Archive for July 2007

PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Ian Jackman”… PLUS another book giveaway

Every Tuesday I turn over Midtown Lunch to a random worker, for their favorite places to eat lunch in Midtown. Today, it’s Ian Jackman, author of the book “Eat This! 1001 Things to Eat Before You Diet”. The book is pretty sweet, and is now top of my list of things I wish I had written. It’s one story after another of amazing food from all around the country, including some of our very own Midtown Lunch’ing favorites. I’ve got 5 copies of the book to give away at the end of the post…

Name: Ian Jackman

Age:
43

Occupation:
Writer

Where in Midtown do you Work?:
I used to work at Random House when it was on East 50th St.

Favorite Kind of Food:
My book lists more than 1,000 foods or individual dishes and it’s impossible to pick ten even. I love red and green chile over anything in Santa Fe; I love fresh fruit in season–cherries, yellow and white peaches, blueberries, raspberries. They have to be fresh. I think lamb is a very underused and underappreciated meat in this country. Greek places do wonderful things with fresh lamb. Very simply cooked–grilled–it has a lot of rich flavor. As I get older, I get a bigger kick out of ice cream. Had a couple of chocolate Brown Bonnets from Carvel this past weekend. Hard to beat. I’m glad Pinkberry is establishing a presence in NYC. I love gelato from Il Laboratorio del Gelato. Basil, Black Mission Fig, Toasted Sesame…

Least Favorite Kind of Food:
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Favorite Place to Eat Lunch in Midtown:
A South of the Border Burger at Islands Burgers and Shakes (9th Ave. btw. 51+52nd); a bauernwurst on a hard roll with sauerkraut, red cabbage and onions at the Hallo Berlin Cart (54th and 5th); anything with lamb at Molyvos (7th Ave. btw. 55+56th); the chopped salad at Patsy’s (56th btw. B’way+8th).

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: I don’t have any co-workers anymore, but when I did, we would go to Zarela (2nd Ave. btw. 50+51st) sometimes for some excellent Margaritas… but I guess that wasn’t lunch.

Midtown Lunch places that you wrote about in “Eat This!”: Burger Joint, Brother Jimmy’s BBQ (There is one in the Grand Central Food Court), Cabana Carioca (which is now closed), Ess-a-Bagel (3rd & 51st), Gahm Mi Oak (32nd btw. Bway+5th), Han Bat (35th btw. 5+6th), & Hallo Berlin.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Somewhere overlooking the Mediterranean with my family, eating fish straight out of the sea. Why? Because we must be doing okay if this is the case.

Anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers? What is your favorite food to eat from your hometown?

My favorite hometown food, plus a chance to win a copy of Ian’s book- after the jump… Read more »

At Lunch Now: Subway Edition


You didn’t think I meant Jared’s Subway, did you? The day I eat there is the day Midtown Lunch is officially over. I meant the NY Subway. Rainy days like this mean one thing… subway to the Manhattan Mall Food Court. Nathan’s, Arby’s, Ranch 1, and the requisite cheap and crappy Chinese, Japanese, and Bourbon Chicken. And if you work over the BDFV, you don’t even need to step outside. 

What do you do on rainy days?  Feel free to post as a comment below…

 

My Restaurant Week Lunch at Hatsuhana

You still have five more days to enjoy Summer Restaurant Week 2007.  If you have a job like mine (i.e. one where you don’t get to take summer associates out to lunches paid for by your company) then Restaurant Week is a great excuse to see how the other half lives.  As far as I’m concerned, $24.07 is not that great a deal for lunch, especially since there are already a lot of fancy places with normal prix fixe lunches that cost somewhere around that amount (like Jean Georges).  But, I am a big advocate for using your full one hour lunch break to relax, and there is no better way to do it than treating yourself to a fancy, sit down, expensive lunch.  It’s obviously only going to be a once in awhile thing, and Restaurant Week is the perfect excuse.

