PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Swan”

Every Tuesday I turn over the site to a different Midtown Lunch’er for his or her recommendations for the best lunch in Midtown. Today it’s Swan, a Market Planning Manager (I have no idea what that means), and proprietor of “Lifestyle of a Yuppie“.  She spends her lunchtime pushing over old ladies for free samples at the Delta 360 Lounge,  but dreams of one day lunch’ing in Japan…

Name: Swan


Market Planning Manager (and blogger)

Where in Midtown do you Work?:
Midtown West

Favorite Kind of Food:
Free food! Just kidding. =) Italian and Japanese dishes, even better when there’s a mix of the two… a la Basta Pasta.

Least Favorite Kind of Food: Fast food chains. Americanized Chinese food. Anything that I can make.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: Salads and fatty tuna over rice from Chiyoda(41st btw. Mad+5th), Pizza Bianca from Sullivan Street Bakery (47th btw. 10+11th or at Dean & Deluca), Sapporo’sShio Ramen (49th btw. 6+7th), Tacos from Pampano Taqueria (3rd btw. 49+50th), Dim Sum and/or Wonton Noodles from Fuji Bakery (the food is mediocre but it’s cheap, authentic Chinese food without going downtown) on 35th btw. 7+8th. My new favorites are the spicy chicken and chorizo empanadas from Empanada Mama (on 9th Ave. btw. 51+52nd).

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: Whole Foods (Columbus Circle), Norimaki (35th btw. 7+8th), Osaka (8th Ave. btw. 36+37th), the salad bar in Penn Station. There’s not much going on in the industrial wasteland that is Midtown West.

Place you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch: The Tamale Lady in front of the Mexican Embassy. Thanks a million!!!! I force co-workers and friends to walk 5 blocks cross town with me, in the freezing cold no less, for my weekly tamale craving.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Tokyo. It’s a metropolis that obviously has Japanese food. I noticed Italian food was quite popular there when I visited a few years ago. Not that it matters much but Michelin named Tokyo as the World’s Culinary Capital. Given the high cost of living there, the bulk of my salary would probably be allocated towards lunch money.

I’m sorry.  Did I hear you right?  Under “Foods I Don’t Like” did you dare to put Chinese food?  Sure, you clarified that it’s “Americanized Chinese Food” that you don’t like- but in my mind no kind of Chinese food should ever be discriminated against.  Sure, I prefer “authentic” Chinese food (I probably ate Dim Sum every weekend for all of 2000-2001 when I lived in Boston), but there should be a special place in everyone’s heart for General Tso’s Chicken, Beef & Broccoli and fortune cookies (not to mention Panda Express).

The greatest book ever written on the subject, after the jump…


It doesn’t come out until March, but I was lucky enough to get a copy of this new book by Jennifer 8 Lee which I’m pretty sure was written specifically for me.  She tracks the historical journey of Chinese food to the United States, and how it transformed and evolved into what we now eat at most “Chinese” restaurants in this country.  Along the way she answers the most important questions- like Who was General Tso?  Where do fortune cookies came from? (They’re Japanese)  What exactly is Chow Mein?  And why do Jews love Chinese food so much?

More on this book when it comes out… but I wanted to mention it now because Jennifer makes an interesting point that I think is applicable here.  In a lot of ways, there is no such thing as “authentic” food.  Every food, in every country, has been influenced in some way by outside forces, morphing into the cuisine that we may recognize as “authentic” at this moment in time.  “Americanized Chinese Food” is a wonderful part of culinary history, representing the convergence of two cultures in 20th century.  A beautiful and tasty convergence.  So don’t hate, just because something is Americanized.  Unless you’re talking about Chipotle.  That shit is total garbage.  (Go Chinese food!)

As always, if you want to be the next Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er, or you’d like to nominate somebody in your office, email me at


  • People not liking Cheap chinese food is the Price Zach must pay for liking Zen Burger.Ying/Yang

    Also you’re right all food mutates when introduced to a new enviroment.

    Chicken tikka masala was invented in Birmingham UK, and is now the most popular ‘indian’ dish in the world.

    Something that drives a colleague fom Bombay( i refuse to call it mumbai) completely potty.

  • Sorry Zach, I’d take Chipotle over Chinese food anyday. Go Chipotle!

    Despite my dislike for Americanized Chinese food, I will definitely check out Jen 8′s book. Love her name!

    Btw, there’s also a Whole Foods on 24th and 7th Ave.

  • No only but also,……….chicken soup is a muslim dish,apple pie canadian,fish and chips irish,pizza albanian,Cassoulette is scottish,hot dogs russian.

    Although you may keep your claim to stringy cheese.

  • i’d like to see a profile on Rudy. =)

  • Jenny 8 Lee is such a dreamboat! I wish I had her name and could cut into her, tear the flesh, wear the flesh, and be born unto new worlds where her flesh becomes my key!

  • ..With fava beans and a nice chianti?

  • In what way is Midtown West a culinary wasteland? Holy Jeebus! Thai up the shoot. The chicken & ribs place between 42nd and 43rd on 9th. La Cocina. Lots of good food over there, folks!

  • I hate on “Americanized Chinese” food too, except I eat it every week. There is something comforting about crab rangoons and beef and broccoli.

  • Ah-ha! I always harbored the suspicion that Chicken Tikka Masala wasn’t invented in India. Glad to have it confirmed. It’s like this young upstart that hit all the desi restaurants in the last decade and I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out where the heck it came from.

    Not a huge fan of Americanized Chinese food either, though the occasional craving for General Tso’s must be met. I’ve lately been indulging in Indo-Chinese over in Murray Hill. The dishes at Chinese Mirch nearly scorched my tongue off!

  • Brocktoon! I should want to cook the guy who plays mr belvedere some chicken tikka masala if he truly accepts the offer, but not if I sense that he accepts it telepathically.

  • Hi all,
    Need a restaurant recommendation for a trendy place close to MSG.


  • Haha… I can’t believe you just said “Go Chipotle” after also saying you hate fast food chains…
    Although I don’t think she’s hating simply because it’s Americanized… I think she’s hating because mostly, it sucks. Don’t get me wrong, every cuisine has its place, and some of them don’t belong in my belly. =)

  • PS STILL waiting for a profile on Rudy…

  • A- for lunch or for dinner?

  • Early dinner. Show at MSG starts 8pm.

  • A- hill country for some bbq? 26th near broadway.

    go greek at ethos. 3rd nr 34th.

    there are always the k-town restaurants but those dont really strike me as “trendy”.

  • Keen’s for steak. 36th betw 5th and 6th

  • Mala- Try Indo Munch a couple blocks up from Chinese Mirch- IMHO its much better. The salt and pepper paneer is amazing!

  • “Keen’s for steak. 36th betw 5th and 6th”

    Keens for a BURGER! UNREAL.

  • To A, sorry for not getting to this post sooner, but a better option would have been Seven on 7th between 29th & 30th. It’s a lovely restaurant among the bars and cheap eateries, with great lunch/dinner options. It’s American cuisine.

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