Archive for November 2008

One Thing I Am Incredibly Thankful For: They were already sold out by the time I got there today (Weds) at 2:30, but I was told by the ladies behind the counter that the roasted meats have returned to Ying Du (on 38th btw. 7+8th).  Hallelujah... praise the lard... thank you baby jeebus... and a Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Midtown Links (The ‘You Should Smile More’ Edition)

Midtown Happy Hour: Channel 4 Bait & Switch!

Seeing as how today is technically *like* a Friday, and the night before Thanksgiving is one of the greatest drinking nights of the year- we figured it would be a good day for one of Mamacita’s Happy Hour posts. Unfortunately, when we checked in with her- all we got was an earful of misery. Here’s her most recent happy hour encounter…

channel4It seems fitting that in light of yesterday’s House of Brews grievances we continue today our pre-Thanksgiving hate-a-thon with a tale of woe that all started out with my search for a happy hour with a “free buffet” (I know Zach’s ears just perked up…) I had caught word that Channel 4 Restaurant and Bar 48th St (btw. 5+6th) had a weekly complimentary buffet during happy hour. A quick look at their website did not exactly thrill me (“Channel 4 is back to serving lunch, dinner and cocktails to NBC’s high-profile executives and on-air talent, as well as keeping up with the constant buzz in and around Rockefeller Center”) but when free buffet is involved, I’m willing to put up with some nonsense.

Leary of wasting my time, I called and asked if the buffet was in fact being served. Reassured that it was, I set forth with a thirsty liver and grumbling gut, ready to rub elbows with NBC celebrities.

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Sneak Peak: Midtown Lunch Takes the Salami Challenge


Since we posted about the opening of Murray’s Salami in the Grand Central Market a few weeks ago, a couple of brave souls have stepped up to take the challenge of creating a sandwich made from their top notch meats (and the bread available next door at Carrado Bakery.) The only rule was to keep it under $10 per person (and you could bring as many people as you wanted to increase the number of ingredients you could afford to put in the sandwich.) Well, I couldn’t wait any longer- and yesterday I met couple of friends of mine at the Grand Central Terminal Market to create a monstrosity worthy of the Midtown Lunch name. The full post will go up on Monday, but here’s a sneak peak at the first ingredient that went down onto the bread…

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Free Coffee Alert: If you are unlucky enough to have to work on the day after Thanksgiving (Friday), Mario Batali will be giving away free cups of Starbucks in Times Square starting at 10 a.m. I'm not going to pretend like this is some great thing, but maybe it will make you feel like your life doesn't completely suck. (But really, it does.)

Airing of Grievances: House of Brews

Recently we added a Friday afternoon “Midtown Happy Hour” column, which now means we have a whole new list of places to complain about. Last friday’s review of House of Brews sparked this crazy story:

“Be wary of this place. I went there after work with my girlfriend about a year ago and the waitress scammed us. The bill came to $170. We were just drinking beer. No food. No exotic $18 a bottle beers. I questioned the waitress and said there’s no way we drank this amount of beer. She said that I drank most of them because my girlfriend only had about 4 pints. So I said, “you mean to tell me that I had between 15-20 pints of beer in 2 hours? and I’m still upright and having this conversation with you?”. She said the bill was correct because the bartender doesn’t give her beers unless she enters them in the system. I’m not sure how that justifies it…it only justified her entering extra beer on our tab to give to the group of 8 guys at a table in the back she was fawning over for free. The manager came over and said the computer system is correct and that’s what the bill was. We’ve never been back and never will go back.”

Ouch. What’s more likely? Completely trashed Midtown Lunch’er or waitress scam? You can decide for yourself… and of course, if you have a grievance to air- feel free to email it to

PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Steven A. Shaw” PLUS Book Giveaway

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 Steven A. Shaw, director of and the author of the brand new book Asian Dining Rules.  The book goes cuisine by cuisine giving you tips on how best to enjoy Asian food at restaurants.  It even has a chapter on how to attack the Chinese food buffet (with a lot of rules that sounded awfully familiar!)  Clearly a kindred spirit, I wanted to get his recs for eating lunch in Midtown…

Name: Steven A. Shaw

Age: I can’t believe I’m 39. It feels like just a few weeks ago I was 25 and working multiple consecutive all nighters at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Now if I pulled an all nighter I’d probably drop dead.

Occupation: Un- . . . I mean self-employed. I’m a big-firm litigator turned minor food personality. I’m the director of the eGullet Society, I write books about food (ASIAN DINING RULES and TURNING THE TABLES), I teach at the French Culinary Institute, I write a semi-regular dining feature for Crain’s New York Business. I do a lot of stuff in a never-ending scramble to avoid bankruptcy.

