Jury Duty Lunch Options Just Got A Little Better With Open Air Cafe
If you’re like me, you don’t really go to the area of Centre St. near City Hall unless you’re on jury duty, get arrested (I would imagine) or you work there and/or are defending someone in a court of law. The other option is that you are a tourist or just really like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. One day after getting off the subway at the City Hall station, I noticed a couple of food kiosks had popped up in a weird triangular area at the base of the bridge. They were Choza Taqueria and The Pantry, and they make up half of the Open Air Cafe. Two other kiosks for Lucky Buns (not this kind, sadly, but burgers) and an Italian pizza and pasta kiosk called Sauced are on the opposite side of the massive 1 Centre St. building. I had originally ventured over to check out Choza’s tacos only to find the place closed. So I walked over to the neighboring Pantry to see what they had on offer.
All of the kiosks are run by the same people, so if you want delivery, you can in theory get food from all of them by calling the same number.
I was a little nervous at first about my plan B, as The Pantry serves only sandwiches, salads and soup. Boring! Then I looked at the menu a little closer and liked what I saw. We’ll just forget about the salads, but they have things like a croque monsieur ($5), Spanish chorizo and manchego ($6.50), prosciutto and farm cheese ($6) and then the one that caught my eye. That would be the merguez sausage with ratatouille and roasted garlic. You had me at merguez, Pantry.
Since the place kind of looks like the lackluster Picnick kiosks in Battery Park, I had pretty low expectations and was thinking this was going to be a premade and reheated affair. Well, in actuality they make the sandwiches from scratch, meaning you have to wait 5 minutes or more to get your food. I was handed a flat package and wondering if this sandwich was even going to fill me up for its $6.50 price tag. when I took it out, it resembled a Cuban sandwich that had been pressed until the bread was crispy but wasn’t all mangled like at those crappy panini places.
This thing was delicious, with lamby goodness in every bite. I couldn’t really taste the ratatouille, only the garlic and sausage and I was OK with that. They don’t sell chips or other sides – only soup for $3.50 so if you’re super hungry this might not be the best place to chow down. When Choza opens, you could do a little mash up with a sandwich and some chips and guacamole or rice and beans. Or I suppose you could walk over to Lucky Buns and get some fries if you’re feeling super ambitious.
I do like that The Pantry chose to do some different sandwiches, especially in the kind of dead area they’re in where there aren’t a lot of lunch options. Admittedly, some of the salads did sound pretty good on a hot summer day and they were cheaper than, say, Just Salad. If anyone’s tried the other kiosks, put your recommendations in the comments.
Open Air Cafe, 1 Centre St., (212) 528-1433