Archive for July 2008

Recession Special: Turning Free Samples Into a Midtown Lunch Tasting Menu

I love having guest writers on the site, so when this guy wrote in and asked if he could submit a post about making an entire lunch out of free samples in Midtown, I was like- uh… of course!  Nobody loves free stuff more than me… except maybe this guy.  Meet Jeremy, an employee of a PR agency on 45th & 5th, who has developed the “perfect” free lunch experience. (He may also be related to Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er “Jim”)

Free Bread!  Cosi, Midtown NYC 

Like most of you, I’ve been looking to Midtown Lunch for good cheap food since I started working in Midtown late last year. When I’m feeling flush I head to Ambrosia (on 45th btw. 5+6th) for (runny egg on request) bibimbap, ‘wichcraft for the slow-roasted pork sandwich, or Chiyoda (on 41st btw. Mad+5th) for a taste of the sea. But the New Year brought crippling student loans and totally unreasonable spending habits (this summer I ate at James Beard and WD-50 on two consecutive nights), so naturally, I have started looking for low-cost alternatives.

It’s not that I can’t scrape together five dollars for lunch, or that I can’t cook for myself. As all Midtown Lunch disciples know, one of the few joys of working a serious midtown job is taking your one hour lunch break to walk around the neighborhood, get annoyed by tourists, play chess in Bryant Park, and think about getting on the downtown F train and never coming back.

First I started reducing the size of my meals, beginning with the “Master Cleanse” diet. “It’s about learning restraint, dude.” That ended on day four when I passed out in the shower. Then I limited myself to tiny lunches, like a small plate of kimchi from Cafe Manhattan (on 45th btw. 5+6th.) Incidentally, what’s on display in the cold buffet by the lb. trough is not the Korean staple, but some unfermented imposter. (Ask and you shall receive the real shit.) When it became apparent that my coworkers were starting to feel sorry for me (my supervisor still gives me her hard-boiled eggs, an edible symbol of life itself) I realized I had to create the impression that I was living luxe, but do it on the cheap.

So I devised a cheap Midtown Lunch walking tour: a multi course, totaly free, tasting menu that anybody can do (provided you are not easily embarassed.)   Read more »

Good Riddance Bagelfeller: Posted to the comments, and confirmed by Eater: Bagelfeller on 48th btw. 5+6th is becoming Sam's Cafe House serving lunch and dinner. "Perhaps this is just a case of one generic Midtown spot replacing another, but according to a tipster, BagelFeller was actually a big place with the Rock Center crowd." Uh... if by "Rock Center crowd" you mean lunch-challenged-losers, than yes- Bagelfeller was a "big place."

Free Food Alert: New Pret Means Free Sandwiches on Friday


Another Pret is opening up on 3rd Ave btw. 47+48th and they’re doing another one of those free sandwich days. It’s a little tricky though, so you may want to pay attention… On Friday morning from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. they’ll be giving out flyers for a free Pret goodie bag, which can be redeemed after 12:15 p.m.  At previous openings the goodie bag contained half a sandwich, a bag of popcorn, a brownie, and a coupon for a free cup of coffee. Not too shabby. If they haven’t given out all the goodie bags by around 1:30, they may start to give out more flyers at the door- so if you don’t manage to score a flyer on Friday morning, you can still try to snag your free food sans flyer.  Their main goal is letting people know the store is open, so people have been successful at getting free food without a flyer in the past, but there are no guarantees.   Good luck freeloaders!

No Free Burrito For You!: The newest Midtown Chipotle (on 50th & Park) is having their Grand Opening tonight, but there will be no free burritos.  Instead, a $5 donation to charity will get you a free meal and fountain drink until 9 p.m.  Tomorrow, they'll be open for regular business at 11 a.m.

Airing of Grievances: Naples 45 & Woorijip Sushi Scam

I try my best not to be too negative on this site, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to vent. Every once in awhile I’ll share some of the more angry useful emails I get in a post called “Airing of Grievances”. (If the Eater Complaints Dept. would like royalties, I’ll be happy to pay up…)

Pepperoni Pizza @ Naples 45, Midtown NYC
Naples 45 Pizza Deal. Photo taken (what seems like) 17 years ago.

