Flatiron Lunch: Final Week 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.

I might have been too hard of Mad. Sq. Eats recently. It is all about knowing where to go and where not to go. And paying a little extra for the atmosphere. With only one week left, I wanted to revisit Mad. Sq. Eats. There are still booths to try and a some reliable go-tos that never let me down.

Since I didn’t get to Seoul Lee Korean BBQ last time, I had to give it a shot, and Bulgogi burritos are always worth a try in my book. Many other people had the same good idea as me, so there were at least 8 people in line in front of me. (Other than Calexico or Roberta’s, Seoul Lee might have had the longest line.) It was so bad, apparently, that someone from Asia Dog instructed us to move to not block their booth.

The bibimbap and sandwiches at Seoul Lee are all priced $11-$12, but the burritos range from $9-$12 and the tacos from $3-$5. They offer most of their dishes with bulgogi beef, spicy pork, sesame chicken, crispy shrimp or veggie. The wings are $2 a piece, but the cost per unit decreases as you order more. So if you and two friends each pitched in $10, you could get 20 wings total. Then, you could fight over who doesn’t get seven.

Since noticing the bulgogi burrito ($10) 2 weeks ago, I have been craving it. I actually almost got alternate burritos (Chipotle, etc) several times when Mad. Sq. Eats closed or I couldn’t get there, but I held out.

The burrito was plenty tasty, but shockingly, it had no rice. It boggles the mind. A burrito without rice and/or beans? (Does Korilla do this too? I don’t remember.) In terms of size, it is on the small side and the part that hangs off the plate is most empty. But considering it has no filler, just bulgogi beef, kimchee, scallion and special sauce, it ends up being a filling meal.

Crispy shrimp also caught my eye, but the only option under $10 was the $5 taco. I know in my previous Mad. Sq. Eats post we all were annoyed by the $5 tacos at Delaney’s Taco Town, but sometimes my stomach convinces my brain to ignore these facts and go for it.

Are you ready for the biggest shocker? Rice in the taco. Let me recap: no rice in the burrito, but rice in the taco. I stood at a cocktail table in Worth Square shaking my head in disbelief, until I came to the conclusion that they probably did this to make the taco hearty and prevent complaints from people like us. With only two shrimp, the rice helped make the taco substantial. I went back to the booth to observe a bulgogi taco being made without rice, which confirmed my theory. Also noteworthy, a single blue corn tortilla was used to hold the rice, two battered and fried shrimp, kimchee, scallions and spicy mayo type sauce. It might not be a full meal, but it wasn’t too far off.

Seoul Lee also earns points for toasting both my tortillas on the flattop while ingredients were compiled on top.

I also wanted to give some attention to one of the many dessert options at Mad. Sq. Eats. I, for one, end up needing something sweet every afternoon at about 3pm or 4pm (sometimes both). So, I bought six mini donuts from Doughnuttery for $6. Since they make you buy a minimum of six, they at least let you choose two different flavors. The flavor options are fairly overwhelming and probably unnecessarily complicated. They have a list of all the flavors, but the bottles of sugars are just so much prettier than a list. They have one topping that isn’t a sugar – a vanilla glaze. I didn’t notice it until after I had ordered, but it would have been a good option.

My first choice was the cacaoboy with cacao nibs, chocolate cookies, mesquite, cocoa and sea salt. It was delicious. The best part might have been picking up the leftover sugar topping with my finger from the bottom of the bag.

After much hemming and hawing, I decided on rosemary road as my second flavor. Rosemary road includes rosemary, roasted cornmeal and figs. It was good, but not as notable as the cacaoboy.

Newcomer SD26 offers a mini croissant with prosciutto for $3. BUT when I say mini croissant, I don’t mean small croissant. I mean mini croissant. I would estimate them to be marginally bigger than a pig-in-a-blanket. Tiny, right? So with that in mind, I couldn’t bring myself to try their $5 meatball sandwich. I am assuming it is slider sized, or smaller. With Sunday Gravy serving up decent portions, including a meatball sandwich, a couple booths down, I decided it wasn’t worth trying.

So if you haven’t totally written Mad. Sq. Eats off (I understand if you have), remember that Calexico and Roberta’s are still better than 75% of the normal lunch options in Flatiron. Mexicue and Asia Dog are also great options, as is Seoul Lee Korean BBQ. And many readers love Sigmund’s Pretzels. On the other hand, I stay away from Mrs. Dorsey’s Kitchen and Mason Jar NYC, which always struck me as ridiculously overpriced. Given the weather report (all the news I need) looks nice for the next week, I think it is worth it to hit up the best booths to sit outside and get some vitamin D while the weather is still bearable.

Mad. Sq. Eats, Worth Square at the corner of 5th Avenue and Broadway from 24th to 25th Streets, 11AM to 9PM each day through October 25th, 2013.


  • that’s a sad sad burrito

  • Wait, you feel like you’re paying extra for THAT atmosphere? I feel MSE should be paying me for that atmosphere.

  • Was there yesterday for lunch.
    had a pie and beer from Roberto’s..while tasty, way over priced for $12.
    Pork belly bun from Chinese cart. It totally lacked flavor and salt. How can you go wrong with pork belly? They apparently managed to..
    A macaron…a disappointment too..it was cold and doughy..not crunchy and chewy.
    I also ordered a brisket taco from Delaney but the service was so so slow that I ended up asking for money back. The guy at the food counter was clueless and I don’t know how on earth anyone would hire someone so incapable. They should learn a few things from Korean delis.
    So I spent about $25 and kinda left hungry.

    • Only thing missing for the perfect MSE experience: To get immediate food poisoning and on the way back to the office shit your pants

  • Yes, Korilla does put rice in their burritos — unfortunately, since their “reappearance” that’s about all that’s in their burritos!

  • I went by today to tease my dog and the seoul kitchen was closed for 20 min or so. They were all there working and all—people looked like they were waiting for food. Yet it was “closed,” according to the staff. SMH. I don’t get MSE anymore. The vendors are becoming more and more a-holes!

  • By-bye MSE. I won’t miss you. And even if it’s better than 75% of the Flatiron lunch options, those other 25% add up to a lot of good choices.

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