The easiest way to describe Woorijip would be to say it is like a 7-Eleven with a Korean slant to it. Convenience in its highest form with a slight twist – everything is Korean, and though it’s all neatly packed into containers for you to pick and choose from the refrigerated cases, it’s made fresh earlier that day and healthier for you than the plastic-wrapped microwave burritos and burgers found at a 7-Eleven. Along the right-hand side is a help-yourself buffet area full of Korean goodies, and along the left-hand side is a refrigerated case of all sorts of lovely pre-packed tasty delights; try the kimbap (Korean rice rolls that look like sushi) and spicy chicken combo (pictured), which, for $5.50, comes with a small soup (usually seaweed or miso). No matter what you choose, you’re sure to fill up cheaply – and conveniently.
Tri Tip Grill
An extra boost of high-quality protein (in the form of tri tip steak) for a reasonable price, served on a soft roll alongside a cup of jus is just the thing to help you get through another day of work (if you don’t pass out afterwards from food coma!). Despite Tri Tip Grill’s location amongst plenty of tourist traps, real New Yorkers know the deal; for under $10 you get a great sandwich made greater with the horseradish sauce. For another $2.99 you can ‘make it a meal’ with a soda (or bottle of water) and your choice of side. The only trouble you might encounter is wading through all the tourists to get there – but don’t worry if there’s a line, because it moves pretty fast.
Burger Joint at The Parker Meridien
New Yorkers like to be ‘in the know’ when no one else is. Burger Joint plays to this; hidden in a corner of the lobby at the Parker Meridien is a neon sign in the shape of a burger, with an arrow beneath it. Follow the arrow to what could arguably be called New York’s worst-kept secret; the lines are long and articles about this burger can be found on all corners of the internet. On a good day, the burgers are cooked perfectly to order and arrive juicy, hot, and delicious, but you could wait in line for an hour or more. Worth it? That’s up to the eater.
You might be thinking right now, “That looks like a big bowl of ramen, which I can get for 10 for $1 at the local grocery store.” You’d be half right. Instant ramen at home can’t really be compared to ramen at a restaurant like Sapporo: different types of broth from which to choose – shoyu, which is soy sauce based; shio, which is salt based (pictured); or miso, which is, yes, miso based – to name a few, and toppings that include corn, slices of fatty pork, fishcakes, bamboo shoots, scallions and even butter, will transform your ramen experience into something much more wonderful than opening a packet of instant ramen and boiling some water. Sit inside Sapporo and enjoy the quick bustle of the place, and listen to chattering in Japanese around you. Will you feel transported to Japan? Maybe, maybe not – but you will feel happy as you dig into the steaming bowl of ramen in front of you, and go back to work about $10 lighter. Unless you order the gyoza, which you really should, because, as another restaurant critic once said in a review posted proudly on Sapporo’s front window: “[gyoza] softer than your lover’s thighs” – and for about $5, that’s not something you want to miss.
The best way to describe Cafe Zaiya would be 7-11 meets Japanese sensibilities with a dedication to freshly prepared, inexpensive meals for those on the go – back to work, really. Zaiya offers various bento and donburi, or set lunches and rice bowls, with proper portion sizes in mind as they’re created. Bentos will typically include a portion of rice, the protein of your choice (chicken, tofu, salmon, beef) in various iterations: fried, teriyaki, grilled, along with vegetables, occasionally Japanese potato salad, and are designed to fill you up with a properly balanced meal – so eat those veggies! Donburi are just as they sound: a bowl filled with rice, then topped with protein, such as chicken and egg cooked together, or beef (pictured) cooked in a light sweet soy sauce. Aside from being healthful, balanced meals, they won’t break the bank.
Hyo Dong Gak
Sitting on the stretch of Manhattan known as North Koreatown (32nd Street is known as simply Koreatown), Hyo Dong Gak boasts Korean-Chinese food – a cuisine that most Korean-Americans are extremely familiar with. A Korean take on many stereotypically Chinese dishes, Hyo Dong Gak has a firm grasp on how to deep fry bits of pork, chicken and shrimp (pictured), then toss with a sweet & sour glaze that isn’t quite as sticky sweet as many Chinese takeout places make it. Aside from that, though, Hyo Dong Gak bears the distinction of being one of only a few restaurants in the area that serve jjajungmyun. The noodles are chewy and delicious, and once you’ve mixed all the black bean sauce throughout, eat your way happily till you’re stuffed, all for $6.95. There’s also a nice lunch menu for those who don’t want jjajungmyun – about $8 will get you choice of soup, rice and a main course from the Chinese-influenced side of the restaurant.
Kashkaval is one of the cutest little shops you’ll ever find: what looks like a quaint deli counter in front, where you can order plenty of Mediterranean dips, spreads and cold salads to go, is actually an adorable wine & cheese bar in the back. If you’re in a rush, order a platter of up to 4 different dips and spreads for $10 to go – they’ll wrap up pita for you to take with you as well. If you’ve got a bit of time, snag a seat in the wood-accented bar in the back and enjoy fondue, panini, or some of the hot dishes Kashkaval offers – like the turkey meatballs (served with orzo or bulgur, and a side salad for just $14), paprika chicken (served with the same as the turkey meatballs, for $12), or even spinach & feta borek (served with a Greek salad for $12). Either way, don’t miss the taramasalata – a Greek dip made with carp roe, potatoes, olive oil and lemon juice – one of the best in the city.
