How to Deal in Midtown East (Part 1)

For me, Midtown East might be the Sahara of Manhattan when it comes to getting a decent vegetarian lunch (or dinner for that matter). But when my company changed offices from Soho to Midtown East, I was forced to hunt the barren blocks for some decent fare. Below is the best of what I’ve found…

Pampano Taquería
The vegetarian burrito at Pampano Taquería could quite possibly the best vegetarian Midtown lunch. It’s filled with Mexican rice*, black beans*, chile poblanos, and sautéed onions, zucchini and mushrooms. Enjoy the side of warm tortilla chips with four kinds of fresh salsa. Give Pampano a try and I promise you will never head to Chipotle again.

*A phone call assures me these are 100% vegetarian

805 Third Ave between 49th and 50th
(Take the escalator down to the basement food court)
212-751-5257

Dishes
Though Dishes has an array of vegetarian and vegan items in their buffet (think eggless Cesar salad, pasta, quinoa, and no-mayo coleslaw), my favorite thing about Dishes is the array of clearly labeled vegetarian soups – many of which are dairy free. Among my favorites are the pumpkin corn bisque, chilled gazpacho, the vegetarian tom yum and the Indonesian noodle soup. When the weather gets cold, head to Dishes for the comfort soup you are craving. Just get there early to beat the chaotic lunch scene.

6 E. 45th St. between Madison and 5th
212-687-5511

Pop Burger
Everyone, including meat-eaters, agrees that the invisible burger is the best thing on the menu at Pop Burger. Two cute little portobello mushroom sliders with lettuce, cheese, tomato are dressed with a Russian dressing type sauce – it’s the closest an East Coast burger comes, flavor-wise, to something from In-N-Out. If you work close by or are just taking a shopping trip to Bloomingdale’s or Bergdorf’s, remember to pop in for a bite.

14 E. 58th Street between Madison and 5th
212-991-6644

Melt Café and Gelato Bar
I’m a gelato snob. There. I’ve said it. The first time I tried gelato, I was in Italy and it opened my tastes buds to a whole new world of possibility. I tried two flavors: grapefruit and strawberry. I am generally not a fan of the whole strawberries and cream thing. But the fruitiness of these two scoops was so vivid and bright, that I found them irresistible. That strawberry gelato tasted like an actual strawberry, but better! I’ve never found a gelato in New York that has that same quality: bursting with flavor in your mouth. But, Melt’s gelato comes pretty close. And as an added bonus, they serve both sweet and savory crêpes (one of the only places in Midtown East that has crêpes) and have very good paninis (and I mean real paninis  – not the deli kind that look like pita bread with stuffing inside). With it’s pleasantly sleek, modern interior, you might be enticed to take a long lunch here during the summer.

1053 Second Ave. between 55th and 56th
646-344-1287

Grill 44
While Grill 44 has a random mix of foods like falafel, curry, kati rolls, dosas, and biriyanis – all of which are decent – the real reason I go here is for the chai.  This isn’t your typical, extra-sweet, overly creamy Starbucks chai. It’s real chai, like the kind made in South Asian homes across the world. The kind where you can actually taste all the spices. And at $1.25, it’s about a third of the price of what you’ll get at a Starbucks, too.

160 E. 44th St. between 3rd and Lexington
212-949-0245

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5 Responses to “How to Deal in Midtown East (Part 1)”

  1. Lalafyah Says:

    im proud i’ve actually been to most of these. but i must try that chai! thanks 🙂

    • lovehateread Says:

      well you’ve lived in the area for a while so I’m glad. be sure to check out part 2 and feel free to add your favorites that aren’t on the list 🙂

  2. Tweets that mention How to Deal in Midtown East (Part 1) « Veggiewala -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jesal Pathak. Jesal Pathak said: looking for lunch in midtown east? https://veggiewala.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/how-to-deal-in-midtown-east-part-1/ […]

  3. How to Deal in Midtown East (Part 2) « Veggiewala Says:

    […] here for Part 1 of How to Deal in Midtown […]

  4. gargupie Says:

    i’m surprised Grill 44 has good chai. I used to get hummus from them when it was solely an Israeli restaurant.

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