Shih Lee Serves Up Chinese Deliciousness in the far reaches of Midtown East

I was so excited by the description of Shih Lee offered up by Profiled: Midtown Luncher “Kayoko” I asked her to join the slowly growing list of Midtown Lunch contributors, to write about the good places to eat in the out of bounds reaches of Midtown East (she works on 1st Ave. over by the U.N. building.  Kayoko has her own most excellent blog but has agreed to pop over here every once in awhile to make everyone in Midtown proper (and now Donwtown) a little jealous every once in awhile.

Shih Lee

To call where I work, off of 1st Ave near the UN building, “Out of Bounds” Midtown is an understatement. A TEN minute walk from Grand Central, just trying to navigate through the hoards of frantic workers and tourists in the station easily takes a few minutes every morning. Oh, the price we pay to work in the glorious east side of Manhattan’s Midtown.  And of course, as with all Midtown workerbees, there’s the great Midtown Lunch dilemma! My goal here is to try to make all you Midtown West and Downtown people wish you worked on the outskirts of the east side. WOOT! Let’s see if I could possibly top the bulgogi cart, or the banh mi jewelry shop (JEALOUS!) with Shih Lee, my personal favorite, at least one a week, East side lunch. 

A small joint on 45th between 1st and 2nd Ave, the self-described “Traditional Chinese Cuisine with Modern Flair” is run by two charming young brothers. It’s casual, cheap, and has a great locals only vibe (all the customers know each other!). The walls are lined with postcards from around the world, sent by loyal SL customers- it’s that kind of place. 

Shih Lee

Although Shih Lee gets ridiculously packed, it has a straightforward, extremely organized ordering process to keep frustration minimal. They run a tight ship, these guys. You basically get in line where all of the days dishes are displayed, and for $7, you get to choose a combination plate of 1 noodle or rice dish, and two sides (add $1.50 for each extra side). Can’t beat that in Midtown!

Shih Lee

They have a wide selection of dishes each day- from your staples like General Tso’s Chicken (some of the best in town) to the more unique dishes, like stewed oxtail, and pork adobo, both local favorites. The sauteed green beans are addictive, and they’ll add some extra bok choy or bean sprouts for you if you just ask. One of my favorites are the rice noodles, which is basically a lighter, delicious alternative to lo-mein. On some days, there’s this awesome fried white fish, but it runs out pretty quick so you gotta peel yourself out of your cube early enough to get it.

Shih Lee

As good as the combo lunch is, the noodle soups at Shih Lee are the little secret- and in my opinion, totally beat out the soups from some of the neighboring noodle joints. You just place your order with the guy behind the counter, and it takes about 5-10 minutes, but it’s worth the extra wait. I always go for the noodles with pork and pickled cabbage.  In fact, Downtown Lunch and I can have a noodle soup battle: Shih Lee vs. Excellent Pork Chop House. Are we on, Daniel?

The +

  • An excellent, diverse selection of typical and non-typical Chinese “takeout” food with specials everyday
  • Good portions at a cheap pricepoint
  • They have a good selection of magazines, so you can get caught up on all your celebrity gossip while lunching!

The -

  • Gets very crowded and congested at the ordering station
  • Often hard to find a place to sit and there’s no way you can linger after your meal when people are standing around waiting for you to get up.

Shih Lee, 311 E 45th St (btw. 1+2nd), 212-867-0318

Post and Photos by Kayoko Akabori from 


  • oh shizzle. I am a big fan of EPH. Too bad this place is ALL THE WAY on 1st ave. Seriously, MTA needs to install a crosstown rail just so I can eat everywhere in midtown.

  • Aren’t you that troublemaking chickadee my husband is sweet on from that “your money” blog?

  • I’ve lived in Tudor City for close to 12 years and have never walked by or heard of this place! Can’t wait to check it out!

  • Maybe the blog was “your mommy”. I’m not sure.

  • This restaurant was only two blocks away from our hotel in Midtown, and we had heard wonderful reviews of the place, so we had to go. It was surprisingly good. We ordered the Orange Beef, Sesame Chicken, and Eggplants with Shrimp. Very good!

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    I was pleasantly surprised by their braised beef noodle soup. As a Taiwanese, I’ve always had cravings for braised beef noodle soup and more often than not, I get disappointed by the quality when I eat it in the US. For braised beef noodle soup outside of Taiwan, this is pretty decent! The beef was well marinated and tender and the soup was good. The portion was huge though, I was stuffed after finishing the entire bowl (which I probably shouldn’t have, but it was so good). I’m definitely coming back here again. Thanks for writing up on it, I wouldn’t have found this place otherwise.

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