Flatiron Lunch: A&A Coffee Shop Get By On Its Quiet Charm

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.

Where have all the lunch counters gone? Perhaps they aren’t designed for today’s hustle and bustle lunch environment. But sometimes you want to sit down (on a stool) and have some quick food prepared and delivered right in front of you. I first discovered A&A Coffee Shop about a year ago, when I got lost walking to a friend’s office. It struck me with its charm and seclusion from the heavy traffic around the corner. I wondered who else knew about this place and if the food was any good.

For thirty years, this tiny luncheonette/deli-bodega as been in business on 21st Street, smack dab in the middle of the long block between 5th and 6th Ave. There were more cooks in the kitchen than customers during my visits. The customers were office people from nearby taking it to go and occasionally one or two business men eating at the counter, seemingly taking peace and solitude in their lunch.

Their menu includes standard luncheonette fare: sandwiches, breakfast and daily specials. I ordered the Steak & Peppers ($5.95) on my first visit. Even though they weren’t supposed to have it on that particular day, they accommodated me and I thought it was pretty good (think: Chinese Pepper Steak with a strong pepper seasoning fragrance.) I was impressed that it was coming from such an unassuming place.

For my second visit, a Cheeseburger Deluxe ($5.95). I don’t really recommend this, no matter how cool it looks in this photo. It began as a frozen patty and ended up being a disappointment. The only saving grace was my ketchup face design. You can make one too!

My most recent meal was the Roast Pork (Latino Pernil-style $6.95). I had my choice of side (fries, salad, rice & beans or spaghetti). I went with the spaghetti. Yeah, the flavors didn’t mix well, but that was my fault. At least I didn’t get the tuna fish and spaghetti like I intended. The spaghetti was overcooked and mushy, but the roast pork was tasty and well-prepared. There was a nice chunk of fat and crispy skin that was intensely buttery and crunchy.

I can’t really recommend any dish here as mind blowing, but A&A Coffee Shop does get by on its quiet charm. It’s a place where you can get away from the busy bees and have the place to yourself. I hope not to ruin the regulars’ secret lunch sanctuary by writing about A&A. I just want to share what they knew all along.

THE + (What people who like this place would say)

  • I like a quiet place to eat and away from the crowds
  • Surprisingly good Latino-style roast pork from an unassuming place
  • I like a place with retro-looks and charm
  • A restaurant that’s extra accommodating is refreshing (They’ll let me order that tuna fish & spaghetti platter if I want)

THE – (What people who don’t like this place would say)

  • Where’s the amazing food?
  • Why am I eating at a bodega?
  • Tuna fish & Spaghetti?

A&A Coffee Shop, 46 West 21st Street (between 5th & 6th Ave) New York, NY 10010


  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    That is a great ketchup face. Too bad the burger wasn’t very good.

  • I propose less hangover inspired orders when reviewing a place for the first time.

    roast pork and spaghetti!? peppers & steak with rice & beans?! all you needed to add was an apple pie a la gravy and we’d all be back in college.

  • spaghetti with roast pork?

    i award you no points and may god have mercy on your soul.

  • This place is literally in my backyard. However, given the odd combos and sporadic write-up, I’m still not sure after reading whether I want to try it out. The Food Reporting grade for this post is…. a C. Definitely room for improvement. It’ll help a lot if the review is written for the reader who is deciding whether to try out a place, which means describing or mentioning enough of their items to give the reader a sense of the general quality and what is available. It seems like they have a rotating menu–do they?

    Oh crap, maybe I’ll just walk by and find out for myself. But a good review would make a “scouting trip” unnecessary.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    From the review, looks like just okay food.
    Stevep: Let us know how it is. You are only footsteps from this place.

  • Isn’t it ironic that I’m reviewing this restaurant and then commenters are reviewing me. Dang.

    In response, I don’t regret my ordering choices. It’s what I wanted to eat at the moment …and that’s what made A&A cool. They made me, the customer, right.

    Perhaps I’m not the kind of writer out to tell people where and what to eat, but more to share my experience and hopefully get people excited to eat here or elsewhere. I know people can make their own judgements.

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