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.

“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? I have really worn out the Szechuan Gourmet experience (39th btw. 5+6th). I started eating there when it was just getting the occasional online mention, and lived with it through the Bruni review and its subsequent unpleasant crowdedness and kitchen shortcuts (namely, batching the popular dishes). It’s the place I’ve used for meetings with my agent, my publicists (I don’t mean to say I have publicists — I’m talking about the publicists at HarperCollins who handle my books, among a thousand others), my editors, my friends (all three of them), and writers who want to interview me (for whatever reason). Before that, I ate at Grand Sichuan International Midtown with equal frequency. When it closed its doors forever I was without direction for a while, then I learned about Szechuan Gourmet and was saved, now I’m a bit disillusioned. The best Sichuan meal I’ve had lately was at Grand Sichuan House in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, but that’s not terribly convenient unless you happen to live out there.

Place(s) you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch? Just one? Most recently I was inspired to seek out the Daisy May’s cart and its chili by a post on Midtown Lunch.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? It would probably be a tie between the East Village and Singapore. I think the East Village has, at the moment, the most amazing food scene in America and perhaps the world, especially if you’re talking about places where normal people can afford to dine with some frequency. I love Asian food and, of the places I’ve been, Singapore has been the most enjoyable for sheer diversity and excellence of Asian food. You get first-rate representatives of just about every Asian cuisine, all affordable, all convenient, all based on superb ingredients, all totally safe to eat. I imagine any extended stay in Singapore would end with me getting the death penalty for something, but it would have been fun while it lasted.

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers? I’m always interested in new discoveries, so maybe something along the lines of “What’s your most recent Midtown Asian-food discovery, good or bad?”

Alright, so here is where the book giveaway comes in. Post your most recent Midtown asian food discovery below and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Steven’s latest book “Asian Dining Rules.” Be sure to include your email address (it won’t show up on the site) so we have a way to contact you if you win. 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


  • Snap! I have no experience…. putting my email out there anyways and maybe I can beg to be entered, as I LOVE asian food!

    So, tell me more about these garlic fries? Are they herby? Can you get cheese with them? Are they pungent and able to knock out a vampire from a table away?

  • those gyoza dumplings at sapporo just can’t be beat. even thought the last time I was there a cockroach was traipsing along the wall right next to my head.
    any other place I would have been out of there, but the food is just so good and so cheap at Sapporo.

  • i wouldn’t call this a discovery, it’s more of a question for Steven.

    Why Szechuan Gourmet and not Wu Liang Ye?

    i like both but one is closer than the other…

  • Oh shiznit, he had to throw down the best burger in nyc gauntlet.. no he didn’t..

  • The udon soups at Oriental Noodle. Hmm, I was wondering what I should get for lunch today….
    BTW, when I lived in Astoria, I would pass by Sapporo every morning walking from the N/W to my office. Once in a blue you would see the huge ‘waterbug’ cockroaches taking a stroll from Sapporo to the curb.

  • Ummm… I actually recently ate at Szechuan Gourmet for the first time (post goes up next Tuesday). It was kind of disappointing. But… I already have the book, so I’ll pass on being entered… which reminds me! I emailed Mr. Shaw’s “publicists” about interviewing him (I know, I’m nobody, but I just wanted an email interview, sheesh) and NO ONE EVER RESPONDED. I say fire your publicists, I could have at least received a “Sorry, we’re not interested in you because your readership is too low” or something :P

  • Mr. Shaw always gives good web. Good to see you again, master of! Best asian food discovery was on the last hot day of summer – jar-jar-men at Menkui Tei on W 56th St. – cold noodles, pork paste, and vegetable snippets. Add some cold sake or Ichiban and you’ve nailed a perfect & filling hot-day cool meal.

  • Probably not new to most of you, but new to me… Grand Sichuan NY on Lexington btw 33rd & 34th St. Quality food, and most importantly, the only place I know of that delivers soup dumplings (surprisingly good).

  • I hate to admit it, but I’m a big fan of the spicy shrimp ramen at Delmonico’s on lex and 41st/42nd.

    But, Peking Duck House is my one true love…it’s too expensive for ML, and I think it’s out of bounds, but still.

  • Its not mid-town. But you can’t go wrong with $.75 Sesame Pancake and $1 Homemade Iced Tea at Fried Dumpling by Delancy & Allen

  • Not a discovery, per se…but I really love the udon soup at Yagura, even though the restaurant itself is kind of shady.

  • Not a recent discovery, but the Mabo Ramen at Sapporo needs at least honorable mention here. For some reason it is perennially overlooked, even though in my opinion it is the best dish on the menu. I’ve been eating this for years, and actually have a very difficult time ordering anything else there, even though I go at least once a week.

    A word of warning, the broth is very thick and oily, with a near-gelatinous texture, and is definitely not for everyone. But the play between the thick, scalding broth and the minced pork and tofu offers up an awesome stew-like result.

    By and large I prefer the noodles and broths at Menchanko Tei, but this one, magical dish guarantees Sapporo my business, year after year. Everyone should try it at least once.

  • I ate the summer rolls at Woorijip and they were really good. Then, for no good reason, they stopped making them. The sauce was a chilli and lemon sauce perfect for dipping.

  • Discovered thanks to this site… Akane’s Sushi lunch special… 2 rolls, soup and salad for 8… for 3 rolls soup and salad for 10. Decent sushi… the salad and soup are nice throw ins and im usually plenty full after the 3 roll special…

  • My dearest Steven A. Shaw:

    My wife and I (ours is a May-Dec relationship, should that excite you) will not eat in Asian restaurants of any type because of the many (and painfully obvious) health and sanitation issues, past experiences, media reports, and recommendations of friends in the medical profession.

    Please also consider buying more flattering frams if you insist on wearing glasses.

    ~~Chuck, PhD

  • It’s not that new and it’s not open for lunch but I recently discovered Izakaya Hagi. It’s located underneath and next door to Sapporo and I’m not sure if they are related at all. $10 pitchers of Asahi and good Japanese snacks. It was profiled a couple of years ago on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and I finally got around to trying it.

  • Hyo Dong Gak 51 W 35th St- but you will have to work for the proper treatment:
    if you are white they give you crispy noodles and duck sauce instead of onion/pickled turnip/hoisin and kimchee – so ask for the good stuff.
    they also give you a different menu. get the jajangmyun- noodles in brown sauce. and go for the “special”, its the fresher version at one dollar more. its about 7 dollars and the most amazing, filling lunch.

  • I have to say I really love the salmon skin rolls at Dishes. I know that place is a yuppie hell holl, but the friday’s they have sushi, and I’m a sucker for a salmon skin roll. Its like bacon without the pig.

  • I think I speak for all ML readers when I say I am very impressed you worked at Cravath a decade and a half ago.

  • I would say Yagura near the Mid-Manhattan Library. Hot, piping udon/soba soup or rice dishes. Grab a drink from the grocery section and you’re good to go. There are seatings as well and no need to pay tips! Yes, Cafe Zaiya is right next door, but it’s always busy and over-crowded. Besides, I like to support smaller establishment. :)

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