Archive for February 2008

Midtown Links (Tortured Starbucks Employees Edition)

Inspiring Others to (Disgusting) Greatness. Kool Aid Pickle Anybody?

It’s always nice to learn that you’ve inspired others to harm their body with food.  Apparently my piece on Serious Eats about DJ Grocery’s General Tso’s Philly Cheesesteak, inspired the DJ to set up his own food blog.  And while I can’t take credit for his eating (he clearly was doing this long before I wrote about him), I’m glad I inspired him to share his ridiculous creations with the world.

The site already boasts a plethora of amazing creations, like the kool aid pickle (“these bitches sat in the modified brine for over 4 weeks”), bacon ice cream, jalapeno/bacon infused vodkapulled pork pancakesa “meat house”, and beer battered deep fried white castle burgers

His latest post could be a Midtown Lunch, involving 1 big mac, and 3 chicken sandwiches.  DJ Grocery’s Big MacChicken, after the jump… Read more »

The Best Chinese Food Dishes in Midtown… As Picked by You

If you haven’t done so yet, tomorrow (Friday) is the last day you can register to win Jennifer Lee’s new book “Fortune Cookie Chronicles”.  To enter, just post your favorite chinese food dish in Midtown as a comment on Jenny’s profile page.  I’ll contact the winners this weekend.  In the meantime, I’ve assembled some Chinese food porn based on some of the answers already submitted…  enjoy! 

Chong Qing Dry & Spicy Chicken from Grand Sichuan (2nd Ave. & 56th St.) Photo by Roboppy

Mapo Tofu from Grand Sichuan.  Photo by Food in Mouth.

Sliced beef with black mushrooms & bamboo shoots from Joe’s Shanghai (56th St. btw. 5+6th). Photo by Yehwan.

The almighty Szechuan Gourmet, plus assorted meats over rice, after the jump… Read more »

Homefront is Not Your Average Midtown Deli

Midtown is too much ground for one man to cover, so comments, suggestions and emails are always welcome.  Most “discoveries” I make come from suggestions, and the comments are always a great place to see where other people are eating.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  When I was having chest pains last week, I attributed it to my “work” here on Midtown Lunch and decided to take a salad suggestion from a commenter, only to find another lame, generic deli, not worth the walk out of my way.  The next day the doctor told me there was nothing wrong with my heart, and that I probably only had the death plague that’s been circulating around New York City (she didn’t use those words exactly…)  Thankfully, I didn’t have to try out any more salad suggestions.

Yesterday it worked out a little better when I checked out the Homefront Deli on 41st btw. Park+Madison, which was mentioned awhile back as a good place for a hot pastrami sandwich.  Expecting a soup, sandwich and salad bar deli, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a hole in the wall sandwich place, with more similarities to Milant then Metro Cafe.

My recommended pastrami and swiss, after the jump… Read more »

The $9.99 All You Can Eat Buffet Takes Two More Steps To Becoming Extinct in Midtown

Al Baraka, Midtown’s best only Turkish buffet, is now Kanaat Turkish Restaurant.  The chef, food and lunch buffet are exactly the same, but it is now $10.95 (up from $9.95 before).  The lamb shanks are still on the buffet, so it’s worth the extra buck, but the current trend of lunchtime price increases worries me that soon all buffets will need special exemptions to be included in the Midtown Lunch’ing price range.

Another popular buffet that has broken the $10 threshold, after the jump… Read more »

Midtown Links (Midweek Salad & Sushi Edition)

PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Jennifer 8. Lee” (& Book Giveaway!)

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 I’m excited to have Jennifer 8. Lee, journalist and author of “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles”,  my new favorite book for anybody who loves Chinese food (Americanized and/or “authentic”).  It answers every question I’ve ever had about my favorite kind of food, like… What the hell is Chow Mein?  Where did fortune cookies come from? (Spoiler: They’re actually Japanese)  Who is General Tso? What is the best Chinese food restaurant in the World?  And of course… Why do Jews love Chinese food so much???  It’s an amazingly interesting book about how food from China has evolved over the years, most specifically into what people consider “Chinese” food here in the United States.  The book comes out in a week, but we have a few copies to give away today, after Jenny gives her Midtown Lunch’ing recommendations…

 Name: Jenny


Journalist, blogger, and Author of the new book “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles“)

Where in Midtown do you Work?:
The New York Times

Favorite Kind of Food:
Anything ethnic, more specifically Asian ethnic. So Vietnamese pho and banh mi sandwiches, dumplings with thick skin (no gyoza please), creative sushi rolls (the bigger the better), Korean cold noodles(spicy and non), Malaysian roti canai, anything the Indians do with cauliflower.