Pizza by CerTe
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Pizza, the classic New York quick fix lunch, gets a facelift at Pizza by CerTe. This is not your $1 slice place; this is roasted wild mushrooms, porcini, bechamel, and thyme for the ‘shrooms pizza. This is roasted cauliflower with spicy harissa, sweet pepper, fennel, pomodoro and mozzarella. This is roasted artichoke with farmers’ blue cheese and celery hearts. This is… awesome gourmet pizza, with interesting and flavorful topping combinations that will leave you wondering where this pizza has been all your life.
Go Go Curry
The Best Bars & Restaurants Near Penn StationThe garishly colored awning may make you think twice, but don’t hesitate to go into this Japanese imported chain. The draw here is, of course, the curry dishes, all served over rice with your choice of ‘topping': boiled egg, cheese, pork sausages, katsu (breaded and fried cutlets of meat; here, you can pick from pork or chicken). Feeling hungry? Order the Grand Slam (pictured) which, for $12.50, gives you a huge mound of rice and curry sauce, along with both pork and chicken katsu, hard boiled egg, fried shrimp, and pork sausages.
Boasting a view of Bryant Park while you dine, Koi caters to an incredibly varied crowd each day for lunch. Guests of the hotel may be dining there, while another table may be suits having a business lunch, and still another table may be ‘ladies who lunch’, enjoying the new Skinny Menu. What’s that? The Skinny Menu boasts all dishes that weigh in under 300 calories, including the steamed Chilean sea bass with fresh ginger, Shiitake mushrooms and grape tomatoes (pictured), a luscious dish that only has 245 calories. You’ll have enough calories to also have a cocktail – which they’ve also pared down to have slightly more than a soda. Why not?
Bali Nusa Indah
Intrigue your senses with an introduction to Indonesian food, a spice-tastic – but not spicy! – cuisine that originates in the Oceanic/Southeast Asian region. If you’re feeling super adventurous, order the ‘nasi rames’, a sampling of almost the entire menu, for $17.95, that comes with white rice and an entire tray of food. Or you can try the lunch menu, which runs from $6.95 – 8.95, and allows you to choose from such treats as curries, stir-fries, satay, all with varying levels of heat. Be sure to start with the ‘sayap ayam’ or fried chicken wings with spicy java soy sauce – deliciously crispy, meaty chicken that will make your taste buds sing.
Food Gallery 32
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Continuing the trend of multi-level food courts, this one focuses on Asian treats. Unlike a few of the other Asian-themed ones, though, there’s more focus on Korean cuisine, and English speakers should feel no need for a translator to navigate the stalls. Boon Sik Zip offers kim bap, a Korean take on sushi rolls, while Bian Dang offers the ever-lovely Taiwanese fried pork chop over rice with pork sauce. There’s also Korea House, offering a $9.99 kalbi meal (pictured) that should surely sate even the biggest eaters… the variety offered here goes on and on, take your time exploring the entire place!
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Nomado sits on one of the less-traveled roads in Midtown, but deserves no less attention for it. With incredibly reasonably priced lunch specials, such as two or three rolls, served with soup & salad, priced at $9 and $12, respectively, you can be sure you’ll fill your belly without emptying your wallet here at Nomado. Perhaps even more incredible are the bento lunches, all of which are $8.50, or any of the noodle or rice lunch specials, which range in price from $7 to $9 (most are $8, however). Stop in and get your Japanese fix without breaking the bank!
As diners go, what can be said is: Manhattan has them. Skylight manages to stand out from the rest not just by its namesake building accessory – a skylight that brings in so much light as to almost be blinding some days, creating a warm and cozy atmosphere – but with its consistent delivery of excellent diner fare. Blueberry pancakes, tuna fish sandwiches (pictured), juicy burgers with your choice of toppings, perfectly fried chicken fingers, hot soup for a cold day and crisp salads for a warm day, Skylight does it all. Something for everyone, so take your fussy coworkers who only eat chicken fingers and French fries, and enjoy whatever you’d like there… but not the shrimp cocktail. Don’t get the shrimp cocktail. Other than that, all’s fair game, with plenty of options that eating your way through the entire menu will happily take months, if not years, of lunches. Take your time… they’ll be there, waiting, as they have been since 1996. They’ll deliver.
Just blocks from Penn Station, Pad Thai could easily rely on location to get by. Instead, they offer a fantastic lunch menu for around $7, and above average Thai food that will satisfy your craving. The pineapple cashew chicken fried rice (pictured) is quite a tasty treat, while the restaurant’s namesake dish also makes for a yummy, filling lunch. Add on a Thai iced tea and linger over your meal before going back outside to fight the tourists mobbing the outside of your office building for no reason; you deserve it.
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Yvo Sin is the founder and head writer of The Feisty Foodie.