While Z Deli was rolling back the prices on their slice, it appears as if Naples 45 was doing the opposite. Originally you could get a $1.25 slice after 2pm at Naples 45.  At some point it was raised to $1.50, but now it appears as if the price has increased again.  And this guy sounds super pissed: 

“Needed a quick pizza fix and remembered your mention of this late lunch special. Guess what?? The price was $1.70… $1.90 with tax. True, it was tasty… but the ‘magic’ is definitely gone. And I’m sorry, the price of oil to blame is bogus.. they are just milking the attention your site gave ‘em. That’s my opinion. Even worse, I’m still hungry. Grrrrr.”

Dude… don’t blame this shit on me. It *is* probably this country’s dependence on foreign oil. Yeah, that sounds right.

Woorijip’s new sushi subterfuge, after the jump…  Read more »

Street Bentos From the Soon to Open Washoku Cafe

Washoku Cafe 
Chiyoda Sushi Remember when I wrote about the bento boxes Chiyoda Sushi (on 41st btw. Mad+5th) was selling out of plastic tubs on 49th btw. 6+7th?  Well it appears as if the Chiyoda guy has been replaced by another dude selling Japanese bento boxes out of plastic tubs in the same spot.  This new guy is from the Washoku Cafe, a new Japanese lunch place that is opening soon on 37th btw. Mad+5th.  The actual storefront isn’t set to open for a little while, but in the meantime you can sample their food from this random sidewalk vendor.  Every day he’s on 49th btw. 6+7th with different bentos, rice bowls, noodle dishes, sushi and rice balls (omusubi).  Almost everything is $6 to $7.50, and depending on the day he’ll offer anything from eel ($9) to beef bowls ($6), sushi sets ($7.50) to cold udon and soba ($6).

The guy is only out there until around 12:30/12:45 so by the time I showed up yesterday the pickings were slim.  What I got is after the jump…  Read more »

Do I Look Like Midtown Buffet’s Lost & Found?: Since you know how much I love mis-directed emails, I thought I'd share the one I got this morning: "I ate at the Midtown Buffet yesterday and left something there and was wondering if there was anyway to get the item? -Linda"  Hmmm... anybody find "something" at the Midtown Buffet yesterday?

Pampano Taqueria Food Court is Starting to Fill Out

 Silo Cafe

The food court on 3rd Ave. (btw. 49+50th) that is home to Pampano Taqueria, Sophie’s Cuban, Pump, and Yorganic is about to welcome another addition: the Silo Cafe. This will be the chain’s second branch in Midtown (there is another one located just-in-bounds on 32nd St. btw. Park+Madison), and from the looks of their website it’s just another generic Midtown deli. However, the 32nd St. location does have udon, teriyaki and bibimbap, so this place might be worth a quick looksee, provided they follow suit. The basement of the Crystal Pavillion is finally starting to look less like a war zone, and more like a food court.  (I love food courts.)

Anybody been to the Silo Cafe on 32nd? Feel free to comment below- the good citizens of 3rd avenue are eagerly awaiting your opinions. And if you want to see photos of the interior, they are posted after the jump…  Read more »

99 Cent Pizza is Back at Z Deli


In an unprecendented, never seen before in the history of Midtown Lunch (which is only a little over two years, but whatever), a restaurant has actually *lowered* the price on one of their items!  Z Deli, which put itself on the Midtown Lunch map last year by selling 99 cent pizza, raised their price to $1.50 in May- landing them on the M.L. Price Hike List.  In a complete reversal, they have reverted back to the 99 Cent price.  (Thanks to commenter Seiki for pointing out the change.) I’m guessing that nobody was buying the pizza at its new increased price, and they were forced to go back to the 99 cents.  (Better to sell pizza and make a tiny bit of money, than sell no pizza at all.)  Score one for the cheapos!  Now if we could only get  Del Frisco’s to reverse the steak tips increase…

PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’ers “Joyce & Sarah”

Every Tuesday I turn over the site to a different Midtown Lunch’er for his or her recommendations for the best lunch in Midtown. This week it’s something we’ve never had before: a tag team profile.  I kind of like it.  Meet Joyce & Sarah, who from the sound of their answers have used Midtown Lunch as a  personal checklist.  I must say, I’m a little impressed with how thorough they’ve been, and this may be one of my favorite profiles of all time.  They also wanted everyone to know that the photo below is from Momofuku Ko (aka the ”best night of our lives”) which means these ladies spend alot of time (and money) eating together.

