It is no secret that in New York City, time is money, but that shouldn’t mean you have to compromise your midday meal with salad bars or greasy fast food. Whether you’re in-between meetings or need to impress your fabulous boss, here are my top Manhattan lunch spots.
Luke’s Lobster (FiDi)
Do you ever day-dream about sitting ocean side, engulfed in sunshine, and about to chow down on a crunchy roll stuffed to the brim with meaty lobster and doused in warm butter? Replace the ocean with the East River and some high-rises, you can still get the lobster roll of your dreams at Luke’s Lobster.
Tucked away on the cobble stone William Street, the shack like restaurant serves a variety of seafood rolls, chowder, and even lobster mac and cheese which I indulged myself in. Surprisingly the mac wasn’t crazy rich and they don’t skimp on the lobster either. Only have 30 minutes to spare? Luke’s takes no more than 10 minutes to get your meal and is within a $10-20 budget! So stop daydreaming and get your lobster on!
Ukrainian East Village (E.V.)
Craving hearty comfort food? Especially when the weather is still brisk and all you’ve had is some coffee? Ukrainian East Village is that home cooked meal to warm your belly and not break the bank. You might be thinking “Don’t you mean Veselka?” Yes I love Veselka as much as the next drunk NYU student at 2 am, but this is a close competitor.
Funny enough, it’s right next to Veselka! Having walked by it thousands of times, I was always intrigued by the outdated awning and neon pink sign. I knew this place was legit. My co workers and I were eager to try this gem and it was everything we hoped for. I always go for stuffed cabbage when eating ukrainian, that was drenched in creamy mushroom sauce and served with fluffy potatoes. I recommend splitting a plate of assorted pierogis and my friend Toni was a fan of the Borscht. It’s the best home cooked meal from the Ukrainian grandma you never had.
Little Alley (Murray Hill)
Something my lovely boss Kathryn Ashcraft and I share is a love for Dim Sum. We were running around Manhattan looking at real estate in the dead of winter, where we had definitely worked up an appetite. What better way to warm up with a steaming order of soup dumplings?
Little Alley is a nondescript Shanghainese restaurant that I shamelessly found on Yelp. The minute I saw FoodBaby NY’s photo of approval, I was excited to try it! We were lucky to beat the lunch crowd and get in a couple orders of dim sum. We started with the wonton soup which was delightfully fresh, followed by the poached pork dumplings in chili oil garnished with ginger and scallion (probably my fave). For our entrée, we split an order of the crab and pork soup dumplings that can easily compete with Joe’s Shanghai. The coolest part of this place is you can see the chef hand crafting the dim sum right in front of you! Definitely a nice touch to impress your coworkers.
Ippudo (UWS & E.Village)
This place for me is the epitome of my favorite working lunch. Out of the 5 years of working in Soho, I probably went here with my co-workers at least once a month to decompress/prepare for the other half of the work day. Fear not, there is an Upper West Side location if you work uptown. So how do you get a seat in the famously bustling Ramen joint that doesn’t take reservations? Get there early.
Lunch starts at 11:30 am and ends at 3:30 pm. Prime time is either right when they open, or 3 pm as they are about to close. As you are escorted in, you are greeted in unison with “Irasshaimase!” meaning “welcome” in Japanese which is all just the beginning of the experience. Although I don’t recommend drinking on the job, if it’s a Friday or you just got paid, treat yourself to a frozen Kirin. They freeze the foam which keeps your beer cold (genius).
Ippudo is my absolute favorite Ramen spot. I always stick with the Akamaru Modern Ramen that is a silky pork soup, delicious thin soup noodles, melt in your mouth pork chashu, scallions, garlic oil, and their secret umami dama that I’m still trying to figure out after all these years. If you’re grabbing lunch with your colleagues, I recommend splitting an order of the pork buns, and Ippudo offers a lunch set that includes a salad and appetizer with your Ramen just for only $3 dollars extra!
I believe lunch is the most important meal of the day and that you shouldn’t have to settle due to where you work or your budget. So skip the salad and treat yourself!