NYCGuide

Everything You Should Eat At Urban Hawker, NYC’s Singapore-Style Food Hall

All the Southeast Asian specialties you should prioritize at the Singapore-style food hall in Midtown.
Everything You Should Eat At Urban Hawker, NYC’s Singapore-Style Food Hall image

photo credit: Dane Isaac

Urban Hawker was conceived, in part, by Anthony Bourdain—to bring Hainanese chicken rice and spicy chili crab to New Yorkers who didn’t have their own travel TV shows. The Singapore-style food hall is sandwiched between 50th and 51st, and it’s one of the best spots for an affordable lunch or dinner in Midtown, if you can lock down a table. It's like a game of musical chairs at prime meal-time, and there are currently 15 vendors, so here's the move: Designate one person to grab a table, another to get drinks from the Sling Bar, and then use this guide to narrow down which Southeast Asian specialties you want to try first. 

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Dane Isaac

Singaporean

Midtown

$$$$Perfect For:Walk-InsLunchDining Solo

We’d be worried if NYC’s first Singapore-style food hall didn’t have a delicious option for Hainanese chicken, the country’s national dish. Hainan Jones is our favorite vendor at Urban Hawker, and we’re definitely not alone. But it’s well worth the wait in line for your roasted, fried, or classic poached chicken. We’d pick the classic any day: it’s tender, juicy, and has skin that falls off like the ol’ bird just got home from a long day. The uber-gingery rice and broth that come on the side are plenty flavorful by themselves, but the spicy chili and sweet sesame soy sauce help the dish realize its full potential.


photo credit: Dane Isaac

$$$$Perfect For:LunchDining Solo

This spot specializes in Filipino comfort food, and the menu is small and straightforward, so you won’t have to agonize over your order. Everything we’ve tried here is great, but on your first visit, get a bowl of BBQ chicken with rice. The meat is grilled to perfection, and smothered in a warm, peanutty sauce. They’ve got a few more bowl options, like pork adobo and vegan pancit as well. Get some bit-sized lumpia too; they’re served in a brown paper bag, making them an ideal on-the-go snack.


photo credit: Dane Isaac

$$$$Perfect For:LunchDining Solo

Daisy’s Dream specializes in Peranakan cuisine, and they’ve got the best bowl of laksa in Midtown. The sour soup base contains a lot of shrimp paste, but there’s enough coconut to balance it out. If you want a less involved (aka less liquid) lunch, get the nasi lemak with a side of meatballs to go. Pick at the crisp pink hunks of meat and a whole school of fried anchovies as you walk down the street, floating above the chaos.


photo credit: Dane Isaac

$$$$Perfect For:LunchDining Solo

At this fried rice specialist, you can choose from 10 variations of the dish, with everything from crispy fish to tom yum. They’re all pretty decent, but the one worth seeking out is the BBQ stingray fried rice. Partly because it’s not a dish we see often, but also because the fish happens to be velvety soft with a fresh, mild taste that lets the sweet and sour sauce on top shine.


photo credit: Dane Isaac

$$$$Perfect For:LunchDining Solo

Padi is a full-service Malaysian restaurant in Singapore, and they’ve brought their solid bowls of hearty chicken gulai, sweetish beef rendang, and smoky chicken satay stateside. Longtong, served in a bowl of creamy coconut curry, should be your first priority. The silky rice cakes soak in all the yellow curry without falling apart, accompanied by potatoes, fish cakes, and boiled eggs to round out the meal.


photo credit: Will Hartman

The bright neon signage and wafting smells of meat draws diners to Smokin’ Joe like moths to a flame. This stall from Singapore specializes in Hainanese curries and fried fish and chicken cutlets (they also have a vegan version). Their golden curry brims with warm spices—it’s savory, funky, and so craveable we’d happily eat it straight up with steamed rice. But you should get it with the juicy grilled chicken thighs and braised cabbage, which soak up the curry like a flavor sponge. 


photo credit: Dane Isaac

$$$$Perfect For:LunchDining Solo

The halal Singaporean Indian menu here includes a basic roti prata, but you should ignore it in favor of a big fluffy portion of murtabak. A bedazzled version of the same roti, the murtabak comes filled with egg and chicken, or lamb curry. The thosai pairs well with their curry too, but if you want to eat more than a bunch of flatbreads, get a peppery biryani or a neon orange (but nevertheless delicious) bowl of sweet kway teow.


photo credit: Dane Isaac

$$$$Perfect For:Literally Everyone

At this satellite stall of East Village bakery Lady Wong, you can get a lot of the same classic sweets, like rainbow kuih and cassava cake. But the real reason to make this a go-to lunch spot is the savory stuff. The tuna lemper—sambal-laced fish served encased in warm sticky rice—is the kind of grab-and-go meal you’ll find yourself craving all the time. You should also get the anchovy puffs.

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