Restaurant week is not without its flaws (it’s not really that great a deal, and you often get what you pay for), but when your wife offers to pay for it- you’d be crazy to say no.  Right?  See, my wife is one of those lucky people who gets to eat out on her company’s dime every once in awhile- and her guilt over getting to go to these great lunches and dinners (without me) often results in her treating me to meals that we would probably never go to otherwise.  (I’m still waiting for my dinner at Del Frisco’s- a place that I’m pretty sure you can only enjoy if you are not paying.)

She has been to Hatsuhana a few times for work, and really wanted me to get to try it- so when she offered to take me there for a Restaurant Week lunch, I decided to hold back on my “Restaurant Week is not really worth it” speech.  I may be a cheap bastard, but I’m not crazy.  No arm twisting necessary.  I don’t mind cheap spicy tuna rolls from a deli, but if you have the money and don’t mind spending it on food, there are few things better than high quality raw fish.

Hatsuhana already has lunches priced around $25, so it sort of breaks the cardinal Restaurant Week rule (eat at some place that you wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise), but they do give you a much nicer lunch for RW, than you get normally for that price, and I wasn’t even paying- so don’t mistaken this for complaining.  For $24.07 you got a miso soup, salad, and this box of goodies:

A breakdown of each section, after the jump…

Read more »

Midtown Links

Manchu Wok to Re-Open, Followed by Cinnabon in 30 Rock

 

 

Crappy Chinese food fans rejoice!  The space in the Rock Center Councourse formerly inhabited by Manchu Wok will be re-opening as… Manchu Wok.  Apparently it has new owners and will re-open in the next week (or two).  I’m not exactly sure how franchises work, but I’m holding out hope that the quality will improve for those rainy days when I don’t want to go outside and walk to the far superior Hing Won, one block away.

In much bigger news, Cinnabon will be opening a location in the Rock Center Councourse sometime in the near future.  This is terrible news for us fatties who do everything we can to avoid things like the amazing scent of freshly cooked cinnamon filled, glazed buns, that will no doubt permeate the entire food court area.  The Rock Center Councourse might just have to banned permanently from my list of Midtown Lunch’ing options, just to avoid the tantalizing smell.

If you have info about places in Midtown opening or closing, send it to zach@midtownlunch.com

Steam Explosion Effects Midtown Lunch’ing Around Grand Central

Got this message from the Grand Central Partnership this morning:

As of this morning, the city continues to maintain a restricted zone, comprised of the area between East 40th St and East 43rd St and between Vanderbilt Ave and Third Ave. Individuals are not permitted to enter the restricted zone. Individuals who are already in the restricted zone are permitted to stay where they are. As clean-up work progresses, the City will work to shrink the size of the restricted zone.

Additionally, the following streets remain closed to vehicular traffic at this time:

- Lexington Ave from East 34th St to East 57th St
- Third Ave from East 38th St to East 42nd St
- Park Ave from East 34th St to East 54th St
- East 42nd St from Park Ave to Third Ave
- Vanderbilt Ave from East 42nd St to East 47th St

I have confirmed that Oms/b (45th btw. Lex+3rd) opened this morning, but then decided to close. 99 Cent Fresh Pizza on 43rd btw. Lex+3rd and the Sophie’s Cuban on Lexington btw. 40+41st are both closed for the day. The other Sophie’s locations have expanded their delivery radius for the day to make up for it.  Call whichever one is closest to you.  Also, the Treats Truck will not be parking at 38th & 5th today, as previously planned.  Check www.treatstruck.com for updates.

Milant (39th btw. Lex+3rd) is still open, as is the entire Grand Central Concourse Food CourtBlarney Stone (3rd Ave. btw. 44+45th), Famous Chicken Place (3rd btw. 38+39th) &  KushiQ (3rd Ave. btw. 45+46th).  If you have any added info, post it as a comment below or email it to zach@midtownlunch.com

Bulgogi Cart Makes TONY’s Cheap Eats Issue!?!?

