PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Casa”

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 the final profiled luncher of 2008… meet Casa a “training developer” who seems to like every kind of food but durian.

Name: Casa

Age: 28

Occupation: Training Developer /occasional wanna-be chef broadcaster

Where in Midtown do you Work?: 49th & 7th Ave.

Favorite Kind of Food: Vietnamese food (pho, spring roll, etc), Indian, Thai, Korean, Mexican/Tex-Mex, southern food (BBQ ribs, chicken fried steak, fried okra, mash ‘tators and gravy). These are the types of food that I enjoy and are in my rotation frequently (except for southern food; I haven’t found a decent place in NYC that does southern food well). I’m also a fan of desserts and have these horrid “cake” cravings around 2 PM that drive me out of my office regardless of how the weather is to search for a slice of moist and crumbly cake with a creamy layer of frosting that is not too sweet/too buttery. Then I settle for a Crumbs cupcake after I realize I’m in Midtown.

Least Favorite Kind of Food: Durian, mustard (it’s not a food per se, but I despise it), fermented fish, shrimp paste. My mom scarred me for life when she cooked food with fermented fish or shrimp paste when I was growing up. The smell lingered for two weeks in the house! As for mustard, I don’t know why, but it reminds me too much of durian. I think it’s the color.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: Café Duke (on 51st btw. 6+7th) for their soon tofu or ramen ( I know it’s way overpriced, but I love ramen. If I can bring in my own ramen to cook, I would in a heartbeat), papri or samosa chaat at Indus Express (on 48th btw. 5+6th), Thai coconut soup and mushroom bisque from Au Bon Pain, and waffle fries from my company’s cafeteria. There are many places that I also want to try, but during my first visit to NYC, I ate a chicken kebab from a vendor in Times Square and got violently ill that night. I was a tourist then, and now I’ve been enlightened: don’t eat from shady street vendors in Times Square. So I’ll leave the street meat for the others and just salivate and admire their stomachs of steel from afar.

“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? Café Duke – I head straight to the back for soon tofu, spicy beef ramen, and sometimes their bibimbap. Teriyaki boy (on 7th Ave. btw. 48+49th). This is a hit/miss place for me though. There were times where I got more chicken fat than chicken (yuck!), and I’d stay away from the beef there. I got their beef bowl, and it was actually beef fat with some meat on it. So far, the udon soup has been satisfying when I’m too lazy to walk to Café Duke.

Place(s) you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch? Thank you Midtown Lunch for introducing me to chaat! I take an occasional trip to Indus Express for my dose of chaat. I first stumbled onto ML when I was searching for falafel and found House of Pita (now closed). Other places that I discovered through ML: the crepes from the Crepe Lady at CyberCafe (on 49th btw. B’way+8th), Spice Fusion (on 8th Ave. btw. 47+48th) for their boxed lunch special, Aoki (on 48th btw. 7+8th) for their sushi (great deal and very fresh), Hing Won (on 48th btw. 5+6th) before it was a buffet by the pound, the Jamaican Dutchy (on 51st & 7th) but I’ve only had their beef patties, Café Zaiya (on 41st btw. Mad+5th), the Wafels and Dinges Truck, and Woorjip (on 32nd btw. 5th+B’way). I’ve been a fan since my first falafel.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? I haven’t travel much so my dream location would be Vietnam. I was there this summer, and I ate like I’ve never eaten before. The best food is the ones sold from the street vendor. If you’re asking me why I would eat street food there and not here in Midtown, I guess I have to say that there isn’t a lot of choices in Vietnam. Either eat or starve. So I ate, and I’m glad I did. The food is great, and I’m still fine! The portions are small, which means I can sample a lot of food in one sitting.

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers? I want to know where I can get some tasty pasta dish without it tasting like Chef Boyardee. A place with lasagna would be great too.

Got your own suggestion for Casa? Put it in the comments. 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 also despise durian, and am not fond of fermented tofu (a Taiwan delicacy)

    for southern food have you tried: Dinosaur bbq (Harlem), or ACME(East Village) or “Mama’s” (East Village)

  • I forgot to also mention, soul fixin’s (which is on 34th and 9th) I mention this one because it is closest to midtown. But it’s also really good.

