PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Leah”

Every Tuesday I turn over the site to a different Lunch’er for his or her “Best Lunch in Midtown” recommendations. As promised, since last week we beefed it up with the Shameless Carnivore, this week I’m profiling someone for the veggies. Meet Leah, a writer and blogger, who not only eats vegetarian, but works for an organization that is trying to help the Jewish community become more healthy and sustainable.

 Name: Leah


I work for Hazon, a Jewish environmental organization and run The Jew & The Carrot, our blog on Jews, food, and contemporary life.

Where in Midtown do you Work?:
Hazon’s offices are on 35th between 5th and 6th Avenue — within blocks of not one, but TWO H&M stores

Favorite Kind of Food:
I hate to self-define as a food snob, but stinky, artisanal cheeses and hearty farmers’ market greens like kale and mustard greens generally top my list. I also love Dagoba chocolate and most homemade baked goods — brownies, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, my mom’s amazing chocolate cake

Least Favorite Kind of Food:
I stay away from anything that tastes like the sea, with the occasional exception of vegetarian sushi. And honestly, I only eat sushi so that I can snack on the pickled ginger.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: Anything vegetarian or veggie friendly. Hazon often orders in for lunch meetings from Madras Mahal (on Lex btw. 27+28th) — a tasty kosher, Indian place. I really like their Pea Paratha (bread stuffed with seasoned green peas) and Palak Paneer (cheese cubes in a pure of spinach, cream, and herbs — mmmm….heart attack)

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often: Being the environmental organization that we are, my green-minded coworkers actually bring food from home on a fairly regular basis. But most days someone was too tired or rushed to get around to packing a lunch. So the three “goto” places are:

  1. Hale & Hearty Soups— You can order your lunch online without talking to anyone! Extra points for convenience, even if your soup is lukewarm and your salad looks like it went through a washing machine.
  2. Zenith (pan-Asian vegetarian on 48th & 8th) — Their food is generally decent, but some of their fake meat dishes scare me – like the “mango temptation” which features vegetarian chicken drowning in an electric-magenta sweet & sour sauce. How does it get so red?! I probably don’t want to know…
  3. Circa (kosher, sandwiches/salads on 33rd btw. Bway+5th) — It’s easy, mostly healthy, and satisfies everyone’s dietary needs on staff, regardless of how strictly they do (or don’t) follow the kosher laws. Still, it’s a bit too “corporate lunch trough” for my taste.

Place you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch: Zen Burger — thanks!

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Hazon used to be located one block from the Chelsea Market. Amazing cupcakes, Thai food, an Italian wholesale shop, Amy’s Bread, and a fruit and veg market all in one location — I dream of it still.

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers?: If you know of any other kosher or vegetarian gems in the nabe, I’m all ears. Also — where (if anywhere) can I pick up a good bottle of wine to bring to friends’ apartments after work?

Considering you are on 35th btw. 5+6th, there is one Kosher place I know about that you should be eating at every single day!  Fresh baked Kosher bread goodness, after the jump…

When Olympic Pita, the very popular Brooklyn falafel and shawarma place, opened a Midtown location on 38th btw. 5+6th, I balked at their high prices.  But after much prodding by the Midtown Lunch commenting faithful, I have given in, and finally am prepared to admit that you were right, and I was wrong.  You’re the best, I’m the worst.  You’re very good looking, I’m not that attractive. 

Basically, their fresh baked bread is just too good to ignore, and if you get the falafel, it ends up being less than $10.  If you haven’t been, you are missing out.  I’m making it a certified Midtown Lunch, with a full +/- coming soon… 

Anybody else have a recommendation for Leah?  Feel free to post it in the comments.

And 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


  • Wait. Wait just one second. She is thanking Zach for Zen Burger?

  • Respect the OP! Olympic forever! The prices are steep, but the quality is high. One of my favorites in the midtown area.

    Leah – depends on how you define kosher. According to the literal text of the Hebrew Bible, a hamburger with goat cheese is kosher. And there are Jews who abide by this. So get yourself a kosher burger with cheese and enjoy!

  • OMG…Finally a fellow vegetarian….some great places outside the Midtown area are Vege Paradise 2 and Red Bamboo for a nice variety of fake meats (both on West 4th Street) and Pongal (28th and Lex) for great South Indian food when you want to get away from the cheese and cream…As for the Midtown area, I though Zen Burger was a vegetarian’s McDonalds but I hate to admit that sometimes the food tastes like cardboard especially the breakfast sandwiches.

  • Most premade vegetarian patties sold in restaurants like that are going to taste like cardboard. I always stick to restaurants that make their batches fresh. What’s funny is that Applebees used to feature a veggie patty that was not all that bad…

  • Kosher vegetarian as the lunch’er – that’s pretty disciplined. How about a non-dairy kosher gluten-free vegan with a peanut allergy next? Now THAT would be something!

  • Nothing personal, but this is a *most* uninspiring profile (gastronomically speaking!). Baked goods, stinky cheese, GREENS??!?!?!

    Zach, the next profile better be chock full of fried, carb-filled, meaty over-the top junk-food pleasure (smothered in cream sauce and buried under a mound of melted non-stinky cheese) or else I’ll just have to change jobs to work in an office that’s not in midtown. (Not a threat, just a warning! :^)

  • To answer the wine question: there’s a surprisingly decent wine shop inside Penn Station (LIRR level, corridor near 8th Ave.). Definitely a go-to place for picking up a good bottle o’ something on the way to a friend’s place.

