The Best Deal at Grand Central Market is Eli Zabar’s $5 Focaccia

I always enjoy going to Grand Central Market (inside Grand Central Station, enter on Lexington and 43rd), but it’s usually more of a look-but-don’t-touch excursion. It’s nothing like the accessible-to-all Grand Central Market in Los Angeles I used to visit when I lived there and that Zach is lucky enough to be near. The one in New York is separate from the restaurants — you’ll find those in the Dining Concourse. But in the market section I almost never buy anything unless I’m looking for an odd ingredient or cooking something for a special occasion. Most of the stuff they sell at Grand Central Market is high quality, sure, but FAR more expensive than what I can get in my neighborhood. I’ve looked around for lunch there, and even tried a few things. But what can you get there for our $10 limit? It turns out, there are a few things… but usually in small packages. Here’s a sampling.

From Pescatore Seafood Company you can get $2.50 shrimp, salmon, or crab spring rolls and a lobster spring roll for $5. But be careful. When they put “Ready to Eat” in quotation marks they must be using that punctuation to convey irony. When I tried the shrimp roll there a few months ago, the shrimp was nearly raw. A friend tried it a few weeks later and had the same experience. I mean, I still ate it, but of the few foods that put me off, raw fish or seafood comes closest.

Murray’s sells a nice looking “Italian Antipasti for Two” for $8.99. For two my arse. It appears to be tasty enough, but 1) where are the crackers? and 2) I’m sure many Lunch’ers could devour that in one sitting and still feel peckish.

You’ve got tiny 7 ounce packages of seafood-speckled lunches on ice from Wild Edibles, ranging from $6.99 to $9.99. How about NO?

There’s by-the-pound from Dishes, a place I have seen outside of Grand Central but never bothered walking in.

Lasagna from Ceriello is only $8.99 a pound, but I’m wondering how many pounds equal one square of lasagna…

The clear choice, in my opinion, are the $4.95 focaccias from Eli Zabar’s. Eli Zabar’s has stayed off the ML radar largely, other than a lunch links reference to their sandwiches outsourced by Duane Reade from the Food In Mouth Blog. Fair warning about this focaccia: it is a true carbo-load. If you love bread, you’ll love this. If you think I’m crazy for just eating a piece of fancy bread for lunch… well, I can understand that. But these foccacias are dense with dough and pimped up with flavor. I’ve paid $10 for a “bar pie” of the same diameter with cheaper ingredients and roughly 95% less crust.

The focaccia I chose was green olive and goat cheese — one of the big circular ones. Oh boy was it good. The goat cheese wasn’t too strong and there was lots of it. There were also plenty of olives, and I loved the tangy cheese-olive combo. The bread was fluffy and fresh — I could tell it had just been baked that morning. I ate it without heating it but if you have a toaster oven in your office it would be amazing warm, and probably how it’s meant to be eaten.

Is it enough food, you ask? Hell yeah. It’s soooo thick I couldn’t even finish it all in one sitting. I had to have a “second lunch” later in the day to get it all in. Truthfully, I’m not sure if this focaccia could possibly be more awesome, especially for $4.95. No tax added and no tip necessary.

If you’re not a fan of the strong flavors of olives and goat cheese, they also offer a tomato & cheese and a sage & parmesan round focaccia, and some other flavors in the square style (they look a bit smaller): roasted vegetables & cheese, lemon & thyme, black olive & goat cheese (mislabeled as green olive in one of the pics above), and again, tomato & cheese.

I can see where the complaints might come up… no meat, no sauce, too doughy. Remember you still have $5 to play with, so you could remedy the former two problems by getting some slices of meat from Murray’s or buy a sauce from somewhere, or by buying it from a cheaper deli elsewhere. The doughy part, well, I can’t help you there. If you don’t like arresting amounts of dough, I’m afraid this might not be the deal for you. But if you do, this is the best lunch deal in Grand Central Market, and one of the best in Midtown when you look at the quality of ingredients, taste, and satiation factor for the price.

Have you been to Grand Central Market for lunch? If so, what’s your favorite for under $10?

Grand Central Market, enter on Lexington & 43rd
Eli Zabar Bread and Pastry inside Grand Central Market, (646) 503-3534


  • Doesn’t murrays do the parmesan crisps for 5 bucks a bag? I know the store right by the entrance to the street on the left hand side sells bags of them, and I think it’s murrays. Those are incredible, though not usually a lunch, though on some days, they do serve….

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    Zabar’s grosses me out because everything is just left out in the open, no covers or even partitions between the customers and the food. Take one errant sneeze, cough, or laugh and someones spit is all over your food.

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    The other bread place in GCM (past Eli’s on the left side, just past the aisle leading to the subway) also does similar big round focaccias. Don’t remember the price but for sure they are less than $10 and also huge. There is one with tomato, cheese and broccoli that is quite good and more than enough for lunch. They also have croissant pastries stuffed with savoury stuff (I recently got tomato, parmesan and pesto for just over 3 bucks) which are quite filling; two of those would do for lunch.

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    I got something from Dishes the first week I worked at my current job. Never again! Everything is overpriced and shamefully under-seasoned.

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