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


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