    From street level, enter Penn via the LIRR entrance on 34th just west of 7th Ave. Down the escaltors and across the entry corridor, and make the first right into the looong East-West corridor lined with various food shops and newsstands.

    The 3rd north-south corridor coming off of that is the 8th avenue corridor, and the wine shop is a short ways down on the right, between tracks 17 and 16.

    The store is, in a way, kind of in the spirit of Midtown Lunch — a good find in a place you wouldn’t expect, with good prices.

  • Plus, they run weekly specials on Thunderbird, MD 20/20, Wild Irish Rose and Night Train. Little paper bags are no charge.

  • Wow StevenP, got any hangups? I am definitely not one of those vegetarians who walks around with a holier-than-thou attitude to the fried, meat-filled, and smothered in Kraft cheese sauce-inclined folks of the world. (I used to be, but that was just no fun at all for anyone). I’m sorry that you don’t hold the same respect for someone who gets equal amounts of gastronomic pleasure eating at a different point of the foodie spectrum than you do.

    Thanks for the wine shop suggestion Met, and I will definitely try Olympic Pita.

    As for Zen Burger – I agree it’s certainly not the pinnacle of vegetarian cuisine, but it’ll do in a pinch.

  • @ Wayne: I am a gluten-free vegetarian with a peanut allergy, wanna make something of it?? And I love fried fatty bad for you foods. Yum.

    Hey Leah, are you single? Gay? I’ll take 1 out of 2!

  • Since most commentors are usually bitching about anyone that falls outside of their boring fried meat munching box (I’m looking at you StevenP) *I* will take this moment to say *finally*! An interesting Luncher profiled who eats something other than cheeseburgers and chicken parms! For you Leah I must say, and I’ve said a bunch before, if you guys order from Madras Mahal you can totally order from Chennai Garden! Its also kosher and my fave curry hill lunch spot! Also you might be able to get delivery from ThaiNY that has great veggie pad thai and a real good lunch special. And lastly my definition of a ‘good’ wine store = a cheap wine store, and there’s an excellent, very affordable one on 3rd ave btw 28th and 29th.

  • Maybe I should have emphasized the “nothing personal” which I started out with, because I meant that. I was simply expressing a similar sentiment to those posted when Zach went ga-ga over zenburger. Zach’s a big guy who likes to eat big, and that’s what I (and perhaps others?) come here to read.

    I did not intend any personal affront and apologize if any was perceived. I also did not expect my comments to be taken *that* seriously.

    And Sarah, I don’t think that “fried meat munching boxes” are boring at all! (In fact, your mention of them is causing some alivary activity here.)

    Must I insert extra smileys to have my comments taken in the vein they were submitted? I meant no disrespect at all. Seriously. It was more of a slightly (meaty) tongue-in-cheek poke at Zach for his profile selection, based on his (and admittedly, my own) general food preferences.

    Can I say *sheesh* now?

  • I don’t care if you think fried meat munching is awesome. *I* think its boring. Every profile that doesn’t include talk of fast food or fried dead animal gets ridiculed. I’m taking this profiled vegetarian as an opportunity to praise something that appeals to me! Not all of us read this blog to find the thousandth list of the best burger in manhattan. that’s what chowhound is for.

  • Thanks for the suggestion Sarah – I’ve never tried Chennai Garden – I’ll definitely try it.

    Thanks for writing back Steve. Too often (in blogs and real life), people use the phrase “nothing personal” as an excuse to then rip into other people’s tastes, sense of style, ideas, etc. so I appreciate your clarification. I’m more than happy for you to order the shwarma – it leaves more crispy falafel for me. :)

    And, Vegetarianka – thanks, I’m flattered, but nope and nope.

  • OK, but I do sometimes eat falafel too. (It *is* fried, y’know.) I really was surprised I was taken so seriously. I didn’t mean to be. :(

    btw Sarah, Chowhound is a board for the serious food-snobs-who-pretend-they-aren’t to name-drop the (mostly) overpriced places they claim to frequent on a regular basis while disingenuously asserting that they are more concerned with the food itself than with image/status. (imo, of course!)

  • right. so just what I said.

  • Stevie, do not fight with veggies their far too weak and malnourished and therefore hunt in packs and will kill a non chop doger with a well placed :’you’re prostate will thank me’(‘part from sarah, who gains extra punching power from pinot grigio and cocktails and shackstack portobello burgers).

    Anyway, lunch time, im going for a unicorn burger.

    Also, a Bacon Butty made from Glouster oldspot pig will ‘cure’ any veggie.

  • Spot on Rudy – Zach, these forays into vegetarianland never end well. You should just cordon off the whole genre with bright orange pylons and police tape, it’s only a matter of time before someone loses an eye. (to go with their sense of humor)

  • Leah…my hubby works in the chelsea markt….he says it gets old after one week…so don’t feel too bad you don’t work there. But for a spouse (ME!!) it is a different story all together– I get to visit him and enjoy the culinary treats, but not get tired of smelling lobster and cupcakes every single day, all day. :)

  • Veg Garden is kosher dairy and has some awesome soups and food. They moved to Bagels Plus which i think is 38th btwn 7th and 8th. Alot of vegetarian options.

    Kati Roll too is a good go-to spot for some vegetarian delights.

    Milant Deli to get your craving of various cheeses on good bread and soup to boot.

    Being vegetarian in midtown does get boring though.

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