Where in Midtown do you Work?: When I had a real job I worked first at Worldwide Plaza (50th Street and Eighth Ave.) and then in 919 Third Avenue (at 56th Street). Now the city is my office. My wife Ellen and I work wherever we need to work. For example, she’s just finishing a book that she wrote almost entirely in the public space at Sony Plaza. We live in Carnegie Hill.

Favorite Kind of Food: Of my ten favorite foods, probably eight or so would be cured pork products: bacon, salami, prosciutto and the like. The remaining two would be stinky European cheeses, bordering on inedible and untouchable. I’m also a big fan of the grapefruit, and I’m eating as many as I can as a hedge against the day when my doctor puts me on Lipitor and I have to stop eating grapefruits.

Least Favorite Kind of Food: Human flesh is something I try to avoid consuming. Other than that, I eat and enjoy pretty much everything.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: My favorite lunch in Midtown, and the one I indulge in most often, is the Burger Bar at Beacon. Midtown Lunch has covered the Burger Bar but I think the focus on a hard $10 ceiling rules out a restaurant that is objectively a great value. For $12.95 you get the Beacon Burger, which in my opinion is the best burger in New York City — and I think I’ve sampled most every contender for that title. It’s an 8 oz. grilled burger made from Niman Ranch Certified Natural Black Angus beef, served on country toast and garnished with (all on the side) grilled red onion, lettuce, tomato, house-made pickles and ketchup, and very good garlic fries. I have been going pretty much weekly for the past year. I am, in general, a big fan of Waldy Malouf’s cooking. He was doing the whole seasonal, local, Hudson Valley thing long before it was trendy. His Hudson River Valley Cookbook, published in the mid-1990s, is still the definitive work in the genre. You can only get the burgers at the 6-seat counter from noon through 2:30pm (they will seat you up until just before 2:30). I recommend going right at noon or after about 1:45 to avoid the chance of a wait. Also, to the extent this is relevant (it is to me because I have a three-year-old son), Beacon goes out of its way to accommodate kids — and kids under 4 eat free.

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Subway Lunch: This Could Be the Perfect Week For Banh Mi

Thanksgiving might be the ideal week for a subway lunch.  Your boss took the week off, there’s not a lot of work to do, and you probably won’t be missed if the line is too long at the Shake Shack. Sure, you can make it there and back in under an hour with the perfect conditions, but it’s always better to wait for a week like this to try your luck (just to be safe.)  This particular lunch that I was emailed took place in Boston, but feel free to use it as inspiration.  It should be pretty easy to substitute “Saigon” or “Nicky’s” into the story, and it will still apply:

“I’ve seen the banh mi conversations running through Midtown Lunch, but have yet to try one. The only banh mi I have come across is the one at Dishes. At $12, (which, from what I can tell, is a 500% markup) it better have white truffles and gold flakes in it if you want me to order one. Well, what Midtown Lunch started, chowhound helped me finish. I am once again in Boston (I work there sometimes), and desperate for good food (I really don’t have a thing for mall food courts), I searched Banh Mi in Boston. After some consideration I decided to head out to Mei Sum Bakery in Chinatown at 40 Beach Street (1.2 miles away according to googlemaps). The goal, get banh mi and be back at the desk in less than one hour, while spending less than $10 bucks.”

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Pop Quiz: Who Was This Email Intended For?: You know I love it when stupid people send me emails thinking they are emailing a restaurant I have written about.  Got another one a few days ago... "I used to eat here (when you were located at 53rd between 5th and Madison) before 1989.  I am so very glad you are still around.  Someone here is eating lunch and it smells of your Benito (sp.???) chicken. I will be in soon." Great!  Can't wait to see you too! Any ideas what place she is talking about?

Has the Ecuadorian Street Food Lady Moved to 48th?

Got this email from Lunch’er “Spencer” who has been stalking a lady selling Latin food on the sidewalk of 48th btw. 5+6th on Fridays for the past few weeks. Not sure if a) she’s only there on Fridays, and b) if it’s the same Ecuadorian lady who used to sell food on 46th btw. 5+6th. (I haven’t seen her in awhile…)

“Two Fridays ago I was with a co-worker who gets a jump on the lunchtime rush by going out every day at 11:30. He hits Variety Cafe 19 out of every 20 lunches (the other one being Tina’s Restaurant). As we’re walking from 6th Ave. on 48th towards Variety, someone drops a can of soda and I pick it up and hand it back to a little lady with what is essentially one of those metal laundry/grocery upright carts filled with plastic bags of all sizes and colors. I see it is food and waste no time asking what she’s selling. She says sheepishly “food” as if I’m going to bust her. Instead I said I’d take a plate, and to allay her fears I take the first thing she offers. It ends up being a piece of fried fish over a bed of awesome yellow rice, drowned in a great shrimp sauce.”

But wait… there’s more.

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