PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Jim”

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 James, a possibly homeless editorial director with big dreams of a new Midtown street cart…

Name: Jim


Editorial Director

Where in Midtown do you Work?:
49th & Madison

Favorite Kind of Food:
Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern. Pretty open to everything.

Least Favorite Kind of Food:
At the risk of offending the fierce ML anti-vegetarian crowd, I’ve been trying to stay away from assembly line meats (ie: animals that need to be pumped full of hormones/antibiotics to live long enough so I can eat them). That said, I’m not a vegetarian.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown:
Okay, the first admission right off that may or may not DQ me from a profile. I generally bring in my lunch. This is because I’m cheap/poor but also because I learned I can make myself a much better lunch for less money then most generic midtown options. But I very often only bring part of my lunch and have to supplement it. I sort of make a game out of how cheaply I can do this. IE: scallion pizza ($2.50) from Cafe Zaiya (on 41st btw. Mad+5th) along with my homemade lentil curry soup=cheap, good lunch.

“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? Several women in my office have a Mangia fetish. They go there and bring back these huge bags that have nothing but greens, seeds and air. It’s all a little frightening. That said, I go there sometimes for their bread. Many times I make part of a lunch but don’t have fresh bread at home. Their whole wheat bread is outstanding and .50 for a (big) slice. They also have good condiments there (honey, mustard, good butter). I could go on about the free-condiment salad dressings I’ve created from places like this but I’m aware that I’m sounding like a homeless person… Oh, off topic but another option when I don’t have my own bread is my local street meat vendor. A few months ago it occurred to me when I had my own lunch fillings to go buy just this guy’s bread. He gave it to me for free. I’ve been back several times since, he won’t take my money for his awesome bread even though I’ve never bought anything from him (I keep meaning to go back for lunch). Heartwarming. But again, I sound like a homeless person

Place(s) you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch? The usual suspects: Japanese trinity on 41st btw. Madison & 5th (Cafe Zaiya, Chiyoda & Yagura), Pampano Taqueria (on 3rd btw. 49+50th), oms/b (on 45th btw. Lex+3rd), Woorijip (on 32nd btw. 5th & B’way), and the favorites of falafel week. I usually get my lunch out on Fridays and try to make it count. (James, do you realize Falafel Week occured on Week 2 of Midtown Lunch’s existence. That’s over 2 years ago… -zach)

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Well, Thailand first. The street food there is just ridiculously good, fresh and cheap as dirt. I have a friend who lives there and I curse him every time I pay for overpriced Thai and think about the incredible meals I had there for under $2. Next choice is downtown. Lower East Side/Chinatown for cheapness, East village for Yaffa and drinks at the holiday cocktail lounge, West village for Mamouns and Murray’s cheese.

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers? I want to start a Thai food cart. Fresh ingredients, authentic recipes, reasonable prices (for midtown). I did some cursory research and the NYC food vending policies seem prohibitive for a novice, so ideally I’d like to find a partner (or partners) who has a license and/or knows the deal with getting one. I’m vaguely serious about this. Short of such a connection, would like to know from ML readers: a) what would you be looking for in the ultimate thai cart? b) how much would you pay? c) what should it be called? If I pursue this, the support of the Midtown Lunch readers would be part of the business prospectus.

Oh yeah?  Well, I don’t think you’ll find anybody on this site who wouldn’t support a Thai food cart.  My suggestion is, if you want to make it good, you should focus on just one thing, and make it awesome.  I find that carts that try to do too much stuff, end up doing everything mediocre.  My suggestion for a Thai Cart Prototype, after the jump… 

Fresh Pad Thai @ a Bangkok Night Market

Taken at a night market in Bangkok. This guy made the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had (and nothing like it can be found in the states.) James… this photo should provide everything you need to start an awesome Thai noodle cart here in Midtown (minus the how to build it, where to get the ingredients, what ingredients to use, and how to cook the amazing food.) Good luck!

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


  • I demand a pad thai cart. Now.

  • That being said, i’m making a notion that there should be a falafel week #2!!! If only because Brownie made me eat falafel and I liked it. And Jim, everything on your cart should be under $10, or free with special ML passwords.

