Seek Out Cafe Duke’s “Asian Foodteria” And You’ll Be Rewarded With A Meaty Feast
Anyone who’s worked in the central part of Soho long enough probably knows about Cafe Duke on Broadway (btw. Spring & Prince). I’d never been inside before but braved the hordes of shoppers to check it out and found it to be a massive space stretching from the front of the building to the back, with another entrance on Mercer St. Up front you’ll find sandwiches, some hot items, then a by-the-pound buffet that had such delights as fried chicken and some Chinese food, but you may want to head to the back to a counter merely marked “grill.” That’s where you’ll find bibimbap, a by-the-pound noodle saute station, ramen and what I was after – donburi.
You can choose beef or chicken as your protein for the donburi ($8.45) and as soon as I said the word “beef,” a large pile of it was thrown into a skillet to sizzle away while I picked my four vegetable add ins. Since I was put on the spot and had two hungry-looking FDNY men behind me I quickly chose mushrooms, shredded carrot, zucchini and bell peppers. You’ll also be asked if you want it spicy or not, and if you say yes a small blob of dark red chili paste is added to the skillet with the meat and vegetables. I was impressed that in a generic-looking cafe I could get my stir fry cooked to order. My huge pile of thinly-sliced beef went into a plastic container along with a generous scoop of rice and the counter guy struggled to get the lid on.
There was a little bit of sweetish sauce intermingled with a light amount of heat from the spicy chili paste, but it was overall lightly seasoned and not drenched in grease which I appreciated. I think this was the first time ever that I’ve wished there would have been a higher ratio of vegetables to meat, but it was a pleasant surprise.
This was a nice lunch for $9 and I liked that it didn’t come off a steam table. I saw a lot of other people getting the bibimbap so I may have to go back to try that sometime. If you work in this ultra-touristy part of Soho, know that you do have a cheap eats option that isn’t a sandwich and will fill you up.
Cafe Duke, 545 Broadway (btw. Spring & Prince), (917) 237-1575