Cheap eats are great, but cheap eats in SoHo are even better. Why? Because you can turn around and spend whatever you saved at lunch at one (or many) of the nearby stores. So, without further ado, here are our five favorite restaurants for a low-cost lunch in Soho. By Jessica Allen.
What began as an importer servicing the food service industry in 1971 has grown into a well-regarded café and food market. Offering “a taste of Spain in New York,” the Tapas Café at Despaña offers such delicacies as chorizo cooked in apple cider, octopus in olive oil, cod fish balls, or an omelet with potatoes, serrano ham, and onions. Can’t decide what you’re in the mood for? Samples abound. During the summer, check out “Paella Saturdays,” featuring a plate of paella and bottle of beer special.
Fanelli’s Café has been filling bellies and slaking thirst since 1922, long before SoHo became an epicenter of art, shopping, and cool. Back then, it was a speakeasy. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time as you sit at one of the rickety tables topped with a red-and-white checked tablecloth or pony up to the battered bar for a beer. Food ranges from typical pub grub like onion rings and jalapeno poppers to salads to burgers and sandwiches to main dishes like mussels, fish and chips, and shepherd’s pie.
Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, Jack’s Wife Freda is the kind of place anyone would be lucky to have around the corner—an American-Mediterranean bistro that’s bustling, hearty, and fun, where you’re as warmly welcomed whether you’re eating alone, with a friend, or in a big group. Start your lunch with a bowl of matzo ball soup or a grilled haloumi salad, then chomp into a grilled eggplant baguette, mashed avocado on seeded bread, or classic egg sandwich. To drink? Why not try a cantaloupe mimosa? YOLO, right?
Lan Larb specializes in Thai, offering some of the most authentic dishes in the neighborhood for super-reasonable prices. You can get all kinds of noodles, from pad Thai to spicy pad kee mao to pad se ew, and all kinds of curries, from red to green to massaman, with your choice of chicken, duck, beef, shrimp, vegetable, or some other protein. The lunch specials clock in at about $9 or $10, and feature smaller portions of such favorites as crispy duck over rice and sautéed Chinese broccoli with tofu larb.
Its website says it best: “Mooncake Foods breaks all traditions—no woks, no unhealthy fryers, no processed meat entrees, and no heavy heart-clogging sauces.” Instead, this casual, popular, Asian fusion restaurant (with four locations) offers made-from-scratch, vegetable-heavy, healthy options like crawfish dumplings, grilled squid with curry lime sauce, steak kebabs, roasted veggies with Korean chili paste, and octopus and spinach noodles. It’s a family-owned spot that’s also cash only.