Eating General Tso’s From a Souvenir Shop
If I say 5th Avenue Empire Cafe… you say… wha?! Exactly. Where is that? You could walk up and down fifth avenue and never see this restaurant. They have a banner outside on the sidewalk but it fails to mention the name. What’s more strange and awesome about this place (and certainly has contributed to its anonymity) is that it’s in a place where most Midtown Lunchers would never visit… a touristy souvenir shop. Beneath the shadows of the Empire State Building on 5th Ave btw. 33+34th, sits a little souvenir store that would be like any other… except they have a restaurant on the second floor. Of course, it’s a Chinese restaurant. With bubble tea! And General Tso’s chicken…
The bubble tea comes in two sizes, 16oz ($3.50) and 24oz ($4.50). If you wanna get all technical, yes, this is more expensive than what you can get in Chinatown. But we ain’t in Chinatown, and the alternative is walking to 34th and 8th, so it’s not bad. I got the taro milk tea with bubbles and it was surprisingly good. Bubble tea is pretty difficult to hunt down in Midtown and most kind of suck. So it’s refreshing to get one that’s actually decent. Even though I can vouch only for the taro flavor, I can tell you the boba was cooked properly and not too mushy or undercooked. The bubble tea also comes in some fruit flavors like mango and peach, and you can get some of the flavors in a slushy form. Not bad for any neighborhood, not just midtown.
They also offer lunch specials featuring all the Americanized Chinese food hits like chicken/beef with broccoli, shrimp in lobster sauce, and of course, general tso’s chicken. Half of the lunch special menu is $5.50 while the rest are up to $6.50 so it’s moderately priced. You get your choice of white or fried rice. You also get soda, soup, or an egg roll. I got the general tso’s chicken which was $6.50.
The general tso’s chicken was like your average general tso’s. It’s mostly white meat and the pieces vary in batter coverage. Some pieces are pretty awesome, while others have a little too much batter. What they do for you though is make the dish extra spicy. It definitely packed a punch and I found myself sweating after finishing the meal.
When we’re talking about getting general tso’s chicken and bubble tea out of a souvenir shop, it’s almost insane not to do it. I mean, how could I not visit a place like this? Eating in Midtown is all about discovering the places that’s the exact opposite of a boring salad. And what’s better than eating lunch and picking up a I heart NY t-shirt?! Ok… maybe you don’t have to take it that far, but I just can’t help but love the idea of getting some general tso’s and bubble tea in the middle of a bustling tourist district.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Bubble tea! In Midtown!
- The lunch specials and bubble tea are priced so you could get both for under $10
- It’s inside of a souvenir store, what more could you want?
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Yuck, I’m a real new yorker. You expect me to go inside of a souvenir store? Fuggetaboudit!
- I’m an authenticity monger, and the bubble tea in midtown just won’t cut it.
- Why would I eat generic Chinese food with Koreatown one block away?
5th Ave Empire Cafe, 339 5th Ave (inside a gift/souvenir shop), (212) 686-0036