The Bulgogi Cart on 49th btw. 6+7th Ave. popped up in Time Out New York’s Cheap Eats Issue yesterday, in what can only be referred to as a huge surprise.  Now, I know I’ve written about this cart a ton, and I want to love it, I really do, but it’s just not that great.  It’s gotten better, and I’m sort of into their kalbi & japchae- but overall, to put it in a Street Food category with the likes of Otafuku & the Red Hook Ballfields is a huge stretch.  I wouldn’t travel too far out of my way for this one.  It’s not even the best cart serving Bulgogi in Midtown, which I think is probably Kim’s Aunt Kitchen Cart.  But NY Magazine already wrote about that one, and I’m guessing the editors at TONY were looking for something new.  In the end, crap like this makes me call into question all the other places in the issue.  Here are some of the other Midtown spots they mentioned:

  • Bread & Olive (45th btw. 5+6th) - Your standard Middle Eastern Fare from Lebanon.  TONY recommends the Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  • Go Go Curry (38th btw. 7+8th) – Japanese spot with four kinds of curry over rice.  TONY recommends… the curry!
  • AQ Cafe (Park Ave. & 38th) – This Aquavit owned Scandanavian cafe is pretty awesome.  I ate there a few weeks ago, and plan on writing about it soon.  TONY recommends the Smorgasbord.
  • Grand Central Oyster Bar (42nd & Park, Grand Central) – TONY puts this one (along with the AQ Cafe in a “Gourmet” category, and suggests you order the Oyster Pan Roast for $9.95.

And that’s it.  For cheap desserts they recommended these 3, available in Midtown:

  • Treats Truck – Ah yes.  We are all too familiar with the amazing Treats Truck.  They have been at 38th & 5th on Weds or Thurs. for the past few weeks, and will be there again today (because of the steam explosion they will not be at that location today).  Check www.treatstruck.com for locations.
  • Landmarc (Time Warner Center, Columbus Circle) – The Cotton Candy.  Free for kids, $3 for adults.  According to TONY they have different flavors every day, including Pink Vanilla, Cherry, grape, lime & tangerine.
  • Prime Burger (51st btw. 5th+Madison) – The Coconut Layer Cake.  Now that sounds interesting… 

A few more reommendations slightly out of bounds for Midtown Lunch’ing, but sound like they may be worth the walk.  After the jump… Read more »

The Midtown Lunch Ultimate Burrito Theory (and how it relates to Chipotle sucking)

So, yesterday was the big day.  I returned to Chipotle, after a yearlong, self imposed absence- and had a burrito.  It was not terrible, but it was not worth waiting in a 20 minute line for- and in the end it just reinforced my Ultimate Burrito Theory, which I will now share with you.

Burritos are the perfect food.  That’s it, perfectly constructed, with a brilliant balance of ingredients.  You start with a soft, and very large tortilla to hold it all together, steam it with cheese, and add your starch (rice and beans).  Top it with your choice of meat, which adds a salty and fatty flavor, and add pico de gallo for your tomato, onion, lime and cilantro, all covered in sour cream or guacamole for creaminess.  If you like it spicy or smoky you have plenty of salsa choices, whether it be green tomatillo, or fiery hot red salsa.  It all comes together to form a nugget of goodness, that you can pick up with two hands and eat (none of this fork and knife crap you get at most Mexican places in NYC).

That’s it.  Simple, easy and anybody can do it?  Right?  Well, apparently not.  Chipotle does everything you see above, and yet for some reason their burrito doesn’t quite make the grade.  Well, here’s why.  They flavor every ingredient unnecessarily, so you end up with a big overspiced mess.  You don’t need to add cilantro and lime to your rice, it’s already in the salsa.  They add their special “adobo” to many of the meats, and then add alot of the same spices to the black beans.  Totally unnecessary.  And then of course they add too much salt to everything.

