The Day-Off Lunch Guide guide image


The Day-Off Lunch Guide

Where to get a weekday meal when you don’t have to work.

Sometimes, you get a weekday off. Maybe it’s due to a national holiday, or maybe it’s because you called in sick despite the fact that everyone knows you’re in fine physical condition. Whatever the reason, make the most of your free day by getting a great lunch. On this guide, you’ll find a bunch of restaurants where you can get something that'll be 10 times better than your normal weekday meal, and, as an added bonus, they should all be easier to get into in the daytime.


photo credit: Teddy Wolff

Via Carota review image

Via Carota


51 Grove St, New York
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

If you know only one thing about Via Carota in the West Village, it's probably the fact that the quoted wait times seem like a joke (until you realize that the host is being completely serious). We're not saying there won't be a bit of a wait at lunch, but at least most of the city is doing that earning-a-living thing at that hour. Order one of their many vegetable plates, some pasta, or the svizzerina, which looks like a thick burger patty, but is closer in texture to a steak tartare.

This Midtown institution, which has been open for over 30 years now, is a well-oiled machine that’s been fine-tuned to perfection. The service here skews north of impeccable, but the seafood—geoduck chawanmushi with uni, for example—is the main reason why this is still an amazing place to eat. The three-course tasting at lunch is $120, which is $75 less than the least-expensive option in the dining room at dinner.

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Sure, checking out that big white arch in Greenwich Village is pretty cool, but NY Dosas is a better reason to come to Washington Square Park. This little cart by the dog run serves an all-vegan, South Indian menu, which includes items like chopped roti with vegetables, samosas filled with potatoes and peas, and dosas made with lentil crepes. In theory, a lot of NYU students will be dozing off in lectures in the middle of the day, which should mean shorter lines. This cart is only open from 11am to 3pm Monday-Saturday.

If your experience with flour tortillas is limited to what you can find in the bread aisle at the grocery store, you're missing out. When you get a bean and cheese or a shredded chicken verde taco at this Tex-Mex spot in the East Village, you'll rethink the "I always prefer corn tortillas" claim that you've been spouting for years. During lunch, you can also get some sandwiches that aren't available at dinner or brunch like one made with wild boar and chimichurri and another with buttermilk chicken salad and fried pecans.

This bakery (in the old Arcade Bakery space) from the team behind Frenchette is somewhat hidden inside an office building on Church Street in Tribeca. Like their predecessor, this place closes up shop on weekdays at 4pm before you even think about shutting down your computer at work. So plan to get a flaky and buttery kouign-amann or a pizza with anchovies in the afternoon while your coworkers are busy putting together presentations and status reports.

The first time you walked through Central Park, you might have thought to yourself: "I'm going to have so many picnics here." That was approximately 12 years ago, and that one time you bought a stale soft pretzel and a bottle of water from a cart and sat on the grass doesn't really count. A visit to Teranga is the perfect excuse to check having a picnic off your list. It's located right at the northeast corner of the park, and they offer a bunch of easy-to-carry grain bowls (all around $16), like one with Nigerian beef suya and Moroccan chermoula.

Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao closed for a minute in 2019 but came back relatively quickly in a new and bigger space. If you haven't been, this place should be on your bucket list for spots to check out in Flushing—especially if you're into soup dumplings. A lot of people have the bright idea to come here on a Saturday morning, so to avoid a long wait, make this place a priority on your next free weekday and get one of the 11 varieties of xiao long bao and some scallion pancakes with sliced beef.

If you're walking around Greenpoint in the evening and you come upon a long line of people, there's a good chance it's for Taqueria Ramirez. To get their tacos with bone marrow-like tripa and suadero stewed in lard (both of which come on fat-soaked corn tortillas), come here on a Wednesday through Sunday starting at 2pm. (They're closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.) Once you get your food, you'll be finished eating in a matter of minutes and still have a lot of day left, so head to nearby Transmitter Park, where you'll wonder to yourself why you don't spend more time chilling by the water.

This all-day cafe in Crown Heights is inspired by the owner's Hungarian-Austrian grandmother, who you'll see pictured in a frame hanging in the kitchen. A few things, like the SLT sandwich with smoked bacon and The Nosh Plate with chicken liver mousse and deviled eggs, are only available on their weekday counter menu, which only goes until 4pm. Come here earlier for the best selection of pastries, then head to nearby Prospect Park or the Brooklyn Museum.

