If you read this blog every day, I’m sure you get the general idea of my taste. I’m not really into those delis that litter midtown with their “choice”. Choice to me is
“Do I get my combo with the pork fried rice, or lo mein?”. I consider most sandwiches kind of boring, and I never imagined I could eat a salad for lunch. That is, until I met the Variety Cafe… and I let my guard down. I allowed myself to fall in love with this Variety Cafe place, and their wonderful salad bar for fat people… only to have my heart ripped in half by their disregard for serving said salad without rodent droppings.
“I’ll never eat at a deli/salad bar place again” I said to myself (I use slashes when I talk- that’s pronounced “deli slash salad bar”), that is, until I found Cafe Duke. From the outside it looks like your typical Manhattan lunch place. The name, the decor, the salad bar, buffet by the pound, rotisserie bar, sandwiches and paninis, wraps and of course the sushi bar. But, hidden in the back left hand corner is the real gem of the place… The Korean Food station!
That’s right, Bi Bim Bap, Bulgogi and Korean soup, being served in the back of a Midtown deli. Bastards! I can feel myself falling in love all over again…
The food porn, and +/- after the jump…
I don’t know if you noticed, but there is no cheap Korean food in Midtown. So what do you do when you’re in the mood for some Bi Bim Bap or Bulgogi? Well, now you have Cafe Duke. $7.95 is not the cheapest price in the world, but it will have to do- since there is no other option. I went with the Bulgogi (Korean Style marinated beef over rice), which I now see was a little bit of a mistake, since the meat they serve over the Beef Bi Bim Bap is the Bulgogi- so if you order the Bi Bim Bap you get all the extra vegeatables and the egg, but still get the meat (granted it’s less meat- but if you like variety, Bi Bim Bap is the way to go). They give you a pretty decent size portion, with rice and kimchee (fermented cabbage- which tastes exactly as it sounds).
I’m a big fan of kimchee, but the one they serve is a little disappointing… so don’t expect too much from that, but the bulgogi was pretty good- especially considering it’s from a fast food deli. The Bi Bim Bap is obviously the fresh version (no option of having it served in a hot pot). It’s served in a plastic container that normally houses a salad or sandwich- but it looked good enough. They also had these Soft Tofu soups that seemed to be pretty popular.
The best part is, you don’t have to convince your boring co-workers to go to some “weird” cheap Korean place. So while they’re munching away on their $6.95 salad bar, you can be enjoying your Korean lunch that you didn’t have to go all the way to 32nd street to get!
SIDE NOTE: If you are reading this, and YOU ARE the boring co-worker, Cafe Duke is a great replacement for Variety Cafe (and even a little bit nicer). The salad bar is pretty comparable ($6.95 for 6 toppings), and they have a fresh deli area (where they can make any kind of sandwich you want, with freshly cut meats), a “Cosi”-like bar where they make sandwiches on wood brick oven baked flat bread, a fresh sushi bar, a Rotisserie bar, soups, and wraps. They also have an Udon bar (the tempura shrimp Udon looked pretty good).
Everything is slightly more expensive then it should be (by maybe a dollar) but the place is really nice, clean and comfortable- plus there’s a nice seating area with a flat screen TV, although it gets filled up pretty quickly- so get there early, or be willing to wait.
- There’s something for everyone. Korean food for you, boring deli food for your co-workers
- Did I mention there’s Korean food?
- Cleaner then most Deli’s in the city, with a nice seating area that has two flat screen T.V.’s
- I know, I know… there’s better Korean food to be had just 20 blocks south in Koreatown- but not everybody can make it down there for lunch (For those who can, I will be reviewing Arang- a Korean buffet, next week)
- Everything is about a buck or two more then it should be, in order to be considered cheap
- The kimchee was not that good
- It’s a frickin’ deli in Midtown, and mediocre Korean food doesn’t change that
Cafe Duke, 140 W. 51st. (btw. 6+7th Ave.), 212-445-0010