Whether you’re grabbing a quick bite from a cart or lingering over a leisurely meal, lunchtime offers a much-needed opportunity to pause and refresh in the middle of the day. Midtown Manhattan and its surrounding neighborhoods are blessed with a dizzying range of lunch options, from grab-and-go casual to white-tablecloth formal. And, with smaller crowds and lower prices, lunchtime is a great time to sample many upper-tier restaurants that may be a stretch for dinner.
Eat and Run
These budget-friendly spots offer either street-food convenience or fast-casual twists. But quick and cheap doesn’t mean less than scrumptious: Each offers a genuinely good meal as well.
Great Northern Food Hall: 89 E 42nd St
Located inside Grand Central Terminal, this Scandinavian-inspired destination offers sandwiches, salads, hot dogs, and sweets. Order a warm sandwich on fresh-baked bread from Meyers Bageri, grab a coffee from Brownsville Roasters, or treat yourself to a Nordic cocktail in the intimate setting of The Bar. In a rush? Grab-and-go options at the Great Northern Deli offer traveler-friendly fare that’s still wholesome and fresh.
Indikitch: 1190 6th Ave
Behind the counter in this compact bi-level space, you’ll find curries, biryani, kati rolls and other subcontinental favorites. Customize your “feast box” with your choice of protein, veggies, and sauce, tweaked to your preferred level of spicy. Cool down with a classic mango lassi or a vibrant ginger-honey lemonade. Vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of options, as will gluten-free diners.
Two Forks: 119 W 40th St
Looking for lunch options beyond sandwich and salad? Build a bowl of fresh ingredients like shredded grass-fed beef, slow-cooked mixed beans, “super greens,” and spring farro with asparagus. Round out your serving with seasonal sides like pickled slaw, roasted mushrooms, and tomato-tofu salad with fresh basil and lemon. Top it off with a savory sauce (feeling brave? try the Harissa Red Pepper Buffalo) and tempting add-ons like feta, pickled onions, and avocado. Your reward: a 100% custom, 100% delicious meal that’s actually good for you.
Little Collins: 667 Lexington Ave
Named after a bustling Melbourne street from which it draws its culinary inspiration, this counter-serve favorite offers both coffee and espresso drinks and flavorful lunch fare.Try a Charcoal Chook (grilled chicken with mashed peas, bacon, caramelized onion, chipotle mayo) or Eggplant Parm sandwich. For health-conscious eaters, check out the Instagram-favorite All Day Salad (farro and freekeh with avocado puree, cold poached egg, broccoli, dill, and a sprinkle of pomegranate).
Uncle Gussy’s: 345 Park Avenue
This time-tested food truck favorite has been dishing up classic Greek fare since 1971. Try the hearty combo with the works: gyro lamb and chicken over salad with grilled onions, hot sauce, and Gussy’s justly famous tzatziki. Not a meat eater? Kolokithokeftedes (zucchini fritters) may be tricky to pronounce, but they’re reliably crispy and delicious; try them piled in a pita and drizzled with tzatziki.
A Lunch to Remember
When you’re seeking to punctuate your day with a memorable meal, these restaurants offer something — cuisine, decor, overall ambience — that sets them apart. They may not be budget-breakers, but they’re definitely worth spending a little more money or time.
The Little Beet Table: 333 Park Avenue S
Founded in 2013 with the mission of bringing guilt-free food to busy New Yorkers, The Little Beet now has quick-serve outposts throughout NYC and beyond. The Little Beet Table translates that philosophy to a sit-down restaurant, where a casual farmhouse vibe sets the scene for veggie-focused, gluten-free fare. Make a meal of small plates shared with your dining companions (mushroom and beet tartare is one seasonal favorite) or pair creative vegetable sides (like spaghetti squash with turmeric, pumpkin seed, and sage) for a standout meal.
Sons of Thunder: 204 E 38th St
Big, fresh, satisfying flavors: that’s what’s brought poke from its beachy Hawaiian roots into the culinary spotlight. While the decor at Sons of Thunder is unassuming, the fish is impeccably fresh and prepared with care, marinated and served over rice or salad greens with a tempting range of accompaniments. Prefer your lunch cooked? Try a banh mi hot dog served with house-made pâté, pickled daikon and carrot, cilantro, and jalapeño. Split a strawberry-Nutella milkshake with a friend for a satisfyingly sweet finish.
Burger Joint: 119 W 56th St
Hidden inside the four-star Le Parker Meridien, this stripped-down, cash-only burger spot serves up some of the best burgers in Manhattan. Push past the floor-to-ceiling velvet curtains in the lobby to find a space whose authentic grunginess seems to have been frozen in time. The menu is shockingly simple: burgers, fries, whole pickles (worth a try!), shakes. You may find yourself stuck in line for awhile, but the wait is worth it for real burger devotees.
Are you celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or other occasion? Or are you simply hungry for an outstanding meal? These three restaurants offer lunches worth the splurge.
Nougatine: 1 Central Park West
The casual (but still upscale) spinoff of the storied Jean-Georges, Nougatine offers breathtaking surroundings and an updated take on French cooking. Dinner prices are fairly steep, but the weekday prix fixe lunch includes appetizer, entrée, and dessert for $44. The wine list includes both world-class bottles and more approachable (and affordable) by-the-glass selections. Leave your t-shirt and Nikes behind; a business casual dress code is enforced.
Empellón: 510 Madison Avenue
With contemporary American fare influenced by Mexico’s rich culinary traditions, Empellón combines seasonal ingredients with innovative preparation and molecular gastronomy techniques. The dramatic, bi-level space is the flagship restaurant of chef/founder Alex Stupak, whose roots as a pastry chef are highlighted by the showstopper desserts. (In-the-know foodies suggest starting with a sweet before moving on to the savory courses.) Unusual taco fillings include hash browns, pastrami, and octopus; don’t pass up the guacamole with seven salsas for a centerpiece that feeds everyone at the table.
Aburiya Kinnosuke: 213 E 45th St
For an authentic (and pricey) izakaya dining experience, this hidden gem offers fastidiously fresh ingredients in deceptively simple combinations. Sashimi and sushi options are flavorful but fairly ordinary; where Aburiya Kinnosuke shines is with its selections prepared on an open robata grill. Try a jidori chicken tsukune: a delicately seasoned meatball on a stick served with a raw egg for dipping. Or crunch into the crackling-crisp skin of the sweet-glazed fatty salmon.