PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Grace”
Every Tuesday I turn over the site to a different Midtown Lunch’er for his or her recommendations for the best lunch in Midtown. This week’s lunch’er was actually nominated by a co-worker, who had this to say: “Her navigation of the midtown lunch terrain is that of a seasoned veteran, and her knowledge of the area’s best soups is her secret weapon… Although she somehow gets her work done, every time I look over at her screen she’s on Midtown Lunch or Menupages.com. I’ve never seen anyone get so excited about planning what she will be having for lunch at 8:30 am. Sounds like a good candidate to me.” Sounds like it to me too. Meet Grace, a soup obsessed PR exec with no shortage of recommendations for lunchtime…
Occupation: Public Relations Executive
Where in Midtown do you Work?:43rd and Broadway (Talk about a food wasteland and tourist trap!)
Favorite Kind of Food: Soup! Hot and hearty goodness when done right!
Least Favorite Kind of Food: Generic Midtown Deli Sandwiches. Also anything with a weird chewy texture (e.g. overcooked calamari = rubber bands).
Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: Well, within the “Midtown Lunch price range” I’d say:
- Green Symphony (43rd btw. 7+8th) — When I am feeling somewhat healthy, their hot buffet is delicious and usually includes an Indian-style curried veggie stew that I am obsessed with…spicy stewy goodness … mmmmm. Unless you are a total glutton like me and eat huge quantities, it’s also relatively non-food-coma-inducing, since the multi-ethnic buffet features lightened-up versions of heartier dishes like enchiladas, Korean BBQed Chicken, and various Indian dishes along with all different types of salads on the cold side. I also like their made-to order “Health Salad,” which probably isn’t really healthy at all since it includes practically an entire avocadoâ€”which is just butter masquerading as a vegetable if you ask meâ€”but oh so good. This salad also includes hummus, sprouts, greens, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and raisins. I top it all off with Green’s lemon-tahini dressing.
- Cho-Dang Gol (35th btw. 5+6th) — Hidden slightly off the main Koreatown strip, this place is known for their handmade tofu, which comes in several different textures from silky to firm but airy. It’s my favorite place in K-town because it features dishes beyond the standard bulgolgi and bibimbap. Also, it actually just received a Michelin Star (for those that assign merit to this French import rating system — I personally think it’s not bad and am impressed that they are able to appreciate off the beaten path restaurants as much as a Daniel or a Per Se.). It’s a total steal because their lunch prices mean that many dishes are less than $10 and they have the best, most interesting panchan (free side dishes) in K-town. I would recommend their tofu pancakes with ground pork and chopped kimchee as an appetizer if you go with a group. Individual stew/casseroles that I like include: the “Hae Mul Cham Doo Boo” (hand made tofu casserole mixed with various seafood) and “Doo Boo Darn Jang Jigae” (hand made tofu with squash, potato, green pepper in soybean pasta stew) — both only $7.95 at lunch. If you go with a group and want to stay within the Midtown Lunch price range, it is worth sharing the “Cho Dang Gol Son Doo Boo Jun Gol” (3 different types of handmade tofu w/ potato, mushroom & squash in spicy broth with beef) $33.95 but enough for 3-4. Also good to share for two people is the “Buh Sut Gob Dol” (Different types of mushrooms topped on steamed rice in hot stone bowl with beef, crabmeat and vegetables)–$14.95. They also have a winter chicken casserole with what looks like whole cut of pieces of chicken that is a special sometimes, which I haven’t tried yet but looks amazing. If anyone gets to it before I do, please report back!
- Jean Georges (60th & Central Park W)— It’s outside the price range, but worth mentioning. Their two-course $28 lunch is a steal compared to dinner here or at any other comparable establishments and many of the signature dinner items appear on the lunch menu, e.g. the jalepeno braised short ribs. I also like their cheese cart because they will actually have cheeses on it that I haven’t tried. (I eat a lot of cheese and find most NYC restaurant cheese selections tasty but very predictable.)
And now… in the interest of space- I must, for the first time ever, place the jump in the middle of a lunch’ers Profile. Grace’s secret, hidden soup spot, the best cheese in the city and more after the jump…
The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: I have a personal ban on Europa and Times Deli, but this would be where the majority of my coworkers get lunch AND breakfast (god help them). Confession: I sometimes cave and get an overpriced salad at Zest (B’way btw. 40+41st). What can I say? I am a sucker for the fact that they offer arugula as a greens option, and I love their buttermilk cilantro dressing (what is it about chopped greens being just far superior to plain old tossed greens?) Usually, however, my “goto” place is actually a small food outpost appropriately called “The Outpost” hidden in the MTV building (B’way btw. 44+45th). Just enter and go up the escalator. The Outpost makes 3-4 fresh soups and chilis every day and they are always superior to Europa and often superior to places like Hale & Hearty. The best part? A container (which I’d describe as medium-large) is only $1.35. I’ll often get two or three of these because I love soup so much that I could eat a gallon. Plus, this quantity is usually necessary to appease the bottomless pit that is my stomach. I was fat as a kid and there is an inner fat child in me that kicks and screams to come out during meal times. For those that don’t love soup as much as I do, they also have a decent selection of salads, sushi, and other goodies which I assume come from the larger non-public MTV/Viacom cafeteria upstairs in the building.
Place you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch: The Hallo Berlin Cart (54th & 5th), and The Tamale Lady outside the Mexican Embassy (yes I really walked all the way over to 39th and Park from 43rd and Broadway just to get these.)
If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Probably the Lower East side since it is delivery radius from Chinatown (soup dumplings galore!) and there are a ton of great cheap eats. Also not too far away from places that are busy for dinner, but easy to go for lunch, e.g. Prune.
Anything you’d like to ask the midtown lunch readers???: I always think it’s interesting to find hidden values at “expensive” placesâ€”for example, the $10 oyster pan roast at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central or Zach’s find about the Del Frisco’s Sirloin Tips and Mash Potatoes for $10. So any ML readers that feel like sharing their finds will be added to my personal hero list.
Alright. Before we get to the bargains at expensive restaurants, let’s talk about cheese. The best cheese in the entire city is actually just outside of Midtown Lunch range.
Casellula on 52nd just west of 9th Ave. is hands down the best place for cheese in the city. They have an intimidating selection of cheeses, none of which would be considered “predictable”. Plus each one comes with a specially paired accompaniment, which for me is most of the fun. My personal favorite is the French La Trappe with the walnut liquor washed rind, paired with a preserved green walnut (although sometimes they pair it with something different.)
It’s not open for lunch- but is the perfect after work place for any cheese lover (they also have a nice menu of small plates, including a “Pig Ass Sandwich”, which naturally, I am all about.)
Now back to Grace’s question. Know of another “deal” at an expensive restaurant? Post it as a comment below.
And as always, if you want to be the next Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er, or you’d like to nominate somebody in your office (like Jeff did for Grace), email me at email@example.com