    Sorry no help on the pasta, except that in Penn Station, there is a place called europan cafe that does pasta made-to-order, (you pick out a pasta, sauce and toppings, and they cook it for for you, I don’t know about lasagna)

  • Oh man, but I love mustard! Now mayo, that’s a whole other offensive nasty beast.

  • Near you for pasta I’d say give Fresco a shot. It’s on 52nd just a few blocks east of you. Their lunch menu looks pretty reasonable.

  • Shill…

  • My dearest Casa (or may I call you “Maison?”):

    In an effort to offer positive commentary here (a New Years’ Resolution I am implementing early), I will compliment you on your bright, inquisitive eyes and more than ample bosum. I have added your photo to my screen saver collection.

    I also agree that eating a fruit that stinks of rotted garbage soaked in kerosene is something I would do only if it were the last option in my air raid shelter.


    Chuck, PhD x2

  • My New Year’s resolution is to shit in DickChuck’s mouth.

  • Fresco does have great pasta, but make sure you walk into the “On the Go” section of Fresco, which is right next door to their restaurant. The actual restauarant is way out of bounds for Midtown Lunch prices.

    ps lunch on me if you make the trek over here! :)

  • Mamacita, you need to make your own mayo. I was a mayo hater too until I tried the home-made stuff.

  • “I guess I have to say that there isn’t a lot of choices in Vietnam. Either eat or starve.”

    That is exactly the number of choices available to you in New York City as well. I strongly recommend eating, as starvation isn’t a pleasant way to go.

  • My dearest Casa:

    I forgot to mention that my wife’s newest litter of show-quality dachshunds is perhaps her most superb ever. She lovingly hand breeds them right here in our Maryland townhome — she is NOT running a “puppy mill,” so-called, as some have claimed.

    Should you be interested in a perky and intelligent new companion, please contact me via MySpace. These wonderful animals will be availbale to go to new homes in about 4 weeks.

  • i second frecso on the go…the pasta bar is great and under $10.

  • AL@1PP – I tried ACME once because I had a friend from Texas who visited me and wanted southern food. It wasn’t the worst meal, but it’s just not good. I know we southerners are heavy on the fat and salt, but it was just plain salty and no other flavor. I haven’t tried the others, but I’ve heard many good things about Dinosaur BBQ so I’ll have to try it out when I’m in the area.

    Mamacita: I think opposite attracts Mamacita. I’ll save my mustard packs for you, and you can toss me your mayo anytime.

    Fresco got some positive reviews here. I will definitely check it out. Thanks for the suggestion!

    BTW, now a shameless plug:
    Sorry, I promised someone that I will provide a link but chickened out, and now he’s mad at me. So here it is.

  • Actually, what my hubby-bubby is referring to as show quality dachshunds were actually, well – see, there was this pregnant possum that worked it’s way into one of our garbage cans and was unable to get out. The smallest of the litter died soon after birth, but once we fileted it and fried it up in lard, it made a tasty lunch, so it all worked out in the end.

    Anywho, I’ve left free tickets at the door at Rick’s for anyone who identifies themselves as a Midtwon Luncher and wants to see my “Maude au Naturel” show on the newly reinforced center stage. One lucky audience member even gets to take home the gstring I wear (at the outset) during that day’s performance. Can’t wait to see you all, and for you to see all of me!

  • “I have added your photo to my screen saver collection.”

    You’re gross.

  • Bizarre Foods went to Japan and one of the places was a restaurant where every dish included mayo. The mayo fondue and potato-mayo looked edible but things took a turn for the worse with the mayo milkshake.

    Like Casa, Host Andrew Zimmern was also defeated by the durian.

  • Unfortunately, SD, thats the least gross thing that DocChuck will do with the photo. Trust me – in every case, at some point, that face is rendered into a mask I then get to wear. I leave you to fill in the details for yourself.

  • That’s funny… she didn’t mention her favorite Viet restaurant… why could that be?

  • Casa, I haven’t tried this option specifically, but Metro Marche (in the Port Authority) has a make-your-own-pasta dish in the takeout/casual section (on 8th Ave. at 41st). I find them to be generally pretty satisfying, so you might want to give it a go.

  • If you can walk a block out of bounds, you may want to try Lasagna Ristorante, on 9th between 52/53. I believe they have lasagna on the menu.

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