This is our fourth guide to dining in the mysterious area surrounding the Lexington Armory on 26th and Lexington, and in the last year this area—now known at NoMad—has become one of the city’s culinary hot spots, with high-end restaurants like The Nomad and Maysville getting the ink. But fear not, as always, there is much cheap (well, by New York City standards) yet amazing grub to be grabbed nearby. Of course, great food is always a subway ride away, but if you don’t mind walking a few blocks you won’t be disappointed. We’ve updated some of last year’s listings but there are some new standouts.
• BAOGUETTE: The famed Vietnamese sandwich shop is still open and going strong right across the street from MoCCA—you’ll see pretty much everyone from MoCCA on line for one at some point during the weekend. Prices have gone up a little bit, but it’s all still affordable. Banh mi — spicy Vietnamese sandwiches prepared with meat, daikon, cilantro, special sauces and constructed on delightful crusty bread—will leave you very satisfied. Add in a Vietnamese coffee and it’s all systems gogogo. WARNING: these sandwiches are stinky and do leave you with the kind of burp halo that you would expect from a sandwich that includes radish. Baoguette is sometimes closed on Sundays–its kind of hit or miss, but to be sure, grab you sandwich on Saturday.
• ROOMALI (On 27th between Lex and 3rd):
Curry Hill, as it is often called, is filled with great Indian cuisine, but this is the best fast food in the area. An incredible bargain. Still cheep, for $12 you get TWO chicken roti rolls — basically an Indian burrito — which will feed TWO hungry cartoonists for lunch. Throw in a mango lassi and you are well under $10 per person. The roti here are fresh grilled and filled with a well-spiced mix of chicken, egg white and veggies. There are also vegetarian options.
• LAMAZOU (3rd Avenue and 27th St.): A neighborhood gem, and home of some of the best sandwiches in the city. 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 $7. You can get a full sized for under $10 for a hearty appetite. They opened a bistro down the street but it’s expen$ive. That didn’t work out. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
• SHAKE SHACK (in Madison Square Park, 23rd and Madison):
The lines are sure to be horrific, but people still love this place. I don’t eat burgers, but when I do…etc etc. Many more gourmet burger spots have opened nearby, but again, as a non-beef eater I can’t recommend any of them more than another. If you must get Shake Shack, enjoy.
NEW AND RECOMMENDED
• NUM PANG — Broadway and 26th, As much as I love my Baoguette, this Cambodian-styled sandwich shop is my new darling. The coconut tiger shrimp sandwich (above) was full of both tiger shrimp and coconut—can’t say that happens often enough. I’ve had to avoid this place to avoid pigging out but everything I’ve had was off the hook. The sandwiches are smaller than Bauguette and costlier — $8-10 — but really, a treat. Explore!
• SINGAPURA – 106 Lexington (just up the street from the Armory.) I can’t say that I am an expert in Malaysian cuisine, so I can’t say how authentic this is, but I’ve liked everything I’ve had on the Thai/Indian/hakka Chinese fusion menu. The nasi lemak is, I am told, the signature dish of Malaysia: it comes with coconut rice, a fried egg surrounded by little silver fish, carved pickled vegetables and a bowl of delicious chicken curry. The roti telur—another curry dish served with pancakes—is also super yummy. If you’re looking for an adventure in Asian food, you will find it here.
• MANZANILLA (26th just off Park) Newly opened Spanish brasserie with $34 suckling pig and $27 striped bass with celery root and lemon puree by two Michelin starred “molecular” chef Dani Garcia. JUST KIDDING. I know no one in comics can afford to eat there, but I like walking by the menu every day and dreaming.
OTHER REGIONS, OTHER MENUS
• NEW! LUU’S BAGUETTE on 26th between Lex and 3rd. Yes MORE banh mi! This place offers a more complete Vietnamese menu with all kinds of noodles and pho, and a very extensive Asian drink menu, including cantaloupe ices, honey mint lemonade and much more. I wouldn’t say this is great Vietnamese, but if you are craving grilled pork chop bun, you can scratch the itch. (Aside, both my favorite Vietnamese places nearby have closed down, so I do get that craving.)
• DHABA – 108 Lexington (Between 27th and 28th). The best Indian food in Curry Hill in The Beat‘s opinion. They offer authentic Punjabi food as well as English-style indian dishes like vindaloo. Our favorite: the chaats, street snacks made from various combinations of chutneys, puffed rice, potatoes patties, mint and tamarind. YUM. And only $6-8 each. Be prepared for a looong wait if you go for dinner however. Call ahead! Owned by the same people as Singapura—he also runs Chote Nawab across the street, which is supposed to be good but I haven’t tried it.
