The Beat’s Guide to MoCCA Fine Dining

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9074976 The Beats Guide to MoCCA Fine Dining
With a new locale — the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington — this year’s MoCCA crowd will have to find new hangouts and new luncheon spots. But fear not! Since it takes place in The Beat‘s veritable backyard, we’ve eaten lunch at every place near by, and we’re happy to tell you that Rose Hill/North Gramercy/Flatiron, whatever you call it, offers tons of tasty, inexpensive chow. So here’s a few places to consider. Clip ‘n’ save!

200906031408 The Beats Guide to MoCCA Fine Dining

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Right across the street from the Armory is a little urban-style “food court” beloved of students at nearby Baruch College. You need only cross the street for student-priced fare that happens to be gourmet.

BAOGUETTE: Helping kick off New York’s recent banh mi craze, this little shop has already been lauded in the Times and Time Out. $5 gets you a Vietnamese sandwich composed of chicken, pate, cilantro, daikon and hot sauce on an amazing crusty roll. Can’t be beat for a delicious bargain. They also offer pork and beef sandwiches AND hot and cold Vietnamese coffee. VIETNAMESE COFFEE IS STRONG. Be forewarned, these sandwiches are stinky and do leave you with the kind of burp halo that you would expect from a sandwich that includes radish. Not open Sunday, alas.

LATIN THING: We only recently started eating at this Caribbean food joint, but it is always raved about on Yelp and everything we’ve tried is delish. For those who require a helping of rice and beans to get them from day into a night at a con, this is the place. Try the Ecuadorian chicken, also cilantro infused. (Yes, we LOVE cilantro.) Sandwiches, burritos, and salads are all on the menu.

SUBWAY: Well, you know all about that, but we eat here almost every day and service is fast and efficient. Make yourself a Subway Arnold Palmer of tea and lemonade.

There’s a sandwich/coffee place across the street called EnFin, but we’ve don’t recommend it. The food and coffee are bland. The people who run it are nice, though. They do make salads and pressed sandwiches. There is also a Popeye’s across the street from the Armory, but you’ve got to be kidding.

A bit further afield:

ROOMALI (On 27th between Lex and 3rd):
If it’s roti you’re after, it’s roti you’ll find here, a kind of Indian burrito composed of heavily spiced veggies, egg and the meat of your choice, chicken tikka or lamb. Once again, very cheap — $5 for one, $10 for two. It’s around the corner on 27th Street, but worth a walk if you’re in the mood for cheap, fast Indian. Also, room to sit down.

LAMAZOU: If you are after a sandwich you will long remember, hike another block to 3rd Ave. and 27th. Lamazou is one of the city’s finest cheese shops and their sandwiches are ALL amazing. The egg salad is made with Roquefort for extra kick, and all the cheeses are aged to a loamy goodness. The cold cuts are all top notch as well — Prosciutto di Parma and Serrano ham. We know people who go to Lamazou every day and just go down the list of sandwiches — every one is a journey into flavor. Also, a bargain — a half but still filling sandwich is under $6. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

But what if you want a sit down meal? Here again, the Flatiron/Kip’s Bay will not disappoint. Just a few quickies.

BAMIYAN (3rd Avenue and 26th): If you long for the olden days at Faryab at SPX, this Afghani place should bring back memories. The food isn’t quite as refined as Faryab, but it is still fragrant and pungent. We like the chicken with apples and pomegranate, the mantu (Afghan ravioli in a spicy mint/yogurt sauce), and the pumpkin turnovers.

DHABA (Lexington between 27th and 28th):
The Armory is smack in the middle of Curry Hill so you won’t have any trouble finding good Indian food. We like this newcomer the best — the menu includes authentic Indian dishes as well as “British” curries. We like the chaat — various mixtures of Indian salads with chickpeas, mint, rice krispies, tamarind, potato, and coriander. $6 gets you a VERY generous portion. Warning: when they say hot, they mean hot. We had a run-in with some spicy cauliflower that lasted a loooong time. This place is good for groups, but it does get crowded.

EAST (3rd Ave and 27th):
Excellent sushi served on a conveyor belt. Everything here is very fresh and authentic. However, the place is small and if you go for dinner you will probably have to wait. NOT good for groups…unless you are going for the karaoke bar upstairs.

