PROFILE: Downtown Lunch’er “Shirley”

As is customary here on Midtown Lunch, every Tuesday we’ll profile a different lunch’er and get their recommendations for places to eat in Downtown NYC. This week, we have Shirley who works a bit out of our normal boundaries in the West Village, but dips down into Soho for some food trucks on occasion. She needs your help learning to love spicy food.

Name: Shirley Chan

Occupation: Copywriter

Where you work: Morton & Washington

Age: 33

Favorite kinds of food: Steak and fried chicken – obsessed with Dirty Bird To Go (on 14th St. btw. 7th & 8th) lately. Brussels sprouts. I just discovered an amazing Japanese tapas dish that drizzles some sort of miso soy sauce mixture on top… try it at Rockmeisha!

Least favorite foods: Anything spicy. Unfortunately my taste buds are less adventurous than I’d like them to be. I have trained myself to withstand a “mild” at authentic Indian restaurants though. That took a few years of hard work.

Favorite lunches downtown:Il Cantuccio on Christopher (at Bleecker) is a traditional Italian bakery with adorable little brioche buns packed with prosciutto. On nice days, you can get their picnic pack which have a few small sandwiches and refreshing Italian sodas. I tend to storm the Bistro Truck when it’s parked in the ‘hood (generally Hudson & King once a week). I love everything they offer, so it changes every time. Their vegetables over couscous is always fragrant and softly moist. And anything they offer with lamb,  eat it! Just south of Washington Square Park, there are some wonderful and wallet-friendly options that you can get to go and eat in the park (watch out for squirrels). More favorite foods straight ahead!

Kati Roll on MacDougal (btw. Bleecker & W. 3rd) is basically Indian food wrapped up a burrito. I love getting the Unda chicken roll. It has egg, succulent chicken, and spices in a convenient hand-held bundle. Shade Bar on Sullivan St. is a bar, yes, but I swear I’m not advocating a liquid lunch. They have a nifty little takeout window facing out onto W. 3rd St, where you can request crepes made to order (sweet or savory). If anybody wants to surprise me with a crepe, my fave combo is turkey, spinach, and onions. SO good.

The “go-to” lunch place you and your co-workers eat at too often:
Dirty Bird. Their chicken fingers are large and juicy and magically crunchy, even when you order delivery. Instead of dipping them in sauce, I get a side of smashed potatoes with gravy and dip the chicken fingers in that. Something I follow up with a dip in their amazing mac ‘n cheese for a decadent bite to die for. One (recent) week, my workmates and I actually ordered three times from them. We set off a chain reaction where other people smelled it and ordered it, all the way from one end of the company to the other!

Places downtown you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch: Downtown? A recent profilee works just 3 blocks down from me and listed all the food trucks he visits. I learned about the new Cinnamon Snail truck that way. It’s vegan, so maybe I can balance out all that fried chicken!
Dream job location, purely for lunch purposes, and why: Right where I am. The West Village/Soho area is full of hidden gems. Every chance I get, I stroll along streets that are new to me, and usually find 2-3 more places that get added to the must-try list. It’s not just the variety. The fact that NYU is so close by means that I have plenty of affordable choices, too.
Anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch: Downtown readers? Anybody have tips for how to increase my tolerance for spicy? I just know I’m missing out on a whole category of foods because I can’t handle the hotness.

As someone who grew up eating the blandest food imaginable and and now thinks anything not spicy is kind of boring, I’m telling you there is hope! I’d say start out with something less crazy, like a spicy chili or Thai food and work your way up to the spicy Indian. Anyone else have tips for Shirley? And as always, if you would like to be next week’s Profiled Lunch’er (or know somebody you’d like to nominate), email us at



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