  • Jim. You need to email me. Stat. Yes, it’s about the Thai food cart. o_O Wait. Only if you are really serious about this and you have funds. Hahahaha… is that too blunt?

  • Jim has the dead souless eyes of a would be street urchin.
    Kinda pastey and thin too… seriously man, quit having condiment sandwiches with the free bread you swipe and get outside in the sun and hit an all you can eat buffet.

    Rudy’s next….

  • *Applauds wildly for Jim* – you go, dude! You are the most interesting profiled luncher yet. I wish you the very best in your Thai cart endeavor.

    A) Well, my personal favorite Thai foods are chicken or shrimp/potato curry bowl and Thai toast, but you might want to do something less common. I totally agree with Zach that you should focus laser-like on a single thing and get really, really good at that thing, along with some simple, fun side (such as … oh, I don’t know, maybe THAI TOAST).

    B) For a moderately sized outstanding curry bowl with chicken and potatoes? $6, and I’d expect to pay a bit more for shrimp. You could throw in a toast for free, then a buck a piece for each extra one.

    C) The name will come to you. Whatever it is, it’ll be just right for you and your cart. If your stuff is outstanding, people will remember it and attach happy memories and images with it no matter what you choose, anyway.

  • i’d prefer a thai curry cart over a pad thai cart. do two kinds – red and green with chicken or beef.

  • Mamacita, that’s what happens long before you get to the editorial director position. publishing sucks the life blood out of you and was doing it to me as well, before i ran like the wind!!!

  • i second the curry cart.

  • Jim, I feel your financial pain. I’ve switched over to bringing my lunch most days because midtown lunches are just too expensive!

  • Pad thai would probably be the best seller and is quick to make once everything has been prepped.

    The thing I miss the most from Thailand is the noodle & pork broth soup with sliced roast duck (or pork) on top.
    Not sure how well that would sell though…

    My dream is to one day open up a baja-style fried fish taco cart.
    Any takers ?

  • If your thai cart is good, I’m sure all of us would love to go for lunch. The question is, are you going to give us free bread?

  • I briefly toyed with the idea of a cart business then I started doing the math, there’s no way to make any real money unless you’re doing tremendous volume which invariably will result in a lesser product. Realistically how much can you make on a meal? How many can you sell? I really wasn’t considering doing multiple carts/hired help because I’m somewhat of a control freak and take too much pride in what I do. Search around there are some articles that speak to the economics of the biz, no one’s getting rich off this stuff. Now if you’re at Rudy’s level and are doing it for the satisfaction/opportunity to catch Liv street walking it might be a go but otherwise I’d suggest doing a LOT of research before quitting your day job. There’s a reason most of the cart guys are immigrants.

    I also looked into franchises, most require some restaurant experience for the principal and/or shareholder. For instance, Baja Fresh requires an operator with a minimum 10% stake w/restaurant experience. For a moment I played with the idea of recruiting my ne’er-do-well nephew (who has the credentials) to arrange some sweat-equity but I woke up in a cold sweat with visions of an empty storefront and my chasing his fat ass all over the globe.

  • Tongue Thai’d. Thai One On. Suit and Thai. Thai Fighter. Win, Lose, Thai. The Thai That Binds.

    Oh, the terrible puns are endless for this potential cart.

  • The thing I miss the most from Thailand is the noodle & pork broth soup with sliced roast duck (or pork) on top.
    Not sure how well that would sell though…

    I know it won’t quite be the same, but you can get that very thing from Fusia (formerly, and always in my heart, Master Yap’s) on 52nd between Lex and 3rd.

  • A wok-fried grasshopper cart might do extremely well. It surely would be authentic. With success, you could add those delectable black beetles that simply are not cockroaches.

  • thai curry, thai fried rice

  • Jim….. myyyy prescioussssssssssssssssss.

    Smeagol so veryyyy hungryyyyyy.

  • Do you ever bring lunch and just not feel like eating it?

    Thanks for the Mangia bread tip… another thing to add to my very own homeless person tendencies =)

  • Good profile. Intriguing strategies. But stop taking free bread from the cart guy. At least give him some change, eh?

  • If he had his own cart he’d be stingy with the servings and charge for bread.

    On a high note, I just had some Trader Joe’s thai dumplings and they were delish!

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