Don’t believe me?  Check out the “Ingredients Page” on their website.  Mouse over each item they offer and look at the pride they take in how many ingredients go into each of their fillings.  I’m sure each thing tastes delicious on its own.  Cilantro and lime rice, that’s been lightly salted?  Mmmmm!  Black Beans seasoned with “cumin, garlic and other spices”?  Bring it on!  Mixed together with meat that’s been marinated and slow braised in cumin and garlic, and topped with salsa that has cilantro & lime- it’s a little too much.  It’s like adding tomato flavored cheese to pizza. It’s just stupid.  The food is already a perfect combo of ingredients.  Why mess with it? 

I’m not saying don’t spice things, I’m saying the burrito is about balance.  Don’t spice each element to taste good on its own.  The best burrito places spice each element with the knowledge that it will be added to other elements that have their own spices and flavor.

One commenter said something about “authenticity”, but I want to make it clear it has nothing to do with that.  A burrito is a burrito.  Rice, beans, cheese, tortilla, salsa.  I would hardly claim that Baja Fresh is the picture of authentic Mexican food, and yet I love that place.  Why?  Because it’s clean flavors.  They don’t fuck with the formula.  Their Baja Burrito is perfect.  Tortilla, charbroilled chicken topped with pico de gallo, cheese and guacamole.  A great combo.  They don’t add smoky ingredients to the chicken, because if you want it smoky, you’ll add the smoky salsa. 

What I ended up getting at Chipotle (from your recommendations), after the jump… Read more »

At Lunch Now: Chipotle


The year of Chipotle celibacy has come to an end. Full details, what I
ended up getting, and the Midtown Lunch Burrito Theory- coming tomorrow.  I will now walk around the block in an attempt to get rid of the feeling that there is a brick resting at the bottom of my stomach. 

PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Conrad Logic”

Every Tuesday I turn over Midtown Lunch to a random worker, for their favorite places to eat lunch in Midtown. Today, it’s Conrad Logic.  A Rapper/Attorney who loves street meat.  I think I can let this one speak for itself.

Name: Conrad Logic

Age:
30 Plus

Weight:
Rolling Heavy

Occupation:
Rapper/Attorney  (For more, go to http://www.gentrifyordie.com/.  Btw- that’s his rapper website- not his Attorney Profile)

Where in Midtown do you Work?:
Rock Center Baby

Favorite Kind of Food:
Anything prepared by a cart monger. Currently, I’m in a strong Halal chicken and rice zone. Props to Midtown Lunch for dropping the science on the 53rd and Sixth cart having a branch location across the street. No wait, same great sauce!

Least Favorite Kind of Food:
Not sure it’s out there; I’m down- from sweetbreads to the funky chicken claw yakatori.

Favorite Place to Eat Lunch in Midtown:
Until recently it was the tasty marinated lamb at the Kwik Meal cart, dude’s full chef outfit lets you know he is a class act through and through. I’ve moved on to the burger and fries at the Burger Joint, just call ahead and walk in to pick up your sack of sweet burger lovin.

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: Starbucks, sometimes you need the hookup a few times a day. Plus my girl packs me a lunch a few days a week.

Place you discovered on MidtownLunch.com: OMS/B (which is also graffiti crew based out of shibuya); a couple of the Set As makes for a nice snack before a prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella sammy at Milantz. Additionally, I’m a strong advocate of the Stalin special at the Hallo Berlin cart. Rolf’s wurst slicer is a true technological innovation.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Singapore, they got this ridiculous market of street vendors in “Chinatown” where you can score top notch street food and bottomless snacks in many styles including the local char kway teow, Chinese cha shao fun, Indian murtabaks, Malay rotis and nasi lemak, and top notch Indonesian satays.

Anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers?: What’s your favorite purveyor of fine coffee in midtown vicinity?

 

Wow. I’m going to leave this one up to you guys. I’m speechless.

If you have a coffee suggestion for “Conrad”, leave it as a comment below- and as always, if you have news, suggestions, or you want to be next week’s Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er- email me at zach@midtownlunch.com