From 39th to 51st, btw Madison and 8th Avenue
I'm moving from this hated job to this new, hopefully fantastic one starting after Labor Day. My years of research into Midtown lunch are going to go to waste down there on Mercer Street! Here's a round-up of some the places that made me happy and filled me up over the past 6 years.
PRIME BURGER (5 E. 51st btw 5/Madison): hands down, my all-time favorite diner. They have individual tables that swing out, like a grade school desk, decor that hasn't changed since the early 60s, homemade pie, excellent burgers (make sure you ask for any extras beyond meat, bun and cheese) PLUS grilled cheese and tomato soup are always on the menu. Home of the nicest staff ever, who always remember me and say "Where have you been?" when I don't show up for awhile. Gene Shalit once harrassed me here and a waiter sang "Wichita Lineman" to me while I ate.........ZAIYA (18 E 41st btw 5/Madison): Almost solely responsible for the weight gain I've experienced since my job moved near here in March. Japanese pastries (cod roe gratin, tuna melt, cheese dome), take-out sushi, bento boxes, crustless tea sandwiches, aloe vera juice and Beard Papa's creme puffs. Very cheap, always insanely crowded. Half price late in the day..........AKDENIZ (19 W. 46th btw 5/6): Mediterranean Turkish cuisine, good cold appetizers like taramasolata and babaganoush, plus traditional turkish entrees like shish kababs, gyros and lots of other things made with lamb..........BERGER'S (44 W. 47th btw 5/6): basic Jewish deli, a little pricey but perfect when you must have whitefish salad on a bagel or a pastrami sandwich..........CARVE (8th avenue/corner of 47th): Unique and amazing sandwiches, again a bit expensive, but the half and half (soup + sandwich) is a deal. Try the Fourth of July picnic (fried chicken, corn slaw on Tom Cat baguette) or the Far East Tuna (Crusted tuna with tempura flakes and wasabi alioli served on a big lettuce leaf..........SAPPORO (152 W.49th btw 6/7): Japanese ramen noodle place, good all the time but serving in the summer only, Hiyashi Chuka, which is a bowl of cold noodles in a slightly sweet broth, topped with ham, chicken, egg, fish cake, green onion, shredded ginger, cucumber, and corn. Awesome.........KWIK MEAL CART (Southwest corner of 45/6th Ave): The chef here apparently used to work at the Russian Tea Room, if that matters to making some really good kababs out of a cart. Chicken, or for a couple bucks more, a damn good lamb kabab.........MONSTER SUSHI (46th btw 5/6): Home of the yellow tail special roll, which includes salmon roe. Good, solid sushi place..........And of course, my old standby, AU BON PAIN (located damn near everywhere). Ham & cheese croissants, salads, gay sandwiches, and half price pastries after 4pm.
A few others: Red Flame Coffee Shop, Virgils (mainly for the Hush Puppies with maple butter), Trin-Paki Boyz cart on 43/6th, Citarella for takeout, Amy's Bread on 9th Avenue, Grand Central Food Court and Pret a Manger.