PROFILE: Midtown Lunch’er “Steven A. Shaw” PLUS Book Giveaway

Every Tuesday I turn over the site to a different Midtown Lunch’er for his or her recommendations for the best lunch in Midtown. This week, it’s Steven A. Shaw, director of and the author of the brand new book Asian Dining Rules.  The book goes cuisine by cuisine giving you tips on how best to enjoy Asian food at restaurants.  It even has a chapter on how to attack the Chinese food buffet (with a lot of rules that sounded awfully familiar!)  Clearly a kindred spirit, I wanted to get his recs for eating lunch in Midtown…

Name: Steven A. Shaw

Age: I can’t believe I’m 39. It feels like just a few weeks ago I was 25 and working multiple consecutive all nighters at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Now if I pulled an all nighter I’d probably drop dead.

Occupation: Un- . . . I mean self-employed. I’m a big-firm litigator turned minor food personality. I’m the director of the eGullet Society, I write books about food (ASIAN DINING RULES and TURNING THE TABLES), I teach at the French Culinary Institute, I write a semi-regular dining feature for Crain’s New York Business. I do a lot of stuff in a never-ending scramble to avoid bankruptcy.

Where in Midtown do you Work?: When I had a real job I worked first at Worldwide Plaza (50th Street and Eighth Ave.) and then in 919 Third Avenue (at 56th Street). Now the city is my office. My wife Ellen and I work wherever we need to work. For example, she’s just finishing a book that she wrote almost entirely in the public space at Sony Plaza. We live in Carnegie Hill.

Favorite Kind of Food: Of my ten favorite foods, probably eight or so would be cured pork products: bacon, salami, prosciutto and the like. The remaining two would be stinky European cheeses, bordering on inedible and untouchable. I’m also a big fan of the grapefruit, and I’m eating as many as I can as a hedge against the day when my doctor puts me on Lipitor and I have to stop eating grapefruits.

Least Favorite Kind of Food: Human flesh is something I try to avoid consuming. Other than that, I eat and enjoy pretty much everything.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Midtown: My favorite lunch in Midtown, and the one I indulge in most often, is the Burger Bar at Beacon. Midtown Lunch has covered the Burger Bar but I think the focus on a hard $10 ceiling rules out a restaurant that is objectively a great value. For $12.95 you get the Beacon Burger, which in my opinion is the best burger in New York City — and I think I’ve sampled most every contender for that title. It’s an 8 oz. grilled burger made from Niman Ranch Certified Natural Black Angus beef, served on country toast and garnished with (all on the side) grilled red onion, lettuce, tomato, house-made pickles and ketchup, and very good garlic fries. I have been going pretty much weekly for the past year. I am, in general, a big fan of Waldy Malouf’s cooking. He was doing the whole seasonal, local, Hudson Valley thing long before it was trendy. His Hudson River Valley Cookbook, published in the mid-1990s, is still the definitive work in the genre. You can only get the burgers at the 6-seat counter from noon through 2:30pm (they will seat you up until just before 2:30). I recommend going right at noon or after about 1:45 to avoid the chance of a wait. Also, to the extent this is relevant (it is to me because I have a three-year-old son), Beacon goes out of its way to accommodate kids — and kids under 4 eat free.

“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? I have really worn out the Szechuan Gourmet experience (39th btw. 5+6th). I started eating there when it was just getting the occasional online mention, and lived with it through the Bruni review and its subsequent unpleasant crowdedness and kitchen shortcuts (namely, batching the popular dishes). It’s the place I’ve used for meetings with my agent, my publicists (I don’t mean to say I have publicists — I’m talking about the publicists at HarperCollins who handle my books, among a thousand others), my editors, my friends (all three of them), and writers who want to interview me (for whatever reason). Before that, I ate at Grand Sichuan International Midtown with equal frequency. When it closed its doors forever I was without direction for a while, then I learned about Szechuan Gourmet and was saved, now I’m a bit disillusioned. The best Sichuan meal I’ve had lately was at Grand Sichuan House in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, but that’s not terribly convenient unless you happen to live out there.

Place(s) you discovered thanks to Midtown Lunch? Just one? Most recently I was inspired to seek out the Daisy May’s cart and its chili by a post on Midtown Lunch.

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? It would probably be a tie between the East Village and Singapore. I think the East Village has, at the moment, the most amazing food scene in America and perhaps the world, especially if you’re talking about places where normal people can afford to dine with some frequency. I love Asian food and, of the places I’ve been, Singapore has been the most enjoyable for sheer diversity and excellence of Asian food. You get first-rate representatives of just about every Asian cuisine, all affordable, all convenient, all based on superb ingredients, all totally safe to eat. I imagine any extended stay in Singapore would end with me getting the death penalty for something, but it would have been fun while it lasted.

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Midtown Lunch readers? I’m always interested in new discoveries, so maybe something along the lines of “What’s your most recent Midtown Asian-food discovery, good or bad?”

Alright, so here is where the book giveaway comes in. Post your most recent Midtown asian food discovery below and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Steven’s latest book “Asian Dining Rules.” Be sure to include your email address (it won’t show up on the site) so we have a way to contact you if you win. Good luck!

And as always, if you want to be the next Profiled: Midtown Lunch’er, or you’d like to nominate somebody in your office email me at


  • The steamed green tea muffin from Cafe Zaiya has a creamy red bun filling!

  • definitely try sushi you (51st b/t 2nd and 3rd)…amazing sushi chef. great $10 lunch special. all japanese businessmen when i ate there last. lady who runs the place is hilarious and treats patrons like they are her children…she brought us out all sorts of extras to try. epitomizes what i love about new york…that you can stumble into a hole in the wall with no expectations and have a superb meal and experience.

  • I’ve not seen teeth like that since and Irish Wedding.

  • +1 on Salmon Skin rolls at Dishes, its by weight and those things don’t weigh too much so you can get quite a lot for like $6 – really fresh too.

  • Careful Zach i sense a coup d’état in those crafty lawyer eyes. ;)

  • @abrain – you misspelled beady.

  • Watch your back Zach, he’s eyeing up your buffet plate!

  • His eyes are not so much beady as froglike, don’t you think?

  • The vegan Nori Rolls at Candle 79!
    Brown rice, baked tofu, avocado, cucumber and shiitake mushrooms. Served with a creamy wasabi dipping sauce!
    They are amazing!

  • Its gotta be the Donburi’s at Donburiya. It is a little over the $10 limit you can order half portions there.

  • Also not new, and not in midtown, but I just discovered Nebuta, a good fast food/japanese curry place right underneath the Astoria Blvd. N/W train stop. I can pick up on the way home or they deliver.

  • Cafe Zaiya thanks to! I love their mochi donuts and their bentos. It’s a lovely little place…even though they raised the prices on us. :(

  • My most recent midtown asian discovery (although admittedly not very esoteric) was Go Go Curry, when my office moved to right around the corner from their location back in May. That or Noodle 36 (36th St just west of 8th Ave, ever-so-slightly OOB). I forget which one I visited first, but ML had the major assist in both.

    Steven, as an aside, if you like grapefruit then you have to try Trader Joe’s grapefruit juice. It’s not in midtown but it is amazingly good!

  • Kar Won – 60th St. between Lex and Park. Won ton soup (won tons are homemade!) with roast pork. And an eggroll. And their Singapore mei fun.

  • Dear Doc Chuckles:

    People who misspell the word “frames” as “frams” have no business telling anyone what they should wear.

    ~~Ben, NMtaB (Not Married to a Beast)

  • I like it when Zach features the chunky but funky… he and his missus have a passion for life and food…. good for them..

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