I Will Never Get Tired Of Eating Lunch Out of Freight Elevator Hallway
Midtown Lunch has always prided itself on finding “hidden” gems in our part of the city (after all, you don’t need a blog to tell you where the nearest Cafe Metro is.) And there are some truly hidden treasures, none more so than the spots that operate out of freight elevator hallways. The most famous one is El Sabroso, the Dominican/Peruvian 6 seater inside the freight hallway on 37th btw. 7+8th. But there’s also Nick’s Place (on 39th btw. 7+8th), and of course Pick a Pita made a name for themselves in a hallway on 38th btw. 7+8th, before moving out into the open on 8th Avenue.
There’s something fun, and slightly subversive, about eating in a hallway beneath a building, dodging giant dollies full of lord knows what, as you navigate the bustling hallway to get to your lunch. So, when I read in the ML forums that there was another one of these places on 37th btw. 8+9th, I wasted no time.
Unlike El Sabroso and Nick’s, who both have signs on the sidewalk welcoming you in, this place (at 306 37th Ave.) has got nothing. No sign. No name. No menu. If you aren’t in the habit of staring into freight elevator hallways (which admittedly, I am) you would never know this place existed. Maybe it’s new, I initially thought. Nope. Been there over 15 years (45 years if you count the previous owner.) The food is Dominican, and if you’re wondering how a place like this stays open, or attracts customers, it’s pretty simple. One stewed meat + rice + beans = $5. When you do find a place like this, it doesn’t take long for you to tell all your friends (or coworkers.)
The menu is pretty simple, in that there is no menu. You just walk in, ask them what they’ve got, and place your order. The specialty is goat (which they have every day by popular demand), and stewed chicken. A third and fourth item change from day to day. There’s no menu, or set schedule, so if you want to find out what they’re serving on a certain day, you’ve got to call (they’ll give you a card with a number if you ask. It’s also the only place you’ll see “Aries Cafe”, which is apparently what this place is called.) Fried plantains (when they have them) are $1, and so is avocado. You want two meats? No problem. It’s $7. Naturally, that’s what I went for.
This kind of food never looks good in photos (that’s a whole mess o’ brown), but I can assure you it was freakin’ tasty. The goat was nice and tender, and still on the bone (the way it should be). Wasn’t too funky either, which could be a plus or minus depending on your point of view. The chicken was the same… deliciously tender on the bone dark meat that made you want to get in there with your fingers and pick out every little bite (damn the mess!) Rice and pinto beans were pretty standard, and served as a nice vehicle for sucking up the sauce.
If you don’t like bones in your food, this is probably not the place for you- although it looked like their beef offering for the day was boneless, so you can manage. And there is no question that El Sabroso has more options (including roast pork, which I don’t think this place serves.) But if you love eating in freight elevator hallways as much as I do, you can probably make time for both spots! In fact, standing on 8th Ave. between the two has made me realize why the now closed Sophie’s Cuban (on 40th btw. 7+8th) never stood a chance.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- I am all about stewed goat, and this place has it every day
- Hot lunch for $5. How can that be beat?
- Bone in lunches always have the best flavor
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place will say)
- I’m intimidated by ethnic restaurants that don’t have menus
- I hate picking through bones
- There aren’t very many seats in the place
- El Sabroso is across the street, and has so many more options
- No roast pork?!? WTF?
Aries Cafe, 306 W. 37th (btw. 8+9th), 646-342-2827