All good Manhattan-residing New Yorkers know what jury duty means. Fulfilling your civic duty while simultaneously exaggerating your personal beliefs on assorted criminal topics so that you don’t get picked for a trial? That, maybe. But more importantly: dumplings.
Due to wonderful government efficiency, jury duty often means lunch breaks that span an hour or two, which means you’ll have plenty of time to explore the dumpling offerings of Chinatown. When you tire of that, there’s more to explore – banh mis in Little Italy, bowls of pho on Baxter Street, and bakeries a few blocks over in Tribeca. Here’s the best of it, according to us.
Lalito is the best restaurant within two blocks of jury duty, so you should come here if you don’t like walking. But you should also come here if you like eating really good, interesting food in a cool environment. The menu is somewhat Mexican and Latin American, but also somewhat “hippie mom in California in the 70s.” Eat a “Mexican Döner” or a vegan caesar salad with nutritional yeast and spirulina. Both will be very enjoyable.
Dumplings: you’re going to want them after a long morning (probably not really that long) of listening to assistant district attorneys explain the meaning of “intent.” If you’re looking for pan-fried, doughy, pork-filled dumplings, your first stop should be at Tasty Dumpling. They’re among the best you’ll find in Chinatown, there’s plenty of room to sit, and it’s very close to the courthouses.
Noodle Village makes Chinatown’s best wonton soup, and you owe it to yourself to try it, if only to realize how comparably sh*tty your Chinese delivery place is. They also have really good soup dumplings, and the rest of the menu is very solid as well.
Maybe you’ve made friends, or fallen into a dramatic love affair with one of your fellow jurors. We can see ourselves watching a B-rate romantic comedy about that on an airplane. But most likely, you haven’t, and will be eating alone. While you’re next to Chinatown, you should do dim sum one day, and when flying solo, Dim Sum Go Go is the place to do it. They have a dumpling sampler that lets you try 10 kinds of steamed dumplings, and there’s also a vegetarian version.
If it’s one of those days where you get a two-hour lunch break (this ends up being every other day on a lot of juries), Two Hands on Church Street is your best bet for a nice, healthy sit-down lunch. This Tribeca location is the full-service restaurant by Two Hands, not to be confused with the more coffee shop-esque one on Mott Street in Nolita, and it’s a bright and pleasant place to sit. You can get a fancy avocado toast or a bowl with a bunch of greens, and there’s also a very good burger that’s topped with a fried egg.
Come to Gotan when you have an hour for lunch. They do salads and sandwiches with a slight Middle Eastern twist here, and there’s also a scrambled egg cheddar biscuit thing that’s one of New York’s great breakfasts. Fortunately, it’s served all day. You order at the counter here, but they bring the food to you on a real plate, and they bus the tables. You’ll feel extremely civilized, without spending too much money.
Xi’An Famous Foods has quickly become a mini empire, and there’s a location right here on Bayard Street. The spicy cumin lamb noodles and “burger” sandwiches are about as good a spicy lunch as you can find.
Chikarashi does some of the city’s better takeout poké. At other poke spots, you might find yourself wondering how many days ago the fish was actually sliced, or why that piece of skin is still on your salmon. But that’s not the case at Chikarashi - everything’s actually fresh here. Just know that there’s fairly limited seating.
Want to eat poké in a place that looks a boutique that would sell expensive t-shirts and also have a matcha bar? Come to Humble Fish, another good poké spot in the area, which has plenty of seating. The toppings here are kind of fancy: your bowl might come with trout roe, kale chips, or a rice crisp that looks like a crazy sea creature.
At some point soon, every last neighborhood in New York is going to have a fancy food hall. This new one has a sushi handroll place, a Korean BBQ bowls spot, a chicken ramen place, a juice bar, a bubble tea bar, a smoothie bar, and a few others. There’s a Nom Wah outpost too, but you should know by now that a sleek food hall isn’t where you want to be getting dumplings in the area. It’s attached to what is basically a fancy flea market, if you want to look at nice ceramics you’ll never buy to pass the time.
Yes, this place serves hand pulled noodles. Tasty ones, in a little spot on Doyers Street, a weird and great little alley in the middle of Chinatown. The thin hand pulled noodles are good, but the thicker, knife cut ones are actually even better. Get a plate of them pan fried.
This burger place looks like it belongs in a college town, rather than on a block of Vietnamese restaurants and bail bond shops. The burgers are surprisingly good, and fish tacos and the spicy sesame chicken sandwich are sleeper hits.
For a reliable bowl of pho in close proximity to the courthouses, pop into Nha Trang. On a street full of Vietnamese spots, this one’s our favorite for pho. We particularly like the chicken-based pho ga.
For a more extensive Vietnamese meal (despite the name, this place is Vietnamese, not Thai), head to Thai Son. For the maximum experience, coerce some of your fellow jurors into joining and order for the group. Get the bánh hỏi bò lụi (grilled beef lettuce wraps), gỏi tôm (shrimp salad), bò lúc lắc (marinated steak cubs), cá kho tộ (fish braised in a clay pot), canh chua tôm (sweet and sour tamarind soup with shrimp), and rau muống xào tỏi (stir fried water spinach with garlic).
This one will take you on a walk to the border of Little Italy and Chinatown, and it’s where you want to come for an excellent banh mi. Also, it’s located in the back of a jewelry store, and our staff photographer once saw Sonia Sotomayor here.
Continuing on the “excellent bread things in unexpected places,” Arcade Bakery is a world-class bakery in the lobby of an office building on Church Street. The croissants are France-level good, and at lunch time, they also do pizzas and sandwiches.
Forlini’s is a weird, kind of hilarious old school Italian American restaurant that’s popular with judges during lunchtime. If you want the real deal, Law And Order jury duty experience, this is where you want to be. Probably not every day, but definitely once.
A fresh, easy takeout outpost of The Smile. Come for fresh sandwiches and vegetables, stay for the highly entertaining people-watching outside. Opening Ceremony and Resurrection (the trendiest of trendy clothing stores) are across the street and make this block generally hilarious all day long.