PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er & Vendy Award Citizen Judge “Mina”

Every Tuesday I turn over the site to a different Midtown Lunch’er for his or her recommendations for the best lunch in Midtown. Yesterday, the Vendy Awards announced the identity of this year’s “Citizen Judge” and she just happens to work part time in Midtown. Meet Mina, a “do-gooder” who loves street ceviche and credits her friends and family with introducing her to great food.

Name: Mina

Age: 32

Occupation: Occasional do-gooder

Where in Midtown do you Work?: Columbus Circle

Favorite Kind of Food: My palette owes everything to my friends’ and family’s culinary delights, and introductions to their favorites. So, here are some of my faves with some love to those peeps who’ve influenced my taste buds (bear with me!) Family: Mom’s sukiyaki and soups are divine – always the freshest and tastiest ingredients, and Dad made the best veal “it’s just not the same without sherry” marsala. Aunt Jo’s Italian Christmas feasts were an abundance of celebratory delights including a caponata I have yet to replicate, and stuffed shells all the way to colorfully sprinkled and deliciously sticky rosettes and bow ties (Italian fried dough).

Then there’s the college crew from Tufts House: They opened my
taste-buds up to the possibilities of burritos and horchata, deep dish pizza, the irresistible Indian lunch buffet (Star of India, way across Chicagoland), challah, and kielbasa. And, I just discovered that your first profiled person on here was Harry (another high school classmate). His Brooklyn Kitchen hosts an annual cupcake contest to support a local soup kitchen. I went for the first time this year and achieved a blissfully delirious sugar high tasting some of the hundred plus cupcake options – it was absolute cupcake heaven.

My uptown roomies made the most fabulous gourmet meals nearly every night you’d never believe they were budget. From Zita’s redonculous (her word not mine!) cheese stuffed burger, cakes and frosting, to Helen’s risotto and homemade yogurt, and Jenn M’s delicioso chicken and potatoes. It was any wonder I was able to get through the door ways! Celebrating friends’ ethnic heritage through food is definitely a theme. Yoshi introduced me to Sri Lankan – on Staten Island! And Anastasia’s tsatziki, is just the start of her Greek specialties. Yin Mei’s wedding in Malaysia was a food bonanza, and I came back a fan of curry laksa from the street stalls (burning mouth and all).

My new extended family in Queens carries its own: Food Nation was one of my first events here. It is an annual event Choi Wah started as a college student to bring a nation of people (now multiple nations) together over the enjoyment of an ingredient or type of food; this year it was Pasta Nation. Andrea, doesn’t exactly live in Queens, but she brings the taste of Zabar’s Chocolate Babka to us often, and I highly recommend it. My roomie Ai, has truly been my latest food ambassador through her culinary talents. She has received wedding proposals for her mac ‘n cheese, and I have tasted why! We go on food adventures nearly every week (this week’s special – kale chips!), and she introduced me to the local vendors in Corona. The ceviche I had down the street is my favorite (south east corner of Roosevelt and Warren St.)

Least Favorite Kind of Food: Hot spicy foods. There is a restaurant ironically called Spicy Mina in Queens, but I can only strive to reach such stature. (I assume she can eat as spicy as she can cook!). Unfortunately for me, I’m not capable of eating hot, spicy foods. So, there are no special requests for tabasco or more hot sauce from me, but I try to live vicariously through my friends – several of whom couldn’t have it spicier! And that leaves me wondering whether I’ll ever experience the delight of saying “can you pass the hot sauce?” Other than that, I tend to avoid super greasy, charred BBQ, and foods fried in old oil. Yick. But, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a good burger and fries now and again.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: I’m working in Midtown part-time, so forgive me for the limited options here. Considering I am an organicophile, and I work just steps away from the Time Warner Bldg, I do enjoy Whole Foods’ vast array of salad bar offerings and soups (Italian wedding soup, and carrot ginger are my faves). On 8th Ave between 55th and 58th: The pizza at the Bread Factory Cafe (on 56th) is the way I like it – a thinner crust, not too cheesy. East Japanese (on 56th btw. 7+8th) has as very good selection of authentic Japanese food, not just a sushi bar (though their sushi is good, too.). So, you can get delicious apps like hamachi kama (thanks Charles for introducing me to that), which is the neck of a yellow-tail, deliciously lightly seasoned and grilled. Lenny’s (8th btw. 55+56th) is newish in the area and I’ve taken to going there for a deli, which is clean, fast, and tasty. I also enjoy Burrito Box (on 9th Ave. btw. 57+58th) every now and then for their BBQ Chicken Burrito. Le Pan Quotidian (on 57th & 8th) for the comfortable cafe style and classic organic tartines.

“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? Pax

Place(s) you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch? Looking forward to tasting El Rincon del Sabor (on 47th btw. 5+6th) sometime and doing a little taste comparison with my local Ecuadorian restaurants and vendors in Corona.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Bangkok. The street food was so abundant and diverse! From curries to the Thai version of Kachang dessert. And, I tasted the best seafood there in my life from dungeness crab to oysters. Second place would be Arthur Avenue — for the Italian food of course!

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers? Shakespeare said: If music is the food of love, play on. What is your food of love?

If you haven’t purchased your tickets to this year’s Vendy Awards you should probably get on that. It may not be until September 26th (at the Queens Museum of Art) but it is definitely going to sell out. Don’t miss out the street food version of the Academy Awards! Tickets are $80 but all the proceeds go to benefit the Street Vendor Project, a non profit organization dedicated to vendor advocacy (plus the cost of the ticket is tax deductible!)

And as always if you’d like to be next week’s Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er (or know somebody you’d like to nominate), email me at


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