COFFEE: Wondering how you’re gonna stay awake after last night’s parties? Try Gregory’s, on Park between 25th and 26th. They have all the necessities and IT’S NOT A STARBUCKS. Plus, FREE WIFI if you’re in a jam. They sell a lot of sandwiches and salads, but they are all pretty tasteless, and soaked in olive oil, esp. the salads. There’s also a Chock Full o’ Nuts and a 7-11 on 23rd Street around the corner if that’s how you roll. Plus the requisite and ubiquitous Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. BTW, have you noticed how shitty DD’s coffee has gotten lately?

BARS: In some ways we’ll miss Puck Fair more than the Puck Buillding. It was so easy to roll out the front door of the old MoCCA and meet someone for a drink or a bite. At the new venue, there is no one definitive bar for a swift one. Sadly, Murray Hill/Flatiron bars are mostly ghastly sports bars beloved of an obnoxious jerk/jock crowd. You will find the many Irish bars of the neighborhood get the job done (although none are a bargain) but avoid anything that looks vaguely trendy. You will regret it and pay the price with your immortal soul. Here are a few mainstays that welcome Our Kind:

RODEO BAR< (3rd and 27th):
An institution. Decent Tex-Mex grub, free peanuts and happy hour. Don’t try to make change after drinking one of their frozen margaritas.

BULLSHEAD TAVERN (3rd Ave, between 23rd and 22nd):
The closest thing to a bargain bar in the neighborhood. $3 beers all afternoon. They don’t serve food, but you can order in.

THE GLOBE (23rd street between Lex and 3rd):
This is an upscale Irish bar with a great atmosphere — it’s roomy, well ventilated and comfortable, but a tad pricey, alas. Formerly the Grand Saloon.

IF YOU MUST:
SHAKE SHACK (in Madison Square Park, 23rd and Madison):
This place is famous in all the guide books and yes, they do make a very good burger at a reasonable price. (We don’t eat burgers, but once a year we make an exception at Shake Shack.) Unfortunately you will probably end up standing in line for at least half an hour for a burger or Chicago-style hot dog because tourists line up all day. This place is so big time that they give you a buzzer like you would get at TJ McEatalot to know when your order is ready. We can’t really recommend it for a weekend, (we go on a weekday or rainy day when the lines aren’t so long) but it is an institution and the park is beautiful. Alternative: Head over to New York Burger, get it to go, and “go” to the park!

BONUS TIP: Whatever you do, don’t accidentally wander towards Park Avenue…you’ll soon be in the land of the $13 martini and Danny Meyer.

Comments

  1. The Veggie Burger at New York Burger really can’t be praised enough, especially their version of it over salad. Craisins! Yogurt dill dressing! MMMM!!

  2. Helpful Hint says:

    Don’t buy weed in Madison Square Park. It’s a narc hang out.

  3. Nice overview, one that I’m sure I’ll reread with nostalgia in three years when every restaurant around here has been converted to a Chipotle’s!

    And lest we forget, Shake Shack is Danny Meyer 2.0!

  4. Calista Brill says:

    Saravanaas at Lex and 26th is my favorite south Indian place in the neighborhood — dosas the size of your torso, man.

  5. I will be at Pick A Bagel. Every day.

  6. Aaah yes I love Roomali! One of the few things I miss about working in that area is all the great Indian food!

    Don’t forget the 7-11 on 23rd Street (a novelty for locals more than the travelers who probably see them all the time – I can’t wait to get a Slurpee!).

    Also I am a big fan of this little Chinese bakery called Jess Bakery on 23rd St between 2nd and 3rd (which I know is a bit far, but still), they have some delightful little cakes and buns. I recommend the Dragon Ball – it’s like a red bean bun covered in a crispy layer of sesame seeds and last time I was there it was a DOLLAR! Get five and eat ‘em all day! They sell out fast.

    My favorite egg sandwich in the neighborhood is at the Pax on 23rd and Lex. I don’t know why but something about the way they cook the eggs is totally delightful to me. I like it on a croissant with cheese.

  7. Raina Telgemeier says:

    Frank’s Pizza on 23rd at Lexington is still a nostalgic favorite for a classic New York slice.

    And while we’re at it, here is the frozen custard menu for the Shake Shack this weekend:

    Thu. Earl Grey
    Fri. Papaya
    Sat. Mint Choc. Chip
    Sun. Berry Nice

  8. Grady Hendeix says:

    Hey, look! It’s my neighborhood!

    Best Indian – Tiffin Wallah on 28 between Lex and Park. Modern, awesome, inexpensive, vegetarian.

    Best Chinese – Grand Sichuan on 33 and Lex. Best Chinese food in NYC. Period.

    Best beer bar – Waterfront Ale House at 30 and 2nd Ave. Also has food.

