Flatiron Lunch: Madison Square Eats returns
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.
Unless you’re (bizarrely) of the opinion that the area doesn’t really need more food options, you’re most likely pretty excited about the return of Madison Square Eats. In fact, you’ve probably already checked out the collection of nearly 30 vendors hawking all types of food, drink and general goodness in Worth Square in the week that its been open. I know I’ve been there nearly every day trying out one thing or another and there’s been a healthy crowd every time. Well, as healthy as you can be surrounded by pizza, tacos, hot dogs, and deep fried pork ribs. And on that note, let’s see the food.
As tempting as some of my old favorites are, I made a point of only going to vendors that I didn’t try last fall. That meant no pig head cubanos ($10) from Resto, which sound fairly amazing, especially if paired with one of the beers they have on tap – after work, of course (although at $8 a pint, I certainly wouldn’t try going on a bender here).
Instead, I started out at Illi on my first visit. The Lebanese restaurant just a couple blocks away is a bit too fancy for Midtown Lunch, but they spent a few weeks working on a menu of items for lunchers according to the guys behind the counter.
I had the Kafta Arayess Lebanese ($8), a thin, slightly crisp wrap filled with lamb, beef, harissa and veggies. Other sandwiches include falafel ($7), pulled chicken ($8) and a more American version of the Kafta Arayess that was described as being more like a burger.
The Lebanese version had a depth of flavor I appreciated, with the smokey, thick dollops of tahini, the barely spicy harissa and the blend of lamb and beef.
I paired it with their green lemonade, made with cucumber juice and ginger, which was refreshing and sweet without overdoing it on the sugar.
Momofuku Milk Bar’s Chocolate chip, cornflakes and marshmallow cookie ($2) was dessert.
My second go around, I went with a newcomer. Eataly had just opened when the last market happened in the fall, so this is their first time getting in on the outdoor action. Given all the options available just across the street, the menu here is remarkably slim. That’s not a bad thing though, because they don’t try to cram the whole mega-market into one little tent.
Instead, they offer two fried entrees, the ribs, above and fried fish skewers, both $10. I can’t speak to the fish, although the skewers did look pretty good, but the ribs were fairly fantastic- tender enough that I almost lost one when it melted off the bone I was holding. Crispy on the outside with sprinkles of spices and salt along the surface, it’s delicious. I wasn’t sure that four ribs was really going to do it for me, but by the time I made it through them all, gnawing on the tendons and getting every last crunchy edge, I only had a little room left for dessert.
That turned out to be for the best. The tiramisu ($5) was pretty small for the price and, while good, not something I think I’d try again.
Once again, Bushwick pizzeria Roberta’s is here and, ridiculously, I haven’t managed to order from them yet. Having seen Donny’s post about the Bee Sting Pizza, though, it’s definitely on my must try list.
The Hong Kong Street Cart got my attention, as I’ve been reminiscing quite a bit lately about my trip to Hong Kong last year. But then I saw menu items like vegetarian chicken skewers ($4) made with ‘soymeat,’ vegetarian pork belly ($4) from wheat gluten, and vegetarian chicken drumstick ($3) on the menu, I backed away and never looked back. I’ll leave that for more adventurous types to experience. There’s too much real food around to waste time with fake meat.
Instead, I went to Bar Suzette, which manages to serve up crepes far superior than the unpleasantness from the Crepes Truck. Theirs are buttery and eggy, yet don’t clash with savory ingredients.
I had the Saigon Chicken ($10), made with hoisin sauce, cilantro, a pile of crunchy veggies and many chunks of chicken.
Folded up, it turned out to be totally filling and quite good.
While I waited for mine to come up, I watched as they put together a ham and cheese crepe ($8) with slices of veggie pate tossed in for good measure. I’d never heard of Bar Suzette, but after this, I’m going to have to track them down.
One of my favorite Brooklyn vendors, Asia Dog was also there and seems to have accrued quite the following. Nearly every time I showed up there was a long line for their hot dogs dressed with pork belly, Japanese curry or banh mi toppings. Thankfully, I see them pretty much every week at the Brooklyn Flea, so there was absolutely no reason for me to wait for them here. Check out Andrea’s Downtown Lunch post about their new brick and mortar location if you want details on their offerings.
I could go on and on about the various options available at the market, but it’s all just making me hungry. The event will continue for the rest of the month until the first weekend in June. That should be plenty of time to explore a good many, if not all of the deserving dishes that will be around.
Madison Square Eats, Worth Square between 24th and 25th Streets. May 6th – June 4th.