What to expect when you’re Connecting: Where to eat lunch at ICNY

Lunching near Times Square can be a dream experience, but if you’re not sure where you’re going or what to expect, then that dream can turn into a bit of a nightmare — especially if you’re in a time crunch, hoping to get back to the hotel in plenty of time to snag a prime seat for afternoon sessions. But the sheer volume of lunch options in the area means that there’s plenty of opportunity to find the perfect meal for you before starting the second half of your day Connecting.

If you’re not sure where to eat, try one of these eateries, many of which offer online ordering or takeout so that you can make sure you’re using your time wisely. Here are our favorite picks for lunch near Inman Connect New York.

1. Margon
136 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036

Nobody does sandwiches quite like Cubans do sandwiches, and Margon provides an authentic experience just steps from Times Square. The lunch counter does get quite busy, and there’s not a ton of seating, so you might want to plan on either eating and running or running and eating, but if you’re by yourself, you might have some luck finding a spot at the counter. There are daily lunch specials in addition to some plates that you can find every single day, including a classic Cubano sandwich — try it as a combo with yellow rice, black beans, plantains and topped with roast pork. The pollo asado (also known as roast chicken) is another popular choice; you’ll get a quarter-leg roast chicken served with two sides. If you arrive on the right day of the week, you might get to try oxtail or the tripe soup with pig feet … but if you’re a little less adventurous, the pepper steak or pork chop will still have you dancing back to Connect with a little spice in your step.

2. Untamed Sandwiches
43 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

What’s untamed about these sandwiches? First of all, they need not be served in sandwich form at all — you can choose between ciabatta or a gluten-free roll if you like, but you can also ask for a plate with cheddar-jalapeno grits or roasted garlic quinoa if you’re hoping to go extra low-carb with your lunch meal. Most of the options include meat, but the braised vegetable sandwich with whipped goat cheese, olive spread and basil should satisfy any vegetarians you’re inviting to lunch. The General Zapata is a local favorite: chicken tinga, queso fresco, pickled onions and jalapenos, radishes and cilantro; another popular lunch is the Hot Goldie, with beer-braised beef brisket, red onions, sweet and sour cabbage, and black-pepper aioli.

3. Franchia Vegan Cafe
12 Park Ave, New York, NY 10016

Even if you’re not vegan, you might appreciate the healthier lunches available at Franchia Vegan Cafe, which offers an array of Asian-inspired dishes without the meat. There’s plenty of seating for groups with the multi-level dining area (though you might want to make a reservation for a group of six or more). If you’re especially hungry, consider getting either the vegan ramen lunch set, which is served with baby dumplings, or going with the vegan lunch box — you get the salad of the week, two appetizers and your choice from among one of four entrees. The Korean bibimbap is another popular choice; you can also get a stone bowl with the bibimbap offerings.

4. Sergimmo Salumeria
456 9th Ave, New York, NY 10018

It’s almost not a real visit to New York without a trip to an Italian restaurant, and if you’re not sure if you can squeeze it in, try heading to Sergimmo Salumeria for an Italian sandwich or another lunch option. They make their own mozzarella in-house and offer a ton of paninis, salads and pastas in addition to daily specials and all of the typical deli offerings — antipasto and olives and marinated delicacies like sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes, in case you have a fridge at your hotel or you’re hoping to host a party in your room a bit later in the day. The lasagna gets a good rating, but plenty of regulars recommend keeping your choice simple with a sandwich topped with prosciutto, mozzarella and hot peppers. There’s not much seating to speak of, so you probably want to plan on grabbing your food and eating back at the hotel, but the food itself is good enough to make you want to come back for seconds and maybe even thirds.

5. Melt Shop
135 W 50th St, New York, NY 10020

Grilled-cheese sandwiches are the main event at Melt Shop, but you might be surprised to see what they can do with this humble lunch. You can get fried or grilled chicken in your grilled cheese, a burger, a vegan melt, a turkey melt or a roasted veggie melt — or just add truffles or maple bacon to your grilled cheese and call it a day. For sides, you can get red cabbage slaw, a classic dill pickle, chips or tater tots, which come with herbed parmesan, housemade cheese sauce, or “loaded” with bacon, jalapenos, herbed parmesan and the cheese sauce. The salads are also sizable and reasonably priced, and of course there is fresh tomato soup to pair with your grilled cheese if what you really want is a throwback to childhood.

