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 http://umamimart.blogspot.com/ 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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
- 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!
- 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 http://umamimart.blogspot.com/