Cheap Good Eats in Midtown East


By that I actually mean the good eats I recently discovered within walking distance from where I work (possible for lunch), but I hate long titles.

Menkui Tei Ramen

on 56th St, between 5th and 6th Ave

http://www.yelp.com/biz/menkui-tei-new-york-2

Tonkotsu TonkotsuRamen

Tonkotsu Ramen (hot in rich pork bone broth noodle soup with 2 pieces of roast pork among other things on top)

The soup, as you can see, tasted heavenly… (I know, you don’t exactly see heaven in there, but it’s okay, just go try the soup ;-)

The noodles and meat and everything else was all good, but I have to say the only thing I just cannot forget from this dish is the flavorful soup, and that alone is worth the trip.

My advice though: If you’re going to order one of the hot noodle soup entrees, try avoid going on the hottest summer days; or at least, don’t sit right next to the kitchen (if you have party of two and above you will get a table, which is farther from the kitchen stoves). They do have AC but I don’t think it’s set to the usual level you expect from an American restaurant at all. The place is small and authentic, with lots of Japanese people frequenting.

Before you go you also want to take a look at the photos section of the Yelp page to see what the entrance looks like. There’s no sign at the front carrying the name Menkui Tei.

JarJarStired

Jar Jar Ramen (cold soupless with ground pork soybean sauce, sliced cucumber, bean sprout etc), My favorite!

IMG_0087

Hiyashi Ramen (cold with sesame seed sauce, roast pork, imitation crab, pickled ginger etc)

Halal Food Cart at 53rd and 6th

http://www.yelp.com/biz/53rd-and-6th-halal-cart-new-york

Here’s how I found this one:

One day while looking for some good new lunch place I turned to Yelp, narrowed down my search criteria to a couple neighborhoods nearby (did you know that on Yelp you can not only search within “New York” or “Manhattan, New York”, you can also pick from a list of neighborhoods within each borough, such as Theatre District, SoHo, Greenwich Village or East Village?), while leaving the name field blank, added a filter to show only those with one $ sign as they’re most likely lunch places, and viola, this thing came up on top. Then I noticed for the first time that there is actually a “Halal” in the list of cuisines at the top. I was like wow Yelp even has a section just for Halal food carts. I haven’t eaten at any street food vendors for many years now, but out of curiosity I clicked into the “Halal” link and scanned through the results. This 53rd and 6th Halal Cart was again listed at the top and had like 540+ reviews, while the second Halal result had only 9! My interest (or should I say animal instinct?) immediately spiked. After a few more minutes of digging around and reading Yelpers’ reviews, here are some facts I found:

  1. There is a dedicated Wikipedia entry for this particular Halal food cart. Yes, out of the perhaps thousands Halal food carts on NY streets, this one has its own Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/53rd_and_6th
  2. There is a web site called 53rdand6th.com, created by the FANS of this particular food cart. And there is a Chat Room section on the web site.
  3. They have their own sweatshirts and bags.
  4. They are a finalist in 2005 Vendy Awards (The Oscars of NYC Street Vendors).
  5. They only open from 7:30pm to 5am everyday.
  6. The typical wait time in the line during those hours is between 45 minutes and 1 hour.
  7. In 2006 a fight started in the line with someone stabbed someone else for cutting in line. Later the owners hired bouncers.

(photo source: wikipedia)

So needless to say the next weekend when I came into the city for a movie I made time for this place. The line was indeed ridiculous and we waited for 45 minutes before getting to order (and took the picture below up close, in the center on the grill was piles of piles of chopped chicken meat).

pilesChicken

Within minutes we were handed the famous platter (Lamb/Chicken on yellow rice with sliced pita bread) and, following everyone else before us, walked to the side to help ourselves with the even more famous The White Sauce, as much as we like. The red sauce was indeed like the Yelpers said, super hot, but the white sauce, it’s that white sauce mixed up with all the meat and rice that truly defined what it was. A big hearty meaty tasty meal after a long day for a hungry soul.

(photo source: Yelp.com)

The portion was really generous for $6 and I, unfortunately, on that day was not particularly hungry, so I didn’t finish it despite thoroughly enjoying whatever I had. However I have to say, being not really a Halal expert, I didn’t quite share those fanatics’ “this is the most magical thing ever created by God” feeling. I mean it is really delicious and I would gladly have it again, but, maybe I learned a bit too much about it before I went (the wikipedia entry has it that a famous chef confessed he once waited TWO AND HALF HOURS on a cold Christmas Eve for it!)… It is good, but I don’t know if it’s THAT good.

Guess you’d have to find out yourself.

Note: If you ever go there, look for the yellow uniform they wear (below), and remember they only open at 7:30pm. The cart there during daytime is an impostor and completely unaffiliated.

uniform2

Hallo Berlin Food Stand at 54th & 5th Ave

http://www.yelp.com/biz/hallo-berlin-german-food-stand-new-york

With my newfound Yelping skill (combined with my years of professional experience in quickly extracting information from oceans of web resources, which comes with the job ;-), I went on to discover a few more gems in my vicinity and this one is a true winner.

Remember the famed (some even call it a cult) Halal 53rd & 6th being a finalist in 2005 Vendy Awards? They lost, to this German sausage place, a Wurst Place that became the Winner of the prestigious Vendy Award. Don’t you just love New York City?

menu

Fun Facts:

  • Because of all the difficult names (bratwurst, bauernwurst, alpenwurst) for the types of sausages they have (chicken, veal, beef, pork etc), their menu name them after cars. Mercedes is pork bratwurst, BMW is veal, Porsche is beef and Audi is beef & pork).
  • As result the picture above has an item that reads: Triple Soul Food Mix – Comes with a BMW, Mercedes and Porsche – $11.

dictatorsVSdemocracy2

This picture is hung right next to the menu in the previous picture. If you look closely you will see this is also a menu… The Dictators Special (top) and The Democracy Special (bottom).

So the owner has a sense of humor.

inAction

And the food, the food was absolutely sensational. The sauerkraut and German fries (pan fried chopped potatoes) blended so perfectly with the sausage meat (which was the most tender and juicy “wurst” I’ve ever had), all companied by the tasty mustard sauces. That on top of a warm crispy bun, grab yourself a cold soda the lunch cannot possibly be any better!

chkSausage2 chkSausage3(Soul Food Mix – Trabant)

sausage2 sausage3(Soul Food Mix – Mercedes)

My Advice:

If you go there for the first time, I recommend order the Soul Food Mix with Mercedes. The Pork Bratwurst is simply the best. I agree with a yelper who said when it comes to sausages, “pork always stand out among them all”. Although next time I go I want to try the BMW.

I mean Veal, of course.

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2 responses to “Cheap Good Eats in Midtown East

  1. What a deliciously good post, walking! I love your food pics, but these are especially vibrant, as I almost felt I was in the neighborhood with you!
    And all those different ethnic cuisines! Yum. I would try them all if I didn’t live so far away.
    Liked the Halal story (want some!) and being part-German smiled at the wurst! Mmm, German Fries! Haven’t seen so much variety for a long time, but that’s New York for you!

  2. I had no idea you are part-German muse… and as to variety, these are just a small fraction of what i got :-D

    glad you like it… I’ll try not to disappoint by posting more ;-)

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