Least Favorite Kind of Food:
Anything French and creamy. Blah.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: I love Koreatown, so Woorijip (32nd btw. B’way+5th) which is a late night Korean deli that has a buffet and take away meal packages. I love their bulgolgi, their kim bop (beef and tuna good, but I still find the American cheese ones a bit weird), their pajun pancakes, the japchae noodles, and their little pickled vegetables of all sorts: eggplant, radish, and mountain root vegetable (whatever that is). I will grab $50 worth of boxed lunches as a time and bring them home to consume. Also Todai on 32nd btw. Mad+5th. I like their extensive super buffet because they have a good selection of vegetable-based dishes, so very vegetarian and low carb friendly even if you are not into their sushi.  Cafe Zaiya on 41st between Madison and 5th for its Japanese fast food for Japanese expats. I love their rice/nori triangles. And interesting interpretation of “mini pizzas.” They have curry rices and odd sandwiches and pastries. Thank god, there is also an in-store Beard Papa for cream puffs (love green tea ones!) I love the fact you can buy sweet Japanese milk tea in bottles there. During summers you can get a great cool noodle dish whose name now escapes me.  And I like Ustav(46th/47th btw. 6+7th) for nice Indian food. It’s a bit pricier for their lunch buffet compared to the standard $9.99 fare, but it has a beautiful upscale environment to go with it. So it’s nicer for those times when you want a slower paced meal. Of course, I also like grabbing any one of those lamb/chicken meals from the Halal carts that are scattered around Midtown and going back to my desk.

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: I like Havana Central on 46th between 6th and 7th, for good, quick, reasonably priced Cuban in a colorful spacious bright restaurant. Turkey cuban sandwich (are there Turkeys in Cuba?), and ropa vieja. I would love to like their chocolate empanadas, but the crust was too hard. Avoid nights if you like conversation. They like to play their music LOUD.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Dubai… Dubai is a city of 85 expats, so there is no native palate to cater to. The ethnic restaurants therefore are generally for the immigrants/temp workers/expats from that region. So you can see the difference between Syrian, Kuwaiti and Iraqi cuisines instead of the”Middle Eastern” we see here. And you can get not just Indian cuisine,but Goan Indian cuisine! It has great street food in many respects but also glistening five star restaurants. One of the top Chinese restaurants in the world, Zheng He, a contemporary take on traditional Chinese cuisine is there. It is a dynamic food culture.

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers? What’s your favorite Chinese food dish in Midtown?  (Americanized Chinese or Chinese Chinese)

To enter to win the book, just post your favorite Chinese food dish (and Midtown location) in the comments… and don’t be afraid to go with orange chicken!  One of the themes of the book I found so interesting is how it tackles the idea of “authenticity”.  All cuisine has been affected by outside influences, even things that we may consider “authentic” by today’s standards.  So hundreds of years from now, Americanized Chinese food may be looked upon with the same reverence that we look at Dim Sum.

My favorite, after the jump… Read more »

Pro “Deli” Loses the Bagel, Goes 100% Korean w/ Best New Bi Bim Bap

Last February I wrote about Pro Hot Bagel, a hole in the wall bagel and cold cuts deli on 56th St. btw. 5+6th, which had sprouted a small Korean food station, and a sushi bar.  The reaction to the food was mixed, but it appeared to be an ok option for people who wanted some cheap fast food Korean, without traveling all the way down to Koreatown.  Well, in the past six months, the deli has dropped the “Bagel” and is now serving a menu made up almost entirely of fast food Korean.

