email me and post about it on Chowhound…. “Best falafel in Midtown!”  But when was the last time somebody ate there?  I’ve walked by that corner a million times and never once seen anybody that resembled a “Miriam” selling falafels.

Then there are the changes you may not notice at first.  We reported a few weeks back about the price hike @ the Hallo Berlin Cart (thanks to a reader email), and the fact that Daisy May’s BBQ was scaling back to one Midtown cart for the winter.  What we didn’t notice is- Daisy’s May’s raised their prices too!  Now the already a tad bit pricey $8 sandwiches are $9.  No word on whether this is a winter thing, or permanent.

So what it really comes down to is, I’m pissed I didn’t get to use my $2 off Lavash coupon… and I’m wondering if anybody knows what happened to those Lavash guys.  If you know about those guys- or have any other Midtown Lunch news/opneings/closings to report, please email me @   I can’t be everywhere, and it always helps to get email tips.  You’d be doing a great service to the readers of this blog, and the eaters of lunch in Midtown.

Oh and by the way… I decided to change the look of the site (but at least the address of the blog didn’t change).  Let me know if you like the new one or old one better (by commenting below or emailing me.)  I’ll probably change it back to the old one tomorrow… after all, change usually sucks.