Cafe Zaiya Adds $5 Special; No Longer Affiliated With Cafe Zest


Cafe Zaiya (on 41st btw. Mad+5th), the winner of Best Japanese Take Out in last year’s Readers’ Poll, has severed ties with Cafe Zest, the slightly more upscale version of the grocery store they opened on 47th btw. Lex+3rd earlier in the year.  The people at Zaiya didn’t want to discuss the reasons for the break-up and admitted that the food will probably remain “similar” at Zest, but that it’s not “authentic [Zaiya] product.”  I stopped by Cafe Zest yesterday, and it doesn’t look like anything has changed, although they have added a line of serve yourself soups, and an Udon bar.

Zaiya on the other hand has added a brand new lunch special for the money conscious…


$5 (all in, tax included) will get you one of their new $4.25 options plus a cup of coffee, tea, or a bottled water.  The choices change daily, with two donburi options (yesterday was a beef bowl or chicken donburi) and three bento options (yesterday was sweet and sour chicken bento, a sandwich combo bento, or a salad sushi roll with fried chicken pieces bento.)  Since you can buy the entrees themselves for just $4.25, spending the extra .75 for the drink is optional… in other words, it’s not some special deal where you are getting more expensive food for less money. A better way of looking at it is that they have added a new line of super cheap, but filling lunch options for $4.25.

If you are going to pay in cash, there is a table at the front where you can check out- probably the biggest advantage of getting the lunch special (because quite frankly, it’s usually pandemonium getting out of that place.)  The GM of Zaiya had this to say about the promotion (and business in general)

“We are doing this so we can help people out who are on a tight budget.  We try to keep prices low as it is but costs go up every year and so has some of our prices. To fight this, we are eating the cost on this promotion to get people in our door.”

In other words, you may get the lunch special- but you’ll probably tack on that extra rice ball or doughnut before checking out. (I know I did.)

Read More:
All Cafe Zaiya Posts
All Cafe Zest Posts


  • This is the best news ever.

  • I am eating the Sweet and Sour Chicken bento now. It is very tasty. The fried dumpling and small portion of pickled cabbage is a bonus. If you just get the lunch box they charge tax so the total is $4.61 – so the beverage option is a good deal for $5, no tax (i.e., $.39 bottle of water of cup of coffee/tea).

  • This is definetly the best lunch spot for Japanese food. I miss working in midtown. Working in Flat Iron district does not really count as midtown.

  • I stumbled on this yesterday by accident. I had tried to hit up the free burrito line at Chipotle, and when I saw how long it was, I decided to turn tail. Luckily for me, I’d noticed that Cafe Zaiya was nearby, and decided to check it out. I had the salad roll bento and will definitely be back to try some others.

  • Just got the pork ginger bento with a delicious and filling, such a generous portion. Cafe Zaiya is my heart. Other options included: soup noodles with a few pieces of futomaki; sandwich bento with fried chicken, ma po tofu bowl, and oyako don bowl.

  • I live in Toronto. When I coming down to New York, I have to visit Zayia and having The best lunch for Japanise Food. I think that Zayia has the Best Chef in the city. Everything is terrific. 5 stars
    Carlos C.

  • I’m not sure if everyone knows, but the owner of Cafe Zaiya recently passed away, so the cafe is now under new management. The original manager and chef, who created the business model and recipes that the cafe is based on, have moved onto other ventures. While it continues to serve the same lunch options, they’re no longer made with the same quality. If you’re looking for authentic Japanese fare in midtown, Cafe Zaiya may be the cheapest option, but it no longer delivers the same kind of quality that it did under the old management and chef.

  • man, that’s sad news but thank you for informing us Yuki. these are the little big things safe to say most of us casually do not know.

  • Cafe Zest seems to have undergone a really big change last Friday. All of the Japanese staff are gone and the selection of food has really shrunk. Does anyone know what happened?

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