    Best Pork – Resto on 29 btwn park and Lex. Also has tons of Belgian beer and those delicious fries.

  9. Don’t forget 7-11 on 23rd st between Park and Lex. You can get cheap food, slurpees and beer. What more do you need at Art Fest.

    Also keep your eye out for He-man. He wonders around the neighborhood.

    http://www.observer.com/2009/style/hopeful-he-man-madison-square-park

    Hex

  10. Ali T. Kokmen says:

    When I worked kinda sorta in the neighborhood, I used to go to a great Vietnamese restaurant L’annam on 3rd Ave, between 27th and 28th; if it’s still around, that might be worth considering. A little further up on 3rd Ave, between 28th and 29th is the tasty-and-legendary Indian vegetarian place Vatan–very nice, so treat yourself if you’re inclined.

    Of course, also in that neighborhood is my fave Turkish restaurant, Turkish Kitchen, if you’re really willing to spring for a pricey–but worth it!–meal. Can’t pass up an opportunity to mention that place!

  11. If you’re up for a small walk, Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar is on 29th and 2nd… not that far at all.

    Great, great Irish bar.

  12. Rafael says:

    L’annam is still around. For Burritos I would recommend a walk up to 32nd /2nd Ave to Baby Bo’s. I like the fresh salsa for the chips and just about all the entrees I have tried. Staff is friendly and efficient, atmosphere is unique. Then there’s Vezzo on 31st/Lex which serves thin crust pizzas.

  13. The Beat says:

    L”Annam is indeed still around, and pretty good, although I feel it has gone downhill a bit of late.

    Noodles on 28, inexplicably located on 29th and 3rd, has decent Chinese food. Their dumplings are great. I still miss Sam’s Noodles, which had the ducks in the window and everything, but got town dwon to turn into one of those horrible jerk/jock/meatpacking wannabee bars.

    Vatan is amazing!

  14. Best Pizza: Waldy’s on 6th Ave b/t 27th & 28th St. http://www.waldyspizza.com/

    And the Temple of Meat: Hill Country, 26th St. b/t 6th Ave and Broadway. http://www.hillcountryny.com/home.php

  15. “Best pizza” = fightin’ words!

    Seriously, as with Indian restauants, this is a great area for pizza. Haven’t been to Waldy’s yet, but I’ll be sure to stop by soon.

    For a neighborhood venue just up from the Armory, Vezzo on Lex/31st is excellent.
    http://www.vezzothincrust.com/index.html

    There’s also the storied Totonno’s on 2nd Ave btw 26th & 27th
    http://www.totonnos.com/27th.html

    And just a few blocks down, for those who like their pizza from restaurants spelled with an “i”, there’s La Pizza Fresca Ristorante on 31 E. 20th, as well as the famous Una Pizza Napoletana on 349 E. 12th.
    http://lapizzafrescaristorante.com/home.html
    http://www.unapizza.com/

  16. The Beat says:

    I have had nothing but very greasy experiences with Totonnos!

    There’s actually a pretty good pizza place on @#rd but it’s a littlr hole in the wall…can’t remember the name.

    One place not to go…THE PIZZA PUB. Don’t be fooled, kids! The pints are fine but the pizza, not so much.

  17. That little hole-in-the-wall is Frank’s (previously mentioned by Raina). Don’t let the small space discourage you, the friendly staff works quickly. I’m not sure if they’re open on Sunday, though.

    For those looking for their morning coffee, I’m pretty sure there’s a little Dunkin’ Donuts hole-in-the-wall over there, too. And I think I saw a new Chipotle’s on that same block.

    Also on 23rd in that same area in case anyone needs last-minute fixes: Duane Reade, DaVinci Art Supplies, Vercesi Hardware.

  18. Ruwan Jayatilleke says:

    you missed Penelope, Pizza 33, Mickey D’s, and Chinese Mirch. fail!

  19. The Beat says:

    Ruwan: Great additions!

    I also forgot BONOBO, the hardcore vegan/macrobiotic place on 23rd and Madison.

  20. Paul G. says:

    Good suggestions all, Heidi! I had forgotten all about Lamazou.

    Penelope is wonderful, but the brunch crowd is brutal. On a nice weekend like this, the waits may be intolerable if you have a table to tend to.

    Apollo Restaurant at Park and 25th is the exception to the “No Park Avenue” rule. It’s a rock solid diner, with heaping portions and reasonable prices. Strictly lunch and closed on Sunday, though.

  21. albert o says:

    thanks for the suggestions! baoguette was great!

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