Usually every Sunday, I try to make something for lunch for the week. Two weekends ago, I found myself with no time nor ingredients to work with. I thought about making something on Monday instead. But I was still exhausted and still had no ingredients to work with. Instead, I opted for my first official Midtown Lunch Week. I tried my best to dine like Zach of Midtown Lunch by keeping things $10 or less but always having something delicious. I didn't mind walking so I didn't keep the east-west boundaries as set forth by by Zach. But north-south stayed the same. So $10 a day for 5 days is $50. To give myself some leeway, I made my week a total of $50. That way, I was able to splurge one day and keep it low on another. Monday My first day went poorly in terms of being cost effective. I had a craving for sushi. I went to Taki but instead of opting for a cheaper lunch special, I went all out and ordered more. I ordered the Sushi Lunch Special with 3 rolls ($12): spicy tuna roll, eel and avocado, and shrimp tempura. And a seaweed salad ($5.75). It came with miso soup and a salad with ginger dressing. The food was good. It wasn't great sushi but the lunch special was a good price for what I received. The spicy tuna wasn't spicy enough. A little wasabi helped it. The eel was tasty. And the shrimp tempura was crispy and fresh. The seaweed salad was well seasoned and they gave me a generous portion. Unfortunately, I ordered too much. I finished the sushi and seaweed salad. But I was too full for the salad and miso soup. Instead, they went in the trash. I hate wasting food but I knew it wasn't going to be good tomorrow. Lesson learned: next time, no seaweed salad. Just do the Sushi Lunch Special for 2 rolls with soup and salad. It would end up around $10. Money spent: $18 Money left over: $32 ($8/day) Tuesday With yesterday behind me, I can truly do a Midtown Lunch. I wanted some street cart food. But I decided against Halal food until the results from the 2nd Street Meat Palooza came out. So I did the next best thing, fried fish. I remembered Blondie and Brownie did a fried fish sandwich contest. And of course, a street cart won. A quick search and I found Kim Aunt's Kitchen Cart. It was nearby which was great because I was running late. I got to 46th St and 6 Ave and spotted the cart right away. Only 2 people deep. Probably due to the beginnings of the rain. I ordered a fried fish sandwich ($4.50) on wheat with lettuce, tomato, and sauce. Some guy asked about the fish here but I had to confess that it was my first time. But I told him that it was highly recommended. And I introduced him to MidtownLunch.com. Anyhow, the sandwich was quickly made which made me happy. Afterward, I ducked into a store for some chips ($1.50) and dashed back to the office. I was starving by now. At my desk, I unwrapped the glory that was my sandwich. Still warm. Good. A quick peek under the bread and I saw that they had given me 2 pieces of fish. Good. And the crust is still crunchy. Extra good. One bite and I knew why this sandwich won by a landslide. Crunchy outside but soft and flaky inside. You can actually tell it was fish. Tasted great with the sauce (probably mayo based). The lettuce added extra crunch. And tomatoes added freshness. I devoured this quickly and easily. So good. This sandwich is definitely worth the money. And it will go into my rotation on days that I don't brown bag. Money spent today: $6 Money spent total: $24 Money left over: $26 ($8.66/day) Wednesday Coming off from my lunch high from yesterday, I wanted to continue the good food. Although I had planned on getting from food from the winner of Midtown Lunch's Street Meat Palooza, I wasn't craving it. So I decided to defer it to later this week. Instead, I wanted a sandwich. First I checked Certe but they didn't offer a sandwich special anymore. I just missed the soft shell crab sandwich. Then I realized that I've never been to Amy's Bread even though I continuously pass by it. Also, it gets great reviews. A quick walk built up my appetite. The place is small and the standing room is narrow. But it's packed with lots of breads and pastries. I wanted it all but I knew I needed to keep the expenses within limits. Otherwise, I definitely would have bought with my eyes. Another day for that. A small section is dedicated for pre-made sandwiches and salads. I opted for the Tuscan Sandwich ($6.95) which was fennel salami, prosciutto, Genoa salami, provolone, romaine lettuce, tomato, and a drizzle of vinaigrette on country white. It was exactly what I was craving at the moment. With tax, it came out to be ~$7.50. I unwrapped the sandwich, it seemed decent sized. A bite into it and I knew it was something really good. The bread was crusty on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside. And it had a nice flavor. The meats were salty and flavorful. The cheese was creamy and sharp. The lettuce was crisp and fresh. The tomato was