The Best Lunches in Midtown As Decided by You: 2011 Readers’ Poll Results

You nominated the finalists, argued in comments, and voted for your favorites. And now… it’s time for the results. Here are the winners of the 2011 Midtown Lunch Reader’s Poll, complete with Editor’s Pick for each category chosen by our correspondents.

Best Hamburger: Shake Shack

It was no real surprise that Shake Shack reigned supreme in the Poll for Best Hamburger. If you haven’t tried this quality charred burger in Midtown this year, you’ve probably tried it just about anywhere else as the Danny Meyer empire continues to grow across the country (and the world). And while the Shack prepares to dominate the planet, the two previous winners, Burger Joint and Five Guys trailed head to head just behind. I’d be happy with a burger from any of the nominees, but my preference is for the modest simplicity of Burger Joint‘s classic patty. Brian H’s Pick: Burger Joint [View Results]

Best Thai: Pure Thai Shophouse

Sukhotai Pork Noodle Soup from Pure Thai Shophouse

Last year, Wondee Siam and Pure Thai Shophouse finished neck and neck in the polls, with Wondee narrowly edging out then newcomer Pure Thai Shophouse.  This year however, Pure Thai (on 9th Ave. btw. 51+52nd) soundly thrashed the competition with a 10% lead over last year’s winner.  Clearly you guys are fans of their menu which boasts better than average Thai mainstays, as well as unique noodle dishes such as their nearly flawless Sukhothai Pork Noodle soup, which features a trifecta of pork (roasted, ground and cracklings).  I’m totally with you on this one, and as I boldly stated in my first write-up of the place, Pure Thai Shophouse is perhaps the only 9th Ave Thai restaurant worth visiting. Chris H’s Pick: Pure Thai Shophouse  [View Results]

Best Street Meat: Comme Ci Comme Ca
03_Comme Ci Comme Ca

The big question in the category of street meat is would the winner of the Reader’s Poll correspond with the winner of the very scientific Street Meat Palooza 4. And indeed, the answer is yes. Comme Ci, Comme Ca beat out the competition, including long time favorite Famous Halal Guys who came in a respectable second place, and last year’s winner Kwik Meal. I still think Kwik Meal’s lamb is superior to Comme Ci’s merguez, although it is no longer technically a Midtown Lunch with the price rising well into the double digits every few weeks. I’m sure that cost them more than few votes. But to me, the uniqueness of Trini Paki Boys‘ Caribbean spices and special hot sauce take the cake (and their first time Vendy Award nomination backs that up). Brian H’s Pick: Trini Paki Boys [View Results]

Best Korean: Woorijip


Woorijip (on 32nd btw. B’way+5th) continued to sweep the Best Korean Fast Food category for the 4th year in a row, though their lead slipped slightly to relatively flashier newcomers, Korilla and Food Gallery 32. Clearly Woorijip is the sentimental favorite, serving up a huge variety of food options from their by-the-lb buffet alongside cheap booze and conveniently packaged food to go. While I love Woorijip when I’m on a time crunch, I’d rather wait a few extra minutes for the made-to-order dishes and the higher quality found at Food Gallery 32. Chris H’s Pick: Food Gallery 32 [View Results]

Best Falafel: Pitopia

To say that Pitopia (on 37th & B’way) was a dark horse winner in the Best Falafel category would be a huge understatement, as they narrowly edged out Taim Mobile for the win.  Although their format is very similar to Maoz’s the ML commenters mostly agreed that the quality of their falafel was far superior. Despite the positive early word on Pitopia, we can’t help but think that this falafel newcomer did a bit of “campaigning” to secure their seemingly premature victory, and I stand by my earlier statement that Taim Mobile is the single best meal I’ve had out of a truck, vegetarian or not. Chris H’s Pick: Taim Mobile.

