The Best Lunch In Midtown
photo credit: Dining Innovation New York, Inc / Joji Uematsu
Finding lunch in Midtown can be a daunting task. You could always stand in line at a fast-casual salad spot filled with people wearing Vineyard Vines—but you deserve better. Whether you're looking for a place where you can pick up something to eat at your desk or trying to choose the right option for a lunch with some clients who could probably get you fired, here are your best options for a midday meal in the area.
Most of New York’s great steakhouses are housed in dim, wood-paneled rooms designed to make you feel like you’re playing an elaborate game of D&D, but Porter House NYC turns that trope on its head. Here, you eat your red meat atop the ivory tower of the Time Warner Center, in an elegant, airy space overlooking Central Park. At lunch, you can get a three-course $48 steak frites situation that’s easily the best steakhouse lunch deal in this part of town.
Tsurutontan first opened in Japan more than 30 years ago, so this place has had some time to perfect their specialty, udon. There are plenty of udon bowls to choose from like one with creamy broth and uni and another with wagyu and oysters in a sweet sukiyaki soup. We tend to gravitate towards the katsu curry that comes with a thick and juicy fried pork cutlet. At lunch, they offer a bunch of set combos that mix and match udon bowls with sushi and rice bowls topped with things like cod roe and spicy tuna.
Ace’s has some of the best Detroit-style pizza in the city. This outpost is situated among a bunch of other dining options (including Alidoro, Fuku, Blue Ribbon Sushi, and more) on the concourse at Rockefeller Center. Varieties like vodka meatball and buffalo chicken are available, but we prefer plain cheese. The thick, deep brown, crispy burnt cheese edges are what make each pie special, and you’ll want to hoard the corner slices. The pizzas are baked to order, so you won’t get your food quickly. They’re worth the wait.
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 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. Considering every order comes with a large slice of soft bread, a tiny apple, and a piece of chocolate mint, you can get a well-rounded, substantial lunch here for the cost of a fancy coffee drink.
This Maman location near Rockefeller Center is decorated with a lot of greenery, and it feels like the room should be filled with woodland creatures instead of people eating lunch. Maman excels at baked items like croissants, loaf cakes, and cookies. Because of that, we prefer their sandwiches to their salads. One of their best is the warm roast beef and cheddar on ciabatta with wasabi mayo. They also serve their breakfast menu all day.
Dave’s Hot Chicken, which started in LA, has seven spice levels ranging from No Spice to Reaper. If you’re the masochistic type and you’re willing to sign a waiver (not joking), opt for the most extreme level and watch everyone laugh at you after your first few bites. Skip the forgettable sides, and stick with the juicy fried chicken items (sliders—which are actually full-size sandwiches—or tenders). What we most appreciate about this place is the variety of options they offer to balance out the heat, which include packets of honey, thick-cut pickles, a kale slaw, and their “Dave’s sauce,” which tastes like a combo of ketchup and mayo.
Ever since this LA transplant made its way to New York, we’ve been fans. Even with the nonstop proliferation of sub-$100 omakases, this spot still offers one of the best values in the category. But Sugarfish doesn’t take reservations, and, even at lunchtime, the downtown locations can require a bold standoff with the host and an hour-long wait. Not so at the Midtown West outpost, where you can pretty much waltz in, sit down, and drown your weekday sorrows in massive quantities of high-quality raw fish. Choose one of the “trust me” options, put your phone on DND, and enjoy a rare moment of true relaxation in the middle of a New York City workday.
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. Think of this place for a midday meal on your next day off.
Utsav is an Indian restaurant in Midtown that operates with speed and ferocity, and it’s an ideal spot if you want something warm, spicy, and delicious but don’t want to worry about waiting for a table. (The space is giant.) We like the dal makhani and butter chicken, and they have a $25 lunch special with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options that change daily. Utsav also offers a newer Indo Chinese menu with items like Szechuan paneer, burnt garlic coriander fried rice, and salt and pepper prawns.
In 2019, All’Antico Vinaio popped up in NYC, and the lines made people seriously weigh the value of their time against the need for an Italian sandwich. A permanent location of this Florence import is now in Midtown, and everything on the sandwich-only menu uses thin, crusty Tuscan schiacciata bread. They offer a lot of popular Italian meats like prosciutto and mortadella, but what’s unique are their creamy spreads that come in varieties like pistachio and ‘nduja. The sandwiches are huge, and once you try one, you’ll want to try the rest. It’s good to have goals.
Lodi serves the most impressive Italian food within a few miles of Liz Lemon’s office. It just so happens to be located directly outside of Liz Lemon’s office. This place almost exclusively spotlights Italian ingredients, and a meal here pretty much always makes us angry that we're not OOO in Tuscany. You can get things like housemade ricotta, an incredible seafood salad with smoky marinated mussels, and a plate of plump anchovies.
The original Los Tacos No. 1 is in Chelsea Market, and they do some of the best tacos in the city. This location is, unfortunately, in Times Square. But the good news is: They make the same tacos. So the next time you find yourself stranded in the land of tourists and Mickey Mouse impersonators during lunchtime, get some food here. It isn’t as busy as the one downtown, but there aren’t any seats, so you’ll have to eat standing.
We’re honestly not sure if the owners of Taam Tov care if anyone comes to their restaurant. You get into this glatt kosher Uzbek spot in the heart of the Diamond District via a glass door simply labeled “41w,” and it always seems to be locked. (The only reason we got through is because we followed someone in.) Once you finally figure out how to enter, your server will recommend the beef and onion-filled manti as well as the pilaf with chunks of beef that remind us of smoked lean brisket. We recommend both of them, too. They also have a Chinese food menu that’s only available until 5pm.