Picnic’s Turkey Meatballs Are the Perfect Pre Thanksgiving Lunch

A little over a year ago we asked if Picnic on 57th was just a generic Midtown deli, or a spot worthy of further inspection. It look awhile, but Lunch’er Apikoros recently responded with a resounding yes! He sent us this station by station report, ending on his absolute favorite dish at Picnic…

Picnic on 57th

Like most of the readers of Midtown Lunch, I try to shun the generic New York Deli in favor of more eclectic fare. And yet, like most of you, I still often find myself at the local generic delis picking up something quick and easy to bring back to eat at the desk.

About a year ago, a “new” (are any of them really offering anything new?) generic deli opened on 57th street between 3rd and Lexington called Picnic. They offered the usual selections of sandwiches, sushi, steamed lunches, and soups. A few months ago they added a generic, though large selection, of make your own salads. I have sampled a lot of what they have to offer in the last year. From the Sandwich Area, I have had the Philly Cheese Steaks, with fries, for 7.95 which were worth the money but nothing to go up in arms about it. Their “Bahn Mi”, while a tasty sandwich, isn’t really a Banh Mi at all, lacking Pate, radishes, spiciness and some of the other accoutrements. The Shrimp BLT, with Bacon and Avocado is great, but again, worthy of a Midtown Lunch shout out? Nope. All the sandwiches are good, packed with fillings, tasty selections and reasonably priced. There are intriguing selections and quasi-unusual choices. They are all a step above Toasty’s and Fresh, the equivalent local competitors, but nothing is at the “WOW!” level.

If the selections were to get a B- to B+ rating, the steam table would be a B+ to an A.

I have sampled even more from there, and I have rarely been anything but happy. For $9.75, after taxes, you get 2 sides and a protein. If you have the fish, and they usually have 3-4 offerings of Salmon cooked different ways, you add an extra $1.50 which puts you outside the ML price range. The same is true for some of the sides, such as the Avocado and Heart of Palm Salad which also will run you $1.50 over. Proteins, which I can recommend, include the ¼ roast chicken, different days have different flavors, such as Jerk or Pesto, the stir-fry beef, chicken breast stuffed with ham and asparagus, fresh roasted turkey, marinated skirt steak and others. Often the way each is prepared will change, with no rhyme or reason.

IMNSHO, The sides often beat the protein selections. Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon bits, fresh salads like Greek salad, general Mediterranean, and a mozzarella, basil, and cherry tomato that is awesome. Others included Loaded Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Couscous (all different types), Quinoa, Spanish rice and more. The servings are generous without being overwhelming. The selection changes constantly. I know I sound like a shill, but for a generic deli, they more then rise to the occasion.

But I decided to write this little thing though, for one reason. One of the main dishes is simple yet amazingly satisfying, absolutely delicious and well worth the money. The grilled Turkey Meatball needs its praises sung.

The size of a softball, served with a side of grilled onions, it would be a decent meal by itself. When you add 2 sides, it is a very filling and delicious repast. The other day I added Roasted Cauliflower and Mediterranean salad, and all I needed after was a nap. The meatball is very dense, and packed with little bits of chopped onion. The flavor is closer to a turkey burger then an Italian meatball but that doesn’t detract from the overall experience. I cut it into pieces; put a smidgen of onions on top, and each forkful is a bite of vaguely healthy heaven. It isn’t greasy or fatty, just a solid bite of ground turkey.

When I had the Meatball last week, the cashier remarked to the other cashier, “Wow, that is the 8th Turkey Meatball in a row I just rang up!” So, I guess my secret is out, and I felt it might be the time to share it with my fellow Mid-Town lunchers. So, if you haven’t had your fill of Turkey at Thanksgiving, I cannot suggest this selection, or Picnic itself, enough.

Picnic on 57th, 151 E. 57th St. (btw Lex+3rd), 212-751-0900

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