Best Pizza: Previti Pizza
Previti Pizza

Bonafide pizza snobs might lament the pizza options in midtown, but if you know where to look some good slices can be found. Eddie’s Pizza Truck found a following with ultra thin crust lovers and Harry’s brought by-the-slice action back to Rockefeller Center. Pizza by Certe scored points for their unique combos (Thanksgiving slice, anyone?), but at the end of the day it was Previti Pizza (on 41st btw. Lex+Park) with their much loved artichoke slice who took the popular vote. I still hold a fond place in my heart for Bella Napoli’s Grandma’s slice. Brownie’s pick: Bella Napoli [View Results]

Best Kati Roll: Biryani Cart
Biryani Cart Kati Rolls

Despite recent complaints in the ML forums that Biryani Cart is going downhill and/or messing up orders, they managed to edge out Kati Roll Company for the first ever Best Kati Roll poll. Kwik Meal made a delicious entrance into the Kati Roll scene in the beginning of 2011, with their top notch street meat chicken and thicker-than-usual paratha, but — call me sentimental — Kati Roll still has my heart. That unda chicken roll is tried and true and Kati Roll has never screwed up my order, which I found to be an unforgivable annoyance when it happened to me at Biryani. Rachel’s Pick: Kati Roll [View Results]

Best Lobster Roll: Luke’s Lobster Truck

The lobster roll market in Midtown certainly expanded in 2011, bringing us lots of new rolls, all of them over the ML budget. But that didn’t stop our lovely readers from picking a clear winner for our poll: Luke’s Lobster claimed a whopping 50% of the vote with their scrumptious Maine-style rolls. Chilled and served in buttered and toasted split-top buns, the lobster rolls have a little mayo, some lemon butter and are topped with a delicious spice mix. (Apparently readers don’t think much of — or haven’t yet tried? — Snack Box’s offering, which clocked in at only .33% of the vote!) Luke’s is good, and I am a huge fan of their shrimp roll, actually, but for some reason Red Hook Lobster Pound‘s lobster roll really does it for me. Placing second in the poll, the giant chunks of lobster are lightly tossed in mayo and sit on a little shredded lettuce in a top-split bun. It is a friggin’ good sandwich. I like that the mayo-averse can order theirs Connecticut-style, which is just lobster and butter. Not healthier, of course, just different! Rachel’s Pick: Red Hook Lobster Pound Truck [View Results]

Best Ramen: Totto Ramen

Besides the opening of Tabata Noodle, there weren’t too many earth shattering openings or closings on the Midtown ramen front in 2011. As such, Totto Ramen (on 52nd btw. 8+9th) won our polling by a landslide for the 2nd year in a row. Based on the reliably long lines that form every single day, rain or shine, people are voting with their feet as well. As much as I hate fighting for a seat at this tiny ramen join in Hells Kitchen, I completely agree that it’s one of the best bowls of ramen in the city, let alone Midtown. Will the opening of Ippudo in 2012 upset Totto’s dominance? Perhaps. The the very least we can count on it to steal a few punters from Totto’s queue. Chris H’s Pick: Totto Ramen [View Results]

Best Chinese: Hing Won

After winning for the past 4 years, we figured separating Hing Won and Hop Won would give somebody else a chance to win this one. I thought for sure that the roast pork wonton noodles might have given Main Noodle House a chance. Nope! They came in 3rd. Apparently Midtown Lunchers love their roast pig over rice just way too much. Hing Won (on 48th btw. 5+6th) takes the top prize for a 5th time, relegating Hop Won to 2nd place. And even though they’re virtually indistinguishable, I work a little closer to Hop Won. So… Donny’s Pick: Hop Won [View Results]

Best Coffee: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

In recent years midtown has made some impressive progress on the coffee front. Though Gregory’s didn’t make the cut, they received more than a couple write in votes (don’t worry Gregulars, we’ll be giving Gregory’s it’s moment in the sun soon!) Famed Italian coffee roaster Filicori Zecchini opened a shop on 46th street. Culture Espresso lured in sweets lovers with Dough doughnuts from Brooklyn. Perennial fav JOE and last year’s surprise winner, Financier posted good numbers, but it was Los Angeles import Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf that took the crown winning by a landslide. Zach moves to LA and LA coffee establishment wins ML poll…coincidence or conspiracy? (Or perhaps they just have a lot of twitter followers.) You decide. Meanwhile you can find me at Culture Espresso Bar (on 38th & 6th), knocking back freshly made chocolate chip cookies and shots of espresso. Brownie’s pick: Culture Espresso [View Results]

Best Midtown Sweets: Wafels & Dinges

This year brought a few new contenders on the desserts front, and I thought Coolhaus, Bouchon, or the Flex Donuts Pop-Up would have a big presence in the polls, but I was wrong. Our 2010 Best Dessert Truck, Wafels & Dinges, had the backing of their 18,000 twitter followers to surge ahead and took this by a landslide. Getting dessert off of trucks is evidently still the best deal around since second and third place went to Treats Truck and CoolHaus respectively. We love them all but I just couldn’t get over the ridiculously good, fresh, creative Flex Donuts from Chef Zac Young. After having just one doughnut a year ago, I began planning my dessert dinner at the actual restaurant. Blondie’s pick: Flex Donuts Pop-Up [View Results]