Name: Sarah (left) & Joyce (right)

Both 25


Where in Midtown do you Work?:
49th & 7th Ave.

Favorite Kind of Food:
We both enjoy street meat of all kinds (especially the hardcore chicken and rice cart at 53rd and 6th). Benihana (on 56th btw. 5+6th) is our new ‘splurge’ midtown lunch since it is just outside of the $10 range, a tie with the steak tips at Del Frisco’s which are also outside of Midtown Lunch range now. Joyce likes plantains, cupcakes and all desserts, while Sarah has a craving for Indian food every day, or at least on Tuesdays because that is when Spice Fusion is the tastiest.

Least Favorite Kind of Food:
Sandwiches in theory, with an exception for ‘wichcraft. They are a poor excuse for a real Midtown Lunch.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown:
Much like the state of the economy, lunch in Midtown is subject to high volatility and uncertainty. We respond to these trends by being exceptionally cyclical Midtown Lunchers who are very fickle with our affections. Screw up once and we will never return. Our previous obsessions have included a month of only eating chapati rolls from the Biryani cart on 46th and 6th (Chennai for Sarah, Pune for Joyce), until the chef disappeared earlier this year and we were disappointed with the substitute chefs. We have yet to make a return to try out the new menu items due to the tremendous letdown in January. Last summer we braved the intense summer heat and waited inside City 75 at the “Man Bar”  (51st btw. 5+6th) just to have cheesesteaks and fries occasionally with seaweed salad and Black and White cookies (we know it sounds gross). We don’t want to spread rumors but there was definitely a noticeable correlation between the subprime blowup and the shuttering of our beloved Tuck Shop at the Cyber Cafe. Perhaps the Aussies decided Midtown was too saturated with other Midtown Lunch hotspots. Sarah spent one winter switching between salmon teriyaki and udon soup at Teriyaki Boy (on 49th and 7th). Sapporo  (on 49th btw. 6+7th) was also another 10-steps-away-from-the-office favorite for a while, before the credit crunch forced us to re-evaluate the sensibility of $9 fried rice. Indian food turned out to be a great fallback, especially since you tipped us off to Spice Fusion (on 8th Ave. btw. 47+48th) where you can get rice AND naan. Before that, we only frequented Minar (on 46th btw. 6+7th) periodically due to the soup kitchen like atmosphere. We were very excited when we discovered Azuri Cafe on 51st btw. 9+10th last year. It’s a bit of a trek but the delicious falafel and shwarma and shish kabob and everything else is worth the walk. Although we know in our heads that it is inefficient to waste part of our $10 Midtown Lunch resources on drinks, our hearts can’t resist the call of the succulent fruit nectar beverages at Azuri Cafe.

“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? There are too many lame places to list but some include the company cafeteria, Hale and Hearty despite the price gouging, and generic Midtown delis specifically BellyDelly Deli on 50th and Broadway.

Place(s) you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch? Midtown Lunch as been a godsend to us and we have taken it upon ourselves to spread the gospel by going somewhere recommended by Midtown Lunch almost every day. Our favorite finds include our steak tips splurge (RIP), the “Man Bar”, and Madeleine the crepe lady at the Cyber Cafe (on 49th btw. 7+8th.)

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Joyce: Boston, so I can eat lobster rolls and clam chowder for lunch every day. Sarah: Spain, because of the potential for variety in a meal made up of tapas. Plus, who wouldn’t enjoy a nice long post-lunch siesta?

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers? Although they are outside of Midtown Lunch price boundaries, what are the best lobster rolls in the city?

Funny you should ask that.  Thanks to a tip from a Midtown Lunch’er, I had what may be the best lobster roll deal in the city over the weekend.  Check it out after the jump…  Read more »