6. Aureole
135 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036

Aureole is an upscale restaurant founded by renowned chef Charlie Palmer — and it’s also his flagship New American eatery, so if you’re hoping to impress your lunch date, this is where to take them. There’s a regular lunch menu in addition to a prix fixe bill of fare; the king salmon and Long Island duck breast are popular options for lunch, but if you really want to go all out, get the prix fixe, where you have your choice of starter (soup or salad), second course and dessert for $ 52 (or $ 45 for just two courses).

7. Dig Inn
856 8th Ave, New York, NY 10019

The premise behind Dig Inn is simple enough: Seasonal, fresh, healthy food that’s filling and won’t empty your bank account. Essentially, you build a bowl with either market-vegetable sides, grilled tofu, or one of several meat options — charred chicken, herb-roasted chicken, meatballs or roasted wild Alaskan salmon. Place your main ingredient on top of brown rice, farm greens or spiced farro, then add on any market sides that strike your fancy, from Brussels sprouts to mac and cheese to a vegan cashew kale Caesar-style salad. There are a number of sauces to choose from to round off your food; lines move quickly as diners assemble their plates and go, and you can make your lunch as filling and healthy as you desire — order online in advance if you’d rather not wait in line.

8. Luke’s Lobster Garment District
1407 Broadway #8, New York, NY 10018

Luke’s Lobster does have a counter if you need to sit down, but it probably goes without saying that the counter doesn’t accommodate big parties, so plan on taking your food with you if counter-style seating isn’t what you’re seeking. That said, if a lobster roll is on your New York bucket list, this is the place to find one; you can also order a trio (lobster, shrimp and crab) if you want to diversify your seafood options a smidge. Clam chowder and microbrews are available, too, as is a salad with Luke’s chilled lobster served on mixed greens with pickled blueberries and honey-balsamic dressing, but the Maine-style lobster rolls are definitely what draws the majority of diners to Luke’s.

9. The Little Beet
135 W 50th St, New York, NY 10020

The Little Beet was made for lunchers who have dietary restrictions, especially several of them — it offers food that’s dairy-free, soy-free, vegetarian or vegan, gluten-free and nut-free (though not necessarily all at once). Bowls include barbecued jackfruit, chicken and shaved Brussels sprouts and salmon poke offerings, but you can also build your own bowl with a number of protein mix-ins — sesame avocado and beet falafel in addition to braised pork and lime chicken. The flexibility of offerings and number of options mean that just about anybody can build a bowl with exactly what they like to eat, and nobody will feel deprived. There might or might not be seating available when you head in for lunch, but these are very portable meals, so if you’re feeling like a lighter or healthier lunch is in the cards, head for the Little Beet.

10. Mexicue
1440 Broadway, New York, NY 10018

Like Mexican food? Like barbecue? You’ll probably love Mexicue, which offers small bowls, mix-and-match tacos, sliders and burrito “bullets” in a casual atmosphere with plenty of seating. You can get smoked brisket tacos, burnt ends burritos, a charred broccoli bowl or a pulled pork slider; if you can’t decided, mix and match your taco selections — vegans will be pleased to know that Mexicue has an “Impossible Taco” made from the noteworthy plant-based ground meat, or pescetarians can opt for lobster, wild cod or ceviche. Don’t miss the Mexican street corn: freshly shucked corn served with a creamy chipotle sauce, cotija cheese and chili powder. If you’re looking to share some chips with guacamole, try the charred jalapeno version, especially if you’re a fan of some spice; Mexicue also offers some noteworthy margaritas if you’re in the mood for a lunch with some punch.

Discover the opportunities in a changing market at Inman Connect New York, January 29 – February 1. Jumpstart 2019 with tactical takeaways, unlimited networking and thought-provoking speakers. Learn more.

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Photo by Diego Duarte Cereceda on Unsplash

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