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!
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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.