Flatiron Lunch: For African Food Head to B & B Restaurant

Now that Downtown has its very own section of the site, what are we going to post on Fridays at 10am? Answer… how about a new column devoted to those lunches just south of the ML boundaries. Please give a warm welcome to Jason Lam from the blog Me So Hungry. Every Friday at 10am he’ll post about lunches in Murray Hill south, Gramercy, Flatiron, and everything in between… or as we’ll call it from now on: Flatiron Lunch.

I’m all for lunch exploration in my area, zigzagging through the avenues and streets trying to find some hole-in-the-wall I’ve never seen. The Fashion District has a few holes outside of the usual delis and yogurt shops. And then there’s B&B African-American, a true gem for the hole-in-the-wall enthusiast.

Opened in the Spring of last year, this buffet by the pound spot has steadily picked up in their lunchtime clientele. I remember the first time I stopped in, it was empty and two men entered to look at the buffet and walked right out. I think they were scared no one was in there or maybe it was because of the florescent lighting. I expected this place to shutter after only a few months. But since, there’s been an increase in the regulars (many of them cabbies and guys who work over on Broadway and the late 20′s selling Obama shirts & wholesale perfume). B&B has also upgraded the joint with four flat screen TVs, an animated LED sign and two Internet workstations. I’m glad to see they’re doing better, because the food is really good.

The buffet steam table ($5.99/lb) is comprised of African and Caribbean dishes, such as couscous, jerk chicken, curry goat, oxtail, stewed fish, and vegetarian options like collard greens and two or three different dishes that look and taste similar to Indian saag (spinach). The buffet is a great way to try everything I want, but makes it way too easy to load up. I try to keep it down to around a pound, but it’s tough with all the choices. In the end, it’s a pile of food in my box that starts to become almost indistinguishable and melds as one.

Everything I’ve tried is delicious and does a good job at settling my craving for ethnic food –spiced (but not spicy) tender meats in stews and curries. The only caveat is the bones in the food. I love bones, but sometimes I’ll get small fish bones in what I thought was pulled pork and tiny spinal bones from the jerk chicken that I thought was crusty burnt ends. Then sometimes, it is all bone in what I thought was a chunk of meat. If you can get over them bones, you’ll do great.

In my search to find an old hole-in-the-wall, B&B is a great new find. Again, I’m glad to see them doing better than expected, but it definitely doesn’t get packed for it’s relatively large space. So it can be a quick lunch for the claustrophobic. You even have the opportunity to purchase phone cards at check-out. Last note: that greenish-brown hot sauce is a frickin spicy muther. Know that before you put it on most of your food.

THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)

I love ethnic food & dives, especially ethnic food in dives!
I like to try a nice variety of different dishes –buffet!
I like to eat with the common people (…if I was Uncle Rich Pennybags)

THE – (What somebody who doesn’t this place would say)

  • I hate tiny bones in my food
  • I don’t like hole-in-the-walls. There’s a Chipotle on the corner.
  • I’m not adventurous

B&B African-American Restaurant, 165 West 26th St (btwn 7th & 6th Ave)

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