Restaurant Days at Rock Center Has a Ton of Great Deals
Yesterday kicked off Restaurant Days at Rock Center, an outside picnic of sorts highlighting merchants at Rockefeller Center. As a long time Rock Center worker–we’re talking over 10 years now–I’m up on my lunch options in the Rock Center concourse and surrounding environs. Are Rock Center days my favorite food event of the year? No. I’ll be the first to admit that there are definitely skippable offerings, but among those ordinary (or shall we say “everyday values”) there are gems worth seeking out. I scoped out the scene yesterday and here are my picks.
Say what you will about ‘wichcraft, but when it comes to events like this they bring their A-game. This spicy (but not super-spicy) mayo-dressed shrimp roll created especially for the event had little bits of scallions and red bell peppers and came on a buttered squishy Martin’s potato roll.
It wasn’t just one or two shrimps but a decent sized scoop. Total deal. If you have a huge appetite you can order two and still be under the ML limit.
I’ve only been to the Sea Grill once for a friend’s retirement dinner. It’s a bit swank for my lunch budget and I was excited to see that they were offering a decent sized lobster roll with chips and a drink for 10 bucks. The lunch combo comes with a lobster roll dressed with lemon aiolil and topped with watercress, housemade Yukon Gold potato chips and a Harney & Sons iced tea. For $10, I wasn’t expecting the lobster roll to have as much meat as Luke’s Lobster Roll (and it didn’t) but to their credit it was a decent mix of lobster pieces with some tender claw bits mixed in with tiny celery bits. I’m not going to fault them for adding celery even though that sort of filler is a big no-nos for Mainers (my grandmother is rolling in her grave as I type this), but I have to say, as much as I wanted to love this combo, next to ‘wichcraft’s shrimp roll everything about it seemed bland. I’m not saying that the lobster roll should have been spicy. It just needed something. Maybe a little salt? And I’m sorry to say that the roll itself, fancy as it was, didn’t hold a candle to the Martin’s rolls being served at ‘wichcraft. They were bready and more dense. One side of my lobster roll seemed to have a smaller scoop of filling than the other and the bread overwhelmed it.
The iced tea was actually my favorite part. It was really refreshing. While it’s billed as sweetened ice tea, mine wasn’t pre-sweetened though they did have a simple syrup bottle on hand for on the spot sweetening. Had I been back at my desk a little sprinkle of a salt might have kicked this up a bit. If you’re dying for a lobster roll and trying to save, this is a decent option, but if you’re used to Luke’s or Red Hook Lobster Pound, you can give this a pass.
One lobster roll combo and a shrimp roll in and I was stuffed. I did eye the “American Kobe Burgers” from Brasserie Ruhlman. Served with Danish Blue Cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and housemade chips, these burgers were huge and looked awesome on the grill. Like the Sea Grill, Brasserie Ruhlman is another one of those expense account lunches. The burger on their regular menu comes with gruyere and mozzarella (add $2 for blue cheese) and is served with fries for $20. Here the burger with blue plus chips was $10. Brasserie Ruhlman had what looked to be the longest lines so if this sounds good to you, head there first. Their table was located in the northeastern section of the plaza across from their restaurant.
I also spied a $10 shaved steak sandwich at the Del Frisco’s booth. The sandwich wasn’t as hefty as you might get from Tri Tip (who was also on the plaza), but you can get Tri Tip at Rock Center everyday. On Del Frisco’s regular menu the Prime Shaved Steak Sandwich with horseradish sauce comes with potato chips for $19 (same price at Del Frisco’s Grille but it comes with potato salad instead). At Restaurant Days the sandwich alone was $10. Not sure how it compares in size to the ones at the restaurant. But it’s Del Frisco’s steak and as I was snapping pictures the woman behind me said to her lunch buddy “Oh my God, look at that steak.” Ever since they closed the steak tip bar loophole, Del Frisco’s has been out of the ML range, so if you want your fix without pounding your wallet now’s your chance.
Ben and Jerry’s is doing dollar scoops and offering a pretty decent selection including Schweddy Balls and their newish Blueberry Graham Yogurt.
Rock Center retailers Magnolia Bakery is there as well, but proceed with caution. They are selling mini cupcakes, yes, those tiny things in the picture above, for $2. Seriously? Can you say tourist trap? The regular store is down the street. You can get a normal sized cupcake for $3. $3.50 if you want a special cupcake like Red Velvet. On the other hand they are also dishing out servings of their banana pudding for $3 (it’s normally $4.75 at the store) and brownies for $2 (normally $2.50). Leave the cupcakes take the pudding.
Restaurant Days run through Thursday, July 12 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You can find the tables with special lunch offerings on Rockefeller Plaza, 49th and 50th Streets between 5th and 6th Avenues.