Best Happy Hour Bar Bites: Mc Cormick & Schmick’s

Rudy’s has been a ML sweetheart for years now and with good reason. The beers are cheap, the dogs are free and this classic old New York dive has welcomed lushes from all walks of life since 1933. But though the Pig had his run of the trough in the past years the new People’s Choice winner is McCormick & Schmick’s. The lure of under $6 bar bites that include mussels, burgers, oysters and wings was just too damn strong. I have a soft spot in my heart for Rudy’s free hot dogs, but when it comes to bar food Blarney Stone’s burger is the big winner (emphasis on big). Mamacita’s Pick: Blarney Stone  [View Results]

Best Flatiron Lunch: Hill Country Chicken

Some may argue whether Hill Country Chicken and Eataly really count as a Midtown Lunch, but voters overwhelmingly chose them as the top two lunch spots in Flatiron. Hill Country Chicken took more than 30% of the votes, beating out last year’s champ, Eataly, which still managed to pull over 20%. RUB, Baoguette and Calexico each broke a respectable 10%. Given all the great options in Flatiron these days, it’s a hard choice, but since they opened in May, Calexico managed to draw me in even after work, when I could go wherever I wanted. Clay’s Pick: Calexico [View Results]

Biggest Disappointment: Food Truck Crackdown
Miss Softee Attacked!

In the year 2011, there were many disappointing stories, from our favorite places closing to rising prices but nothing really compared to the massive citywide crackdown of food trucks. We made videos about it, we collected signatures and our fat fearless leader even wrote a New York Times op-ed about it. And with an overwhelming 50% of votes fellow Midtown Lunchers agree. Hopefully in 2012, things will be a lot calmer for our street food vendors. Donny’s Pick: Food Truck crackdown [View Results]

Congrats to all the nominees and winners, and here’s to an even better 2012!


  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    WTF?! Coffee Bean is freakin’ nasty.

  • As much as I love Hing Won, I have to say that the last two times I’ve ordered from Ginger (55 b/t Lex & third) I’ve been extremely impressed with their Chinese dishes. Their Beef Chow Fun was better than Hing Won’s (unless I got Hing Won’s on an off day – Ginger used scallions, chopped the onions finer, and it was the perfect level of greasy, all things Hing could learn from). And Ginger’s Ma Prow Tofu beat out Hing Won in terms of heat. Granted, Ginger does not have wonton soup, their dumplings need work and they’re technically “pan-asian,” and not “Chinese,” but I definitely think they’re a contender for next year.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    My sentiments exactly, Miss Softee.

  • Could worker density have something to do with the vote totals? With a few exceptions, many of the midtown lunchers who work in the 50’s aren’t going to make the trek down the the 30s for Main Noodle or Kati Roll.

    I just assume, that since most of the taller office buildings are in the northern ML boundaries, the vote results would likely skew toward the places in the high-40s and above.

  • What a crap list. Shake Shack and Totto are so overrated it’s not funny. I’m convinced most people in NYC have no idea what good food is.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    so, Midtown_Eater, I’m just curious: what would your top picks be for these categories?

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    hmmm. still waiting to hear from Midtown_Eater what the Philistines should actually be eating. put up or shut up, dude.

  • GOD WOORIJIP???? REALLY? THAT PLACE IS TERRIBLE!!! Only thing that place is good for is cheap booze. Only when you are wasted off your mind is this food tolerable… matter of fact, even when I’m BLACKED OUT, i think this place SUCKS so bad. Gallery 32 definitely serves up better food than Woorijip.

    • User has not uploaded an avatar

      Could not agree more…. The food in those heated cubbies suck the most, the dishes there are usually bloated/overcooked and flavorless.

    • User has not uploaded an avatar

      Attention, Woorijip lovers: Go try Gallery 32. If you have taste buds and a paying job, you won’t return to Woorijip.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I’m so happy Pitopia made this list! I went there for the first time yesterday and it was so delicious. The falafel balls were crispy and so tasty, and all the ingredients were really fresh. I’d definitely recommend this place for lunch!

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