PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Lauren Shockey” Plus Book Giveaway

Every Tuesday we turn over the site to a different Midtown Lunch’er for his or her recommendations for the best lunch in Midtown. This week we’re proud and excited to welcome Lauren Shockey, one of the Village Voice’s restaurant critics, as an honorary Midtown Lunch’er. Her book “Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv and Paris” comes out tomorrow, and we’ve got a copy to give away after she gives us her recs for lunching.

Name: Lauren

Age: 27

Occupation: Restaurant Critic and Blogger for the Village Voice and author of the just-released culinary memoir Four Kitchens

Where in Midtown do you Work?: Our offices are on Cooper Square — not in Midtown, I know, I know — but I’m often running all over the city in search of good eating and regularly am in Midtown.

Favorite Kind of Food: Southeast Asian of any kind, but especially Vietnamese, Thai, Sri Lankan, and Malaysian fare. Really, anything that comes from those parts of the world. If I see chiles and garlic and coconut and spices and fresh herbs, I’m down. I can also never say no to raw oysters or lobster rolls, and I have a deep love of pasta with either tomato sauce, white clam sauce, or carbonara.

Least Favorite Kind of Food: I don’t like olives, which is unfortunate when it comes to cocktail parties and dirty martinis but otherwise I can avoid them pretty easily. And I also am not a huge fan of kidneys (I mean, think about their function). Other than that I’m pretty omnivorous.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: On the West Side, I’m a big fan of Danji – love the sliders (pork ones especially), and the japchae lunch. I also enjoy the sandwiches at Mooncake Foods and the ramen at Men Kui Tei. Can you tell I like Asian food, haha? On the East Side, I Soba Totto is probably my top spot and I go there frequently, especially in the winter for the hot soba. I also think Bi Lokma is great – I’ll get the stuffed grape leaves, the hot yogurt soup, and the meatballs for sure. And if I want something fancier, I’ll head to the Bar Room at The Modern.

“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? Well, because I have to eat at so many different places around the city, I don’t really have a go-to place. But if I’m working in the Voice office downtown, I get sushi (generally tuna and avocado) from Panya, a nearby Japanese bakery. The rolls are only $3.75, which is a steal! And they have a yakisoba sandwich which is kind of amazing, because who doesn’t want noodles inside a sandwich?

Place(s) you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch? Food Gallery 32. I remember the site was keeping tabs on it for a while, and I went the day after you guys posted your overview. It’s a fun spot, for sure, but I always get overwhelmed and have ordering regret since there are so many choices there.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Chinatown. I could live out my Asian food fetish every single day!

fourkitchensAnything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers? Yes! I am always in search of places that have the following foods, and would love recommendations for spots that have tasty versions. One is Grape-Nuts ice cream. It’s a popular flavor in New England but I’ve only seen it at Blue Marble and the occasional Jamaican spot. The other is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes from when I lived in Hanoi — banana flower salad, which has a texture similar to coleslaw but is made with ground peanuts and fresh herbs. It’s refreshing and awesome, and I’ve never seen it on a menu here. Midtown Lunchers, send me leads!

Alright… as promised we’ve got a copy of Lauren’s new book to giveaway to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter to win is comment below. Have a recommendation for Lauren? Put it in the comments and you’re entered to win. Don’t have a rec… just tell us why you deserve the book, and you’re entered to win. It’s as easy as that. And, as always, if you want to be next week’s Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er (or know somebody you’d like to nominate) email


  • (Honorary) FREAK OF THE WEEK

  • I know this doesn’t help you in NYC, but next time you are in L.A. you have to go to Scoops (or Scoops Westside). Their signature flavor is “brown bread”- ice cream with candied grape nuts. So good.

    (And don’t worry, this doesn’t count as an entry to win the book.)

  • good job with Fork in the Road, I read it daily.

  • Well, I won’t offer any suggestions to someone who probably knows virtually every restaurant in the city, but, in the hopes of winning a copy of her book, I’ll offer my son (a food-, wine- and beer-savvy young man her age) as an arranged marriage.

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    Why is her name written in quotes? Is her name not actually Lauren Shockey? Maybe that’s an alias she goes by.

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    I’m contemplating getting into the restaurant business and where to go to culinary school so I’d love to read about Laurens story. I’ve read a lot of books profiling this path so I’d enjoy reading hers. Thanks!

  • I liked Lauren’s profile, and I just want to be in the running for the book. My husband went to the FCI, but he sells comic books, so to get the juicy lowdown on what happens “on the line” I seek out memoirs like this one. Also, her profile makes me think today’s lunch should be Food Gallery 32.

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    hey Lauren,

    I’ve made a grape nut ice crem recommendation for you on your FITR blog. As for the salad, try the green tea leaf salad at Cafe Migala or any Burmese restaurants you come across in the future.

  • I love grape nut ice cream. I’ve never seen it in NYC. Anyone ever seen Grape Nut Pudding in NY? Or Indian Pudding?

    Congrats on the book! If I don’t win a copy, I will look for the e-book.

    • @Broccoli you can find grapenut ice cream in west indian shops that sell ice cream. Dunno if Taste of the Tropics still exists as a brand, but they made one.

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    I’m interested in reading her book as well: I’ve sortof harbored a wish to be a chef but I ended up walking other roads – ah well, I can live vicariously through autobiographies like this one!

  • Curious as to why Lauren left cooking to write about cooking. A brief stint behind the burner? Guess I’ll have to read the book.

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    book me please

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    I just need a good new book to read because reading through the archives of all 4 MTL cities just isnt satisfying my foodie tendancies

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    Hi, my name is Dan and I am a blind food critic living in New York City. I write a blog: (not spam)
    I really enjoyed reading Lauren’s profile, one of my weaknesses is that I am very picky and don’t try many foods from Asian cultures besides the normal (mostly Americanized) Chinese and Japanese. I know, my fault. However, if you or anyone else had some recommendations for good places or dishes to try which are not spicy, then I’m in!

  • I went to cooking school and worked in 5 restaurants and a catering company. Maybe I should write a book too. Most people leave because they can’t afford to live on what restaurant work pays.

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    I’d love to win a copy of Lauren’s book because after eating food, looking at food, fantasizing about food, I like to read about food. Foodie memoirs are my Playboys and Penthouses.

  • It can be burned for warmth.

    Winter is coming.

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    “My Life Behind The Burner”? Your 27, and obviously been out of the game for a while, I hardly call that a “life behind the burner”

  • No recommendation, but I echo the sentiment that 27 is too young an age at which to begin writing memoirs.

  • No way, I hate olives and love Thai/Vietnamese/Sri Lankan food too. Let’s be soulmates :D

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