The Best Takeout Lunch In Midtown
10 spots where you can grab lunch to-go and get back to ignoring your inbox.
The lunch rush in Midtown can make you feel like you’re suddenly in a Hunger Games situation with everyone you saw on your morning commute. Unless you’ve got someone willing to take you out with their corporate card, you’ll want to get back to your desk as quickly as possible—ideally with something less soul-sucking than a salad in a plastic container. Here are our favorite takeout lunch spots in Midtown where you can get in and out in under 20 minutes.
photo credit: Daniel Brennan
Fieldtrip’s Rockefeller Center concourse outpost is perfect for when you're bored of Sweetgreen and want to grab a quick lunch that doesn’t taste like it was made on an assembly line. The menu at this counter-service mini-chain is all over the place, but pretty much everything is served over rice. Options include brown rice topped with braised beef, steamed salmon with black fried rice, and a bowl of jollof rice with greens, grilled chicken, and a garlicky avocado sauce.
This Rockefeller Center spot is the third restaurant from the team behind Estela and Altro Paradiso, and they serve traditional Italian fare in a setting that feels like Au Bon Pain for the 1% (with prices to match). They’ve got a great full-service patio, but people with Big Jobs can order soup, salad, and sandwiches from their grab-and-go setup in the front. The short takeaway menu rotates but always includes a favorite of ours: a porchetta panini that tastes like fennel pollen and fatty pork.
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This is our favorite truck in Midtown East. There are two Mystikk Masalas—one is usually parked at 40th and Park, the other at 47th and Park—and they both have the same menu of excellent Indian food. Try the chana masala platter, which comes with a spicy sauce and daal and rice on the side. On the off chance you need a 2pm samosa pick-me-up instead of a $7 iced coffee, that’s also an acceptable way to use this truck.
Ask anyone who works near Grand Central and Bryant Park how often they go to Omar’s, and they’ll probably get embarrassed about their answer. This is a very dependable Lebanese lunch option in the area, and it’ll help you get through an otherwise sh*tty week. Their take-out line usually snakes out the door, but it moves quickly. The chicken shawarma pita is the first thing you should try, and they also have platters with lamb, beef, and chicken that come with things like tabbouleh, hummus, and Turkish eggplant. Plus, you get a tiny piece of baklava with every order.
This small Thai spot only serves around 10 dishes, most of which involve fried, poached, or grilled chicken on thoroughly gingery rice with an intensely flavorful clear chicken broth on the side. Even with so few options on the menu, it’s hard to choose, but the juicy lemongrass grilled chicken is so expertly marinated it’s usually our first choice. Start with the signature plates, then branch out and try the Thai tacos when you’re back for the fourth week in a row.
photo credit: Kenny Yang
The Original Soup Kitchen
Yes, you’ll see framed photos of George Constanza and a bunch of “No Soup For You” merch for sale here. And, yes, you’ll still see the signs instructing you to have your money ready and move to your extreme left after ordering. But the service is actually quite friendly, and the soup is worth returning for. All the soups are loaded with ingredients, so even a small cup (most of which cost $5-$7) is relatively filling. This is the perfect lunch option for when the temperature dips just below 60.
It’s not controversial to say that Ess-A-Bagel serves the best bagels in Midtown. People around here seem to agree, as evidenced by the lines that stretch out the front door. But the lines move fast, and while you’re waiting you can figure out your order. Get the signature bagel with whitefish salad, or try the pizza bagel if you want to feel like it’s school pizza day.
This is a vegetarian sushi place, and it’s better than you expect. Sure there’s no fish—but on the bright side, no one worries about mercury levels in vegetables. Beyond uses stuff like mango, avocado, and burdock root, and the results are actually very good. The spicy mayo-type concoction that accompanies a bunch of the rolls comes in a little squeezable vial, a practice that all sushi places should immediately adopt. Go between 11:30-3pm on a weekday for their lunch special: two rolls for $15.
Sushi 35 West
To get to Sushi 35 West, you’ll walk into a smoke shop a few blocks from Penn Station, turn right, and head up a grungy industrial staircase, at which point you’ll arrive in what feels like a freight elevator hallway. Yes, you’re in the right place. Here, you’ll find some of the best takeout sushi we’ve ever had. Try the $22 lunch set that comes with six nigiri and a roll, or get one of the donburi options. The quality of the nigiri is as good as many omakase-style spots.
This Singapore-style hawker food hall near Radio City hosts 17 vendors. The hall is generally pretty crowded, and getting a table is like one big game of musical chairs, but some of the lines move surprisingly fast. Daisy’s Dream, Padi, and Mr. Fried Rice are a few of our favorite vendors that will get you out of there in under 15 minutes. The one thing you shouldn’t count on getting during your weekday lunch hour is a chicken set from Hainan Jones. They make our favorite dish in the food hall, but waits can get up to 45 minutes and they run out early in the day.