• More Indian food: most of the places in the Curry Hill strip between 27th and 28th on Lexington have improved greatly in recent years, and many have fans. I like The Curry Leaf and Bhatti is also good.
• KALBQ — 36 Lexington (below 24th) — I cannot claim that these Korean-Mexican tacos are great, but if you’ve never had one, here they are. Still no definitive review on this one.
• WAHOO’S FISH TACOS 333 Park Ave. South (between 24th and 25th) You cannot get a great fish taco in New York City, and even this eastern outpost of the Cali/Texas staple can’t do it. However, they have a lot of vegetarian options, salads and the like. I’d call the food here just okay, but the salads are fresh, which cannot always be said.
• EATALY (entrance on Fifth Avenue, inside the old Toy building) — This place is still a madhouse, and they’ve added a rooftop brewery that you need a reservation for. This place IS NOT CHEAP, but you can get authentic Italian sandwiches, sopressata and mozzarella, mortadella, fontina and so on. Or for $10 you can get a pound of grilled brussel spouts at the hot food bar. For me Eataly is about two things: the bread in the bakery is incredible. I can nearly eat a whole loaf by myself. And yes, the HIGHLY RECOMMENDED tag is the iced cappuccino, which is not iced at all. When you order one they will ask you if you know how it is served. Just say yes. Instead of a shot of espresso and foamed milk poured over ice, they take the coffee and milk and whip it up for about five minutes, resulting in a kind of cool (not cold) espresso flavored whipped cream. I like to add a shot of amaretto syrup. TO DIE FOR—sip as slowly as you can, which won’t be very slow. Is it authentic? Who cares. Definitely addictive. You can also get other coffee drinks, gelato, delectable pastries and other Italianate treats. The pizzeria is supposed to be delish—whole pies, take out only—but I have never actually had one! WARNING: Eataly tends to be mad crowded on weekends so get there early for a morning cappucino and pastry and then avoid.
• But what about the pizza? Despite being the authentic New York City food, I cannot claim that any of the local spots are worth more than a hail mary pass. Vezzo (Lex and 31st) is legit good but it’s a sit down place. If you are looking for a slice, you are on your own, alas.
I NEED COFFEE
• They finally opened a Starbucks for the Baruch college crowd, just below KalBQ on Lex between 24th and 25th. Neighborhood twist: there is some kind of halfway house on the corner and weird bum-type people hang out in front muttering to themselves. Also, Eataly, and Gregory’s, on Park between 25th and 26th, which has my beloved cold-press iced coffee. FIKA ESPRESSO BAR has opened a closer outpost, at 303 Park Avenue South, just above 23rd. For authentic Swedish style espresso and coffee.
AVOID the mystery coffee across the street from the Armory. It is always deserted, and the one time I ordered an iced coffee there they didn’t know how to make one. It takes some effort to be an empty coffee house around the corner from a college, but they did it!
FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO COOK:
EATALY, see above — imported Italian ingredients, pestos, fresh veggies including exotic garlics, truffles by the ounce: spendy but intriguing.
KALUSTYAN’S (123 Lexington between 28th and 29th): I rate this as a MUST SEE. Although it bills itself as an Asian spice store, they have gourmet delicacies and staples from around the world, including some Brit treats: Future Mr. Beat buys his brown sauce, Branson pickles and disgusting Marmite here. The spice selection is dizzying, with every kind of sauce or spice blend or special ingredient from Asia — fish sauce, tom yum paste, ras el harout, dried apricots, black garlic, preserved lemons, rose water, 117 kinds of honey…your mind will boggle and your foodie imagination will run wild. Plus there is a little deli upstairs that sells reasonable Indian food. Also if you are looking for something sweet, grab a chunk of honey pistachio baklava — just don’t touch your comics stock afterwards! BONUS: it’s next door to the building where Chester A. Arthur was sworn in as president following the assassination of President McKinley!
Sadly, Murray Hill/Flatiron bars are mostly ghastly sports bars beloved of an obnoxious jerk/jock/douchebag crowd. You will find the many Irish bars of the neighborhood get the job done (although none are cheap) but avoid anything that looks vaguely trendy. You will regret itThe only place I drink regularly is the RODEO BAR (3rd and 27th). Seriously, the bars of Murray Hill are legendarily horrific. The Mad Hatter is MoCCA friendly, but they are showing the NCAA and will be horrible, too. However, the Tavern on Third (27th and 3rd) has a good back room, and we’ll hold our Sunday meet-up there.
Do you have a favorite eatery in the neighborhood? Have you found pizza? Share in the comments!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.