Eating Options in Midtown Manhattan

A large pie at Roberta's in Urbanspace Vanderbilt.

A large pepperoni pie sans basil at Roberta’s in Urbanspace Vanderbilt.

There are many reasons to hate midtown Manhattan. And I can only think of a handful of reasons to actually love it: MoMA, Carnegie Hall, and the Radio City Music Hall. Plus, it’s a tourist magnet, which keeps all those people away from our beloved neighborhoods.

Fortunately my concert sojourns, as rare as they may be these days, are conducted at off-peak hours. But MoMA has always been a bit of a struggle, because I usually hit that in the morning – during the less-trafficked Member Previews – and then I’m left looking for convenient feeding options in the area.

I used to go to the Burger Joint at the Parker Meridian, but that’s become a tourist attraction itself. They did have a food truck thing happening on East 48th Street for awhile. But there’s really nothing to eat – or at least nowhere you want to eat (the midtown outposts of places like John’s and Shake Shack are simply too heavily touristed) – in all of Midtown.

Fortunately, the success of the wonderful Smorgasburg and Urbanspace food markets has made it’s way into even the banal blocks of Midtown. On the East Side, there’s Urbanspace Vanderbilt, at the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and East 45th Street. On the West Side, there’s City Kitchen, at the corner of Eighth Avenue and West 44th Street.

Urbanspace Vanderbilt
This little gem makes up for the demise of the food truck experiment. It’s bound to be packed at peak hours, but at least the feeders are more likely to be Midtown office workers than the tourist scum that surely fill the West Side alternative.

I’ve managed to make it in before the lunchtime rush. I had me a big old Roberta’s pizza pie, followed by a Dough doughnut for dessert. Incredible food, and at prices that are quite reasonable by Midtown standards.

City Kitchen
This is a much smaller option, though the fact that it’s located on the second floor and not street level might make it slightly less crowded. The downside, of course, is that its proximity to the fecal magnet that is Times Square will surely make it more of a tourist cesspool than it’s East Side counterpart.

I also stopped in prior to the lunch-hour madness. I had a great burger from a place called Whitman’s, and followed that up with a Dough doughnut as well. Again, great food at reasonable prices for the neighborhood.

The Burger Joint

The burger and fries at the Burger Joint.

The burger and fries at the Burger Joint.

When someone says “BJ,” I used to think of blow jobs. Now I think of hamburgers. Because of the Burger Joint. That’s how good their hamburgers are.

I can’t remember the first time I went to the Burger Joint in Le Parker Meridian, the hotel on 56 Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. The original Burger Joint is literally a secret hideaway tucked in the far corner of the upscale hotel’s lobby. There’s no signage, and you’d never even know it’s there unless you were curious about the line down the dark corridor, on the far side of the reception desk.

The once-secret burger lair is no more than a little hole in the wall, far from what you’d expect in such a swank place. The walls are covered with graffiti and the operation screams “no frills,” though they now offer table service instead of having to line up at the counter.

The Burger Joint’s burgers are literally the best I’ve ever had, anywhere. The best. And the fries, well, they may very well be the best I’ve ever had as well – or at least in the Top 3. Amazing.

It’s not cheap, though. A basic burger is $8.50, and an additional $3.22 for the fries. OK, that’s quite reasonable for what you’d pay at most places here in New York City, but it’s still a bit pricey compared to Shake Shack’s $4.19 burger, which is mighty tasty as well. But the Shack’s fries suck, especially since they abandoned their new hand-cut shoestring fries to return to the old crinkle cuts.

The bigger Burger Joint on West 8th Street and MacDougal.

The bigger Burger Joint on West 8th Street and MacDougal.

The Burger Joint has been my go-to spot whenever I visit the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street. In fact, it’s one of the few places I like to eat in Midtown. Though it’s become so popular, particularly with tourists, that it’s intolerable during the lunch rush. So I prefer to hit it early or late, and actually structure my museum visits around that.

Fortunately the Burger Joint opened up a second spot, the Burger Joint on West 8th Street and MacDougal. It’s huge compared to the original, about four times the size, and I’ve never seen it get crowded. Same food, same prices, just less tourists and less tension. So now I’m finding all sorts of reasons to head down to the West Village, just so I have an excuse to grab a burger and fries at the Burger Joint. It’s that good.