There is a long line of pre-made bentos along the right wall, or you can go up to the front and order your food fresh off a menu, that includes an assortment of Korean meat dishes, a few stews, and Korean style ramen soups.   The new-found popularity has created turnover that insures a much fresher bento then a year ago, and the selection is great.

But the real stand-out of the menu is the $9.50 Dol Sot Bi Bim Bap (Korean rice dish, served in a hot stone bowl).  Confused as to how a fast food, take out style Korean place could do Bi Bim Bap served in a hot stone pot for under $10, I had to check it out.  Hot stone Korean rice porn, after the jump… Read more »

Midtown Links (Sugar is Back Edition!)

Lunch’er Grace Reports: The Ultimate Midtown Soup List

I am not a huge soup person, but when the weather gets like this it’s tough to resist… so rather then attempt to fake expertise, I asked Midtown Lunch’er Grace, our resident soup expert, to compile a list of her favorite soups in Midtown.  Here’s what she came up with:  



  • The Creamy Chicken Soup ($4.95) at Akdeniz (46th between 5th and 6th) — Akdeniz is hands down my favorite Turkish place in midtown. I normally go for the Sultan’s Delight (stewed dark meat chicken over smoky eggplant puree) as an entree, but when I just have to have soup, the creamy chicken soup can’t be beat. The silky, milky broth has a butteriness to it that complements the sweetness of long simmered vegetables and goes perfectly with the rich dark meat chicken chunks.


  • The White Bean Escarole Soup (about $3.50 and for a small) at Green Symphony (43rd btw 7+8th) — This place bills itself as a “healthy” food place and many of their soups are vegan for those that flow that way. Most of the soups here are pretty tasty, but I particularly like the white bean escarole on a cold winter day. I probably like it because despite being vegan, it tastes like it has meat in it. The owner tells me that the secret ingredient that gives it that carnivorous richness is miso—never would have guessed that a little soy could make a soup taste like that.


  • The Jamaican Jerk Chicken at the “hot soup” carts (Multiple Locations) — I use to work by one of these carts on 34th and Park, and my take on it was that the soups were a bit too artificially starchy for me so I sort of avoided them. However, I remember the Jamaican jerk chicken being somewhat tasty despite the gunky cornstarch thickener.
  • Potato Cabbage Soup at Hallo Berlin (54th and 5th ) —Though German sausages are the star at this cart, my co worker once brought me back a creamy potato cabbage soup from this cart that tasted like a German grandmother slaved away in the kitchen all day to make it. He said it came as part of the “Dictator’s Special,” so he wasn’t allowed to choose from the other soups on the menu. I haven’t tried any of the other soups, but if the potato cabbage is any indicator of the rest of the soup, it’s definitely worth the trek to try the rest.
  • Soups at the Jamaican Dutchy (51st between 6th and 7th) — Now I haven’t had a chance to try the soups here yet, but they just sound plain intriguing. A” Goat’s Head” soup? Bring on the weird animal parts!


  • The Harvest Pumpkin Soup (about $4 for a large) at Au Bon Pain (Multiple Locations) — Of all the commercial, mass market soups out there, ABP’s are probably some of the best in terms of consistency and seasoning. This creamy pumpkin creation that starts to be available around October has the perfect amount of spice (the ingredient list includes curry) and sweetness with a silky consistency.
  • The Macaroni and Cheese with Beef Soup and Mulligatawny Soup ($4.39 Small/ $ 6.19 Medium/ $ 7.19 Large) at Hale & Hearty (Multiple Locations)— I’m not generally a huge fan of Hale & Hearty because many of the soups taste gummy and I think they are overpriced, but I do really like these two soups—to the point where I have Hale & Hearty send me email alerts when they are available. I’m not sure it’s fair to call the Macaroni and Cheese with Beef a Soup because it is so thick that it is almost the consistency of a casserole, but whatever it is, I can never resist the meaty, cheesy goodness of this comfort food classic turned soup. I love the bold curry flavor of the Mulligatawny soup reminds me of a number of Indian dishes, but has a sweetness that is almost like a Japanese curry you might get at place like Go-Go Curry. 

The longest list of Asian soups you’ve ever seen… after the jump Read more »