surprisingly very ripe and strong in flavor. They added just enough vinaigrette for a little kick but without making the bread soggy. This was a really good sandwich. Some people might complain about the amount of meat in it. However, I'm more of a complete sandwich person than one who likes a meat bomb. That's just me. This wasn't enough to hold me through the end of the day. I usually buy a snack to munch on as well. But I was saved from going over my budget with some cake from the office. Yellow cake and chocolate icing. Yeah, it hit the spot. And it was free. Money spent today: $7.50 Money spent total: $31.50 Money left over: $18.50 ($9.25/day) Thursday Ah, finally it's street meat day. I was craving it really badly. And the results from the Street Meat Palooza 2 came out yesterday. The winner: Kwik Meal. That cart is parked really close to my building. Great! When noon hit, I grabbed my bag and headed straight over. I was 3rd in line. While I was taking a picture of the cart, the line got significantly longer. Score for me. I quickly ordered the winning plate: chicken and lamb over rice with white sauce and hot sauce ($8). There was even a sign posted of the Midtown Lunch special. It was whipped up quickly, I paid, and off I went to devour this thing. Back at my desk, I can smell the spices. Was I making my cubicle mates hungry/jealous? Quite possibly. I opened up the container and happily found real chunks of chicken and lamb. You can differentiate the two different meats. That's always a good thing. There was also white rice on the bottom. And in the corners held the white sauce and some salad. A quick bite of all the ingredients and I'm very happy. The lamb wasn't gamey but distinct in flavor. The chicken was not dry and held its own. The rice wasn't soggy but soft and fluffy. The white sauce had a slight tang, maybe yogurt? And the salad was just there to add some vegetables and crunch. The food was really good and I'm glad they won. Money spent today: $8 Money spent total: $39.50 Money left over: $10.50 Friday Summer Fridays at the office are slow and it was a nice day out. What does that mean for me? More time to travel for good food. For my last day of Midtown Lunch Week, I headed over to K-Town (32nd St b/w Broadway and 5th Avenue). Of course, I was headed over to Woorijip. I've heard so many good things about it and I was craving some Korean food. When I arrived, it wasn't too busy. But once again, while I was standing in line, it got pretty busy. Once inside, I knew I wanted to hit up the hot/cold buffet bar. It was my best bet to get a myriad of food to try. But I had to be careful about my budget ($10.50) since this buffet was priced at $6.50 per pound. I pick up the styrofoam tray and add a little of whatever looked good to me. I ended up with a large plateful of food. Now, the test. Did it make weight? Roughly 1.5 pounds of food at $6.50/lb equals roughly $9.74. Score! Oops, forgot about tax. Yikes! It comes out to $10.56 instead. But the food was well worth it. First, the various pancakes. On top was a crab cake (the pinkish one) but in actuality it was fake crab meat. Not that great. I wouldn't get this again. Another was an egg free kimchee cake (the reddish brown one). This was pretty good. I can't remember what was the last one (the light colored one) but it was my favorite. I think I tasted fish. Second, 2 pieces kimbap (kind of like Korean sushi but vegetarian) and 1 rice stuffed roll. These were pretty standard. But I was glad that the rice tasted fresh. Third, beef bulgogi with scallions and rice cakes. This was good. Flavors worked well. The beef was a little dry from sitting in the buffet table. But I liked it anyway. The rice cakes were nice and chewy. Lastly (clockwise from bottom left), a myriad of cold clear noodles (refreshing), grilled (though tasted fried) tofu (loved this!), kimchee fried rice (so good but could be spicier), and fried fish (moist, flaky fish inside but uncrunchy crust). This was my favorite part of the tray. Everything tasted so good. Too bad that fish wasn't crunchy anymore because it sat on that buffet table. The food at Woorijip is fantastic. Why haven't I eaten here earlier?! Shame on me. Money spent today: $10.56 Money spent total: $50.06 So I went 6 cents over. Not too bad considering I almost destroyed my budget on the first day. But to reflect on things, this week was awesome! So much good food at affordable prices. Alas, my body isn't used to this so it was kind of in a funk. So, the regular brown bagging will return. But I might just make this a yearly ritual.
Taki Sushi 60 West 48th Street, 2nd Fl New York, NY 10036 (212) 832-6688 takisushinyc.com
Kim Aunt's Kitchen Food Cart West 46th Street b/w 5&6 Avenue
Amy's Bread 672 Ninth Avenue New York, NY 10036 (212) 977-2670 amysbread.com
Kwik Meal Food Cart West 45th Street and 6th Avenue kwikmeal.net
Woorijip 12 West 32nd Street New York, NY 10001 (212) 244-1115