Flatiron Lunch: Are We Getting Priced Out of Mad. Sq. Eats!?

Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.

Week one of Mad. Sq. Eats done. Three weeks remaining. Compared to last year, I took a more moderate approach to the festival. But I can’t say it was entirely self-control. Lack of choice, especially under $10, was a major factor. I should clarify further. Many of the return vendors continue to have great options. Mad Park News has a significant collection of the menus here. Metaphor/graffiti still offers $9 pork dumplings I enjoyed previously.

Mexicue also offers two sandwiches, pulled pork and brisket, both for $8.50. Probably the biggest tragedy of the week was my discovery that Mexicue isn’t offering the Tostilocos again. How could they do this to me?? That was the best $5 I have ever spent on a ML.

And new comer, Mason Jar NYC, could have been a contender, but I have to admit that I didn’t even try their food. They were offering short rib grilled cheese bites on Texas toast with a side of coleslaw for $9. The problem is the “bites” looked like only two quarter wedges of a sandwich with measly fillings.

I did try Mrs. Dorsey’s Kitchen for a grilled cheese. The service was great, very friendly when I ordered the classic cheddar ($7) with red onions (not listed on the menu, but I noticed them on the sandwich assembly line). Even though they try to have parts of the sandwiches ready to go, it still took 5-10 minutes for my sandwich. Which I guess is just how long it takes to properly toast a sandwich in that type of press. Like we say with places like Morris Truck, it was a very good grilled cheese, but am I really spending this much on a grilled cheese?

Sunday Gravy is another newcomer with their version on an Italian Sunday sauce and a few other items. If you aren’t familiar to Sunday Sauce, I recommend reading The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion and Cooking Manual which basically spends a whole chapter (13 pages) of the book waxing poetic about Sunday Sauce. Sunday Gravy offers the sauce over pasta (traditional) or as a sandwich with mozzarella (as a parm), then into a toaster oven (to melt the mozzarella).

I was with a self-proclaimed expert parm hero eater (having eaten a lot of them), and after two bites, the sandwich looked like this. We agreed that it really should hold together a little bit longer.

In terms of non-lunch items, I tried the iced latte ($5) from Third Rail Coffee. Huge waste of money. (Yes, I should have guessed this.) Not photo worthy at all, so instead…beautiful tulips!!

On a hot day, I got the lemon basil shaved ice from People’s Pops ($2.50). I could see why some people would complain about the sauce settling at the bottom, but I love the plain ice chips on top and the flavorful water ice on the bottom. So refreshing.

On another visit it was rainy and therefore not very crowded. So maybe for the first – and only time, I share with you photographic evidence of only one person in line at Calexico. My friend and I quickly jumped at our opportunity to finally try Calexico, since we have previously been scared off by the line.

I ordered the pollo verde taco ($3), since I love tomatillo salsa. Even without a line to order it still took a couple minutes for my food to come out (so I went to order Roberta’s too, but we will get to that in a minute.) The double corn tortillas actually tasted like corn, the filling was substantial, and they didn’t forget the lime wedge.

My friend ordered the carne asada taco (which I considered, but didn’t want to duplicate our eating efforts.) As good as the pollo verde was, I had order envy for the carne asada taco. It was just better and more interesting.

For a hearty lunch, I like that Calexico offers the option of a $3 taco plus a $4 taco plus $3 rice and beans for a substantial meal. Or a burrito all for under $9.

Roberta’s is offering a new pizza called the Cheesus Christ ($9) with mozzarella, taleggio, grana padano cream, crushed black pepper with red onion (for an extra $1).

Why is Roberta’s so good? I can see how it could have inspired its name. Doesn’t your mouth water just looking at it?

Seoul Lee Korean Bar B Que looked like this when I went to try it. They were opening up by the time I finished my other food, but I had to get back to the office.

My friend, Gus, stuck around to order a beef taco ($3), and afterwards sent me the above photo and a chat that can be summarized like this (condensed by me): “-really tasty -the sauce is pretty tasty -only 1 tortilla so a bit messy -but that sauce, it’s similar to the orangy one the korilla guys use, but it’s a bit spicier i think and more balanced -i’d say flavor wise i liked the korean taco better than my mexican one today” Liked it better than Calexico? How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

I am starting to come to the conclusion that Mad. Sq. Eats might not be for us. It is for tourists who want to stop, sit, eat, drink and enjoy the neighborhood. It is also for the after-work us that wants to relax with friends with good food and drink. But for the lunch-time us, I challenge the festival at their fall edition to provide more wallet-friendly options for us hard-working folks.

Mad. Sq. Eats, Worth Square at the corner of 5th Avenue and Broadway from 24th to 25th Streets, until Friday, May 31


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    I agree with this article. I stopped by Cannibal for the Pig’s Head Cuban and they raised the price from $10 to $12, which is what they charge at the restaurant.

  • biggest tragedy is Broken English is not there, and worse yet, closed entirely. their trapizzino last year was $5 and mind-blowing

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    I’ve been to the Mad Sq. Eats many times over the past couple of years with my friends, and we’ve all come to a conclusion– the only TRULY great food stall is the Hong Kong Street Food place. Everything they sell is awesome but the chili shrimp are particularly delicious. It’s expensive as hell, and they make you wait like 20 minutes for the food, but it is so worth it.

    We always check out some of the other stalls, last weekend we got some risotto balls, a pulled pork sandwich, and a hot dog from asiadog, and they were ‘aight’. But man, that hong kong stall had a chicken wing special that was DYNAMITE.

  • I agree with Wayne—I’m super pissed Broken English isn’t there–and sad to hear they are out of business. The Trapizzino was the only meal item I really enjoyed last time. I’m also pissed sigmunds pretzels aren’t there. This rd. at MSE is particularly weak…..I live around the corner and walk through once a day and it’s depressing….Even with money in my pocket it’s overpriced crap has not been appealing….

  • Arancini Bros is still great.

    Welcome to Manhattan folks. Prices go up. Get used to it.

  • Red Hook Lobster – insanely delicious but insanely expensive at $16.

    Mighty Balls – Mighty Dry. Pork ball slider was like eating bread crumb sandwich. Jalapeno jelly OK.

    Asia Dog – stopped taking orders at 11:45; seemed overrun by three customers

    Did not like Arancini Bros last year.

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    Love Arancini Bros! The arancini with squid ink and shrimp is so so yummy.

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