Flatiron Lunch: Chock Full o’ Nuts Brings Back the Old Fashioned Coffee Shop
Every Friday our man UltraClay goes south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.
In all the hoopla over Eataly’s opening, I missed the news that Chock Full o’ Nuts was launching its comeback just down the block. When I finally came across it, I have to admit, I was conflicted. I’m excited at the idea of bringing back more old school luncheonettes like nearby Eisenberg’s and Johny’s. At the same time, there’s plenty examples of poorly executed nostalgia joints that exist more for tourists than local lunchers.
It was the fear of wasting a meal at a tourist trap that kept me away for the last couple of months. Now that I’ve been, I’m totally psyched to have it back. See why after the jump.
Back in the day, Chock Full o’ Nuts branches were as numerous as Starbucks’ are now. The last of them had long closed by the time I entered the workforce, but I have plenty of memories of the brand from my childhood. The new place is dressed up much like those old places, but more polished and shiny. It had me wary, but what about the food?
I’m always on the lookout for a convenient place to get a good pastrami sandwich without breaking the bank or going down to the Lower East Side, so that was my first order. The pastrami sandwich ($9.95) on toasted rye was probably one of the best I’ve ever had. Not as huge as Katz’s, but not as pricey either. The meat was slick with juices that soaked into the toasted rye like butter. It was all I could do to stay in the ML price range and refrain from ordering the Reuben for a buck more. Next time, willpower won’t be winning out.
On my second trip, I tried the chicken sandwich ($9.95). A breaded chicken breast is coated with a layer of pepper jack cheese and topped with lettuce, tomato and bleu cheese dressing. This was on a kaiser roll and more or less the sandwich I always hope to get when I go to a generic deli, but never manage to.
I didn’t have quite the willpower of my previous visit, so I took advantage of a warmish day and splurged on a Vanilla Malted. Even with an extra helping in the shaker, I still managed to finish it before my sandwich came. As good as it was, it’s probably for the best that it’s not going to be ice cream weather for much longer, otherwise I’d have one of these everyday.
For those with a sweet tooth, there’s much to be tempted by. Cake after cake is on display along the counter including this red velvet cake ($4.95/slice).
The rest of the menu is full of sandwiches that I’m very curious about from the soft beef salami ($7.95) and marinated pork loin ($8.95) to more old fashioned ones like the nutted cheese sandwich ($5.95), which the original chain started out with, egg salad ($7.95) and the gooey grilled cheese ($4.95).
Both times, I sat at the counter and looked around and listened to the staff. The accents are all New York, that’s for sure. One lady behind the counter told me that the company plans to open more branches, starting with one out in Bay Ridge and others in some of the original locations around town. That’s a good sign.
Chock Full o’ Nuts, 25 W. 23rd Street (btw 5+6th) 212.924.3663