Flatiron Lunch: Lin’s Chinese is a Cheap Gem

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.

When FL’ers give thoughtful recommendations, I try to listen – even if it takes me months (or years) to get there. So when stevenp recommended Lin’s in July (in response to my Home’s post) and actually suggested specific dishes, it went on list. Nevermind that it has taken me almost 10 months to finally try it out.

As I would hope from a cheap Chinese take-out place, Lin’s has faded photos of dishes, dated décor, and cheap lunch specials.

My favorite part of the ordering/pick-up experience was the way my order was immediately translated into Chinese and yelled generally towards the guys manning the woks and other implements of destruction. No need for fancy ordering software here, just good old fashion shouting, almost before I had even finished speaking.

Ordering only what was recommended by FL’er stevenp, the boneless spare ribs lunch special (#L7 for $6.90) was pretty addictive. I ended up eating way more in one sitting than I was planning. I wish it had a little more of the sauce, but given the minimal hunks of fatty bites, I thought it was a great dish with a sizeable portion. Since I was given the option, I ordered the pork fried rice instead of white rice with my L7. In my non-expert opinion, I wouldn’t really classify it as pork fried rice, because it didn’t have any egg or enough oil and soy sauce. I did enjoy the lightly sautéed onions, because they still had a bite, but overall, I preferred the boneless ribs with white rice. Because there wasn’t extra sauce to infuse the fried rice, I thought the white rice amplified the flavor of the dish.

Also on FL’er stevenp’s recommendation, I ordered the egg foo young with pork (#45 for $7.10). Is it crazy that I didn’t know what egg foo young actually was, but I ordered it anyway? My leap of faith was rewarded with a huge portion (three omelette pieces) and very flavorful gravy. It was great, although, not up my alley for lunch. Gravy and eggs for breakfast is a different story.

To me, Lin’s epitomizes Chinese take-out food in America (aka Zach Brooks food.) I was a little bit skeptical if I would like it based on my preference for more authentic regional Chinese food (que the comments about how I know nothing about Chinese food). But it was great! And this is why I try to live by something Zach Brooks wrote years ago in a ML post: “Never allow your own ignorance to stand in the way of good food!”

THE + (What people who like this place will say)

  • $6.90 for a filling lunch special. Is this a new record??
  • Tasty food.
  • I am thinking this Egg Foo Young could last me three meals.

THE – (What people who don’t like this place will say)

  • Sketchy decor.
  • I like authentic regional Chinese, and this menu is all over the place.
  • They have too many items on the menu if I have to order by numbers.

Lin’s Chinese, 32 East 23rd Street btwn Madison and Park Aves, (212) 460-8445


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    Standard good-bad Chinese place. Sometimes I want authentic and other times I want stuff like this.

  • Well done Sarah

    This almost makes up for the Sweetgreens debacle


  • When i saw the title I was gonna post that this is my go-to cheap Chinese pace–the upon reading, realized I must’ve already said that somewhere here! ;) You got the boneless ribs right–very few fatty/chewy/’off’ pieces (usually none) and huge portions! And it seems many Chinese places don’t have the EFY. A bonus here is you can eat in the park across the street! This isn’t authentic regional Chinese but a solid cheap take-out option, better than many others I’ve tried locally. (BTW, for killer Chinese, try Han Dynasty at 3rd Ave and 11th St. The tasting menu for 6+ people is amazing, with tons of leftovers…)

  • BTW, I usually throw some duck/apricot sauce on the ribs if I want them wetter!

  • oops, forgot to mention: the combo plate of boneless ribs and choice of rice, for just $8.50, is even bigger(!) and comes with an egg roll. Szechuan wontons are doughy and extremely filling for $5.50. I dunno if Zach ever ate here, but if he tried it he’d be back!! The only think keeping this from classic ML status is the non-M location.

  • Ordered some Lin’s last nite–because I read this and they’re open until 11pm. :) Got the boneless rib combo plate. Ate a whole bunch, kinda full, stirred things up and it still looked like a full order of ribs and rice!

  • Stevie, Have you considered employment as a publicist for Untamed?

  • “Is it crazy that I didn’t know what egg foo young actually was … ?” Yes, very crazy.

  • This place doesn’t look very appetizing at all.

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