A 25-minute boat ride might sound inconvenient, but on a day off, it's just the sort of thing you might be looking for. Lakruwana is a Sri Lankan place near the water on the eastern edge of Staten Island. When you get here, you'll see a lot of hanging masks and elephant statues, and you should order the vegetable lamprais wrapped in banana leaves and the heart-shaped pile of godamba roti with garlic and green chilis. Remember, the ferry costs zero dollars.

It can be fun to act like a tourist on a day off and get lunch somewhere full of people who don’t seem to realize that the stores in Soho offer a new service called "online shopping." But when you want to feel more like a local, go to Davelle. It’s a tiny all-day spot on the LES with an old mirror over the fireplace and dried flowers hanging on the brick walls. Sit at the bar and chat with the chef while you eat a bowl of intensely rich and smoky pork curry.

photo credit: Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa

Sugarfish review image


For reasonably-priced, good quality sushi, Sugarfish is one of your best options in NYC—but if you stop by this Flatiron spot on just about any night of the week, you’ll find a pretty long wait. That's because Sugarfish doesn't take reservations. You probably don’t enjoy waiting several hours for a table, so lunch here is a much better idea. The wait won’t be as long, and the sushi will taste just as good.

At dinner, Kiki’s is packed with people who could have job titles like Personal Shopper or Wide-Leg Pant Patternist. At lunch, this Greek spot on the LES has a similar crowd, but you won’t have to wait two hours for a table. The menu of traditional Greek dishes has options for everyone, ranging from a Greek salad topped with a brick of feta to charred, juicy lamb chops with housemade mustard. The food is all enjoyable, and Kiki's isn't quite as pricey as the majority of other places filled with people wearing next season’s trends.

If you’ve never been to Gramercy Tavern, you probably hear the name and think, “Huh, I’ve been meaning to go there.” If that sounds like you, try it during your day off. Lunch is served in The Tavern, which is their casual bar area that feels like its own separate restaurant. Unlike the more expensive tasting menu available in the upscale dining room during dinner, the lunch menu is à la carte, and you shouldn’t be afraid to come in jeans and eat one of the best burgers in the city.

Upland is one of the few restaurants that we fully endorse for just about any type of lunch. You'll likely be surrounded by people having business lunches in the emerald green booths, but, despite the high ceilings and massive wall of preserved lemons, this place isn't especially uptight or fancy. Share the beef tartare, have a midday martini, and dive into a plate of pasta. Also, the burger is only available at lunch and brunch, so you should probably order that, too.

With orchestration that would impress Danny Ocean, you and your friends all managed to get out of work on the same day. Or maybe it’s just a holiday. Either way, you should get a group of people to join you at Tanoreen in Bay Ridge. They serve some of the best Middle Eastern food in the city, and you’ll want to come with a big group so you can order as many dishes as possible. Two things that need to be on your table are the ridiculously creamy hummus and the lamb kafta with housemade tahini.

This place should be called TGI Sundays. Because here it’s always Sunday. Monday? Tuesday? Doesn’t matter. The hot bagels scream weekend morning. And the employees literally scream “hot bagels” when they bring out hot bagels. Doesn’t that remind you of the cheesy ice cream parlor your grandma used to take you to on Sundays? Come here on a weekday you happen to have off, eat some bagels or a tuna melt, and pretend your life is one long weekend.

If you’re the kind of person who believes a burger can be judged 90% by the meat and 10% by everything else, then the Luger burger will be one of your favorites in the city. It’s only served at lunch, which is also when you can probably score a reservation even if it's the night before and you feel like you're "coming down with a fever." Bring a friend and have them order a steak, because going to Peter Luger and not eating a steak is like leaving a Paul McCartney show before he plays any Beatles songs.

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Suggested Reading

Davelle review image

Davelle is an all-day Japanese spot on the LES that’s unlike any other place in the city.

Luke’s Lobster review image

With several locations around the city, Luke’s Lobster is a casual spot to grab a good, simple lobster roll.

B & H Dairy review image

B&H Dairy in the East Village is one of the last kosher lunch counters in the city, and they make fantastic tuna melts, latkes, and borscht.

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