PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Mike”

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 it’s Mike, a web guy who’d rather be stuffing his gullet with seafood in Spain.

Name: Mike

Age: 32

Occupation: Senior Digital Producer

Where in Midtown do you work? Bravo / 30 Rock

Favorite Kind of Food: Anything rustic/ethnic, but if I had to boil it down specifically in terms of items or cultures: Indian / Southeast Asian / Spanish, and items would be smartly made grilled sandwiches (my sandwiches must have a crunch element), any seafood and spicy noodle-based soups (ramen, pho).

Least Favorite Kind of Food: American-style ham. Not the fancy La Quercia stuff, which I adore, but salt-bomb grossly pink spiral ham or cold-cut ham. I just gagged writing that. I also continue to have a lifelong hatred of pancakes — see crunch necessity above.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: Tina’s Cuban sandwich (on 56th btw. 5+6th), Menkui Tei (on 56th btw. 5+6th) in the winter (Menkui ramen always), and was recently pleasantly surprised by Steak N Shake (on B’way btw. 53+54th).

“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? I get in a rut and grab salad or pay-by-weight stuff from City 75 (on 51st btw. 5+6th). It’s not great, but they do have consistently good grilled salmon and some other dependables that work in a pinch. Also, Lenny’s (spicy chicken on toasted ciabatta) when I need to be quick and fulfill a sandwich craving.

Places you have discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch? Margon (on 46th btw. 6+7th) back in the day before it was a nightmare to even attempt getting lunch at. And the calamari sandwich at Tuscan Square (I think that was the name?), which is now Bill’s.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Two possibilities: In Boqueria market in Barcelona where you can easily bounce around the different vendors looking for what’s the freshest that day, or Amalfi — seafood, anchovy and lemons all day long.

Anything you’d like to ask the midtown lunch readers? Any decent Vietnamese near Rock Center, either for Bahn Mi or pho in the winter? Seems to be a pretty big void there.

Got an answer for Mike? Put it in the comments. Want to be next week’s Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er (or know somebody you’d like to nominate)? Email editor@midtownlunch.com.

20 Comments

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    LOL @ Vietnamese in midtown. There is a sandwich shop called Boi over on 44th/3rd, but it doesn’t hold a candle to any of the known places in Chinatown or Brooklyn. The bread is all wrong IMO and it’s way more expensive than a banh mi deserves to be.

    There may be a random Chinese noodle shop around that serves pho as well, but I say why bother? I’d stick to the ramen joints in the area.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    thanks @hungbp for a list of places we should go to but you think stink and/or are expensive…

    • User has not uploaded an avatar

      well, aren’t you the snarky snark? i don’t think there is anything wrong with saying the vietnamese options in midtown are pretty lacking. at least i provided some options to take the edge off even if they aren’t top caliber.

  • It’s not anything resembling a traditional banh mi, but Hing Won of all places has a few options. It’s a gigantic sandwich for $7 or less.

    City 75′s buffets give me sadness. The cheeseburger and fries are a tasty option though – the grill guy doesn’t murder the burger, and the fries are McDonald’s in quality. Even the Japanese chef in the back does a credible udon soup, all things considered. (All these suggestions happpen to have been covered somewhere on this site.)

  • Cha Pas (52nd btwn 8th and 9th) has both, but they are a far cry from Chinatown quality.

    • yeah, I was just about to post about Cha Pas. It’s not the best Viet in the city, but it’s the best that I’ve found in Midtown (and believe me, I’ve tried em all)

  • WEEK OF THE FREAK

    No. Wait. That’s not it. Damnit, I’ll leave it to Fred

  • Interesting about Cha Pas… will have to give it a whirl. Even if it’s not great, I’d rather have subpar Vietnamese than subpar token deli.

  • You are legit in your choices – Margon and Menkui speak for themselves. Have you seen them serving crispy chicarron at Margon at any point recently? I had it once from them but they don’t seem to do it anymore.

    Boi does have a spot on 40th and 8th which is nowhere near you and their banh mi is just okay. You’ll probably be better off at Cha Pas.

    • I actually just came back to Rockefeller / Midtown for the first time since 2008 after being elsewhere from past jobs, so my trips to Margon in the past few months have numbered two — didn’t notice chicharron (sorry, that took a long time to give a simple “no” answer).

      • Bugger. Margon has been the single promising option for chicharrones in forever. D:

        Anyway, of interest to you: if the 6 train is feasible for you, you could even jet down to Cooper Square to hit up Ippudo for lunch. Also you could swing by the udon place next to Cafe Zaiya on 42nd for really, really good udon – and I find udon bland in its best forms, so that’s as high praise as I can give to the stuff.

    • I worked at AOL right across from Ippudo, which I miss dearly. Menkui and even Sapporo aren’t bad alternatives (though definitely not in the same game as Ippudo).

      • I wasn’t too big of an Ippudo fan – found their noodles lacking, the broth nothing worth writing home over, and the price exorbitant for ramen, especially when Menkui Tei was darn near next door. It’d be a good date place IMO, but I was lukewarm on the ramen.

        Tabata is a schlep for you but if you find yourself near Port Authority Bus Terminal and in need of ramen goodness, I can’t praise their tan tan men enough.

  • Menchanko Tei on 45th Street (btw Lex/3rd) has solid Ramen. I usually go with the Chige Miso which is spicy and warming during the winter months. Their gyoza are excellent as well.

    I understand that their 55th street location recently closed.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    This is outside of what I’d call Rock Center territory, but there’s a Vietnamese restaurant called Obao on 53rd between 2nd and 3rd. I’ve never had their pho, because frankly I won’t eat any other than my mother’s, but I’ve had their Bun Bo Hue, which is a spicy beef and pork noodle soup, and it’s pretty solid. They also make Xia Gio (crispy spring rolls) the proper way with rice paper rather than wonton or egg roll wrappers.

    As for sandwiches, there aren’t any proper Vietnamese sandwiches in Midtown, but Num Pang (40th & Lex, I think), a Cambodian sandwich shop, makes a tasty sandwich and similarly has pickled carrots & daikon, cucumber and cilantro as part of their sandwiches.

    • User has not uploaded an avatar

      Actually, sorry, I sort of take back the last part about sandwiches… There’s a Boi Sandwich shop on Third Ave between 45th and 46th, but it’s a solid “eh”. If I had to pick, I’d rather go to Num Pang myself.

  • I work at Rock Center and although Tabata is too far for me to go for lunch, I highly recommend it. My favorite ramen there is the Sutamina. It’s fairly spicy for ramen and intensely flavorful.

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