December 10, 2006


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(The Hidden) Cosi

August 8, 2006

Deep in the heart of Midtown, there lies a gem, buried where few are willing to go… alright, maybe that’s not true- it’s just a Cosi, on 48th St.  But surprisingly it’s got no sign or awning sticking out- and despite its closeness to 6th avenue you can’t even see the place until you’re right up on it.  It’s pretty unassuming, and I’ve got to think alot of people don’t even know it’s there.  Even when you walk in front of it, it sort of blends into the building. 

I feel like everyone knows Cosi, and it’s silly to write about it- but the other day, when I returned to my desk with a Cosi sandwich, the guy next to me said “What’s that?” “Cosi” I said.  “What is it, a falafel or something?”.  Yes, people like this do exist.  To top it off this “Hidden” Cosi is on the SE corner of 48th & 6th.  Our office is on the NW corner and he hadn’t ever even *heard* of Cosi.  Pretty unbelievable. 

For those of you who rely on this blog for truly hidden gems, and ethnic delights- I apologize, but every once in awhile I gotta throw the normal eaters a bone.  So, for those who have not been to Cosi, consider this your intro.  It’s not that Cosi is that great… or everybody should know about it- but it’s better then most chain sandwich places, and they owe it all to one thing: the bread.

The bread at Cosi is delicious, and if you go during peak time (i.e. lunch) it’s about as freshly baked as you can get.  After spending some time in a wood brick oven, the bread comes out, is sliced, and passed off to be stuffed with the toppings of your choosing- minutes after coming out of the oven.  The bread is so good, they give out little hot free samples in a bowl that sits in front of the wood brick oven.  It’s a great treat while you wait in line to order- plus there is nothing more fun then watching Midtown suits take two and three pieces of free bread out of the bowl (you know who you are people).  Good times.  Also, if you haven’t been to Cosi in awhile they’ve added a fresh baked wheat bread option- so now you have the choice between standard or wheat.

My special Cosi creation, a list of not so hidden locations, and the +/- after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Tale of Two Signs: Variety Cafe Closes for “Repairs”

July 12, 2006

48th St. between 5th and 6th was a madhouse today at lunchtime as shocked (and not so shocked), but mostly confused lunch’ers attempted to eat at Variety Cafe… which has been closed by the Health Department.

The funny thing is, they hung a sign next to the Health Department notice, claiming to be “closed due to improve our service”.  The sign went on to implore eaters to “look forward to our updated look and quality service… We will re-open as soon as possible.”  Apparently “updated look” will be the Variety Cafe, without a Health Dept. Closed notice on the front.

Apparently the two signs worked on one lady who walked away shaking her head exclaiming “Closed by the Health Department.  I just don’t understand…”  What’s there to understand lady.  It means the big salad you ate last week, probably had more then just the 6 toppings you chose.

Nothing has appeared on the NYC Health Dept. website yet explaining specifics about why Variety Cafe was closed.  Their last score was a 7 in 2005 (28 and above is failing).

EDITOR NOTE:  We have created a new “Closed for Health Reasons” Category, which given our content, and location will probably have to be used more often then any of us would like.  Hing Won, you’ve been warned. (Why are all my favorite places so dirty!)

Variety Cafe

June 27, 2006

Riding down the elevator yesterday on my way to lunch, I heard a very funny and ironic (considering where I was headed) conversation. One guy asked another guy where he was going to lunch… and when he responded “Downstairs for a salad”, the question asker was like “Nice, another one of those $11.00 salads”.

I asked the guy where he was talking about. “Metro”, he responded. “You start adding all the good stuff, and by the time you’re done- it ends up being 11 bucks.” Well, my friend- your days of spending $11 on a salad are over. Solved by 1 trip to the Variety Cafe.

Now, let me first say I’m not a big fan of all the one-stop-shop delis/salad bars (i.e. Metro, Europa Cafe) that litter Midtown. Usually, pre-made sandwiches are a bad idea, and I’m definetely not a big salad eater. And while I like the idea of a buffet, one that charges by the pound is never a good thing for a fat guy like me. 

Which is why the salad bar at Variety Cafe is so great. For $6.45 ($6.99 with tax) you get a bowl of lettuce, and get to add any 6 items you want from their gigantic selection of toppings. Sounds like other places you’ve been to, maybe? Well here’s the best part… they have good, fat guy toppings… what I like to call “big money items”. The things you always want to get more of, but are afraid it will lead to a 17 pound salad that costs $436. 10 different kinds of chicken (including my personal favorites Thai Grilled Chicken, Cajun Chicken and Fried Chicken Cutlet), salmon, cubes of ham, avocado, mini fresh mozarella balls, blue cheese… everything. And of course all the fruits, vegetables and beans you find at every other salad bar in the city. And to top it off, your choice of 20 different kinds of salad dressings.

And the best part for a fat guy like me is, you get *whatever* you want. Want letuce with 4 kinds of chicken and two kinds of cheese, they’ll do it. They look at you like you weigh 700 pounds, but they’ll do it.

My perfect salad, and the +/- after the break…

Read the rest of this entry »

Aaron’s Restaurant

June 23, 2006

Day 5 of Falafel Week

Well, falafel week ended with a whimper this week.  I was unable to find Miriam's Falafel Cart on 46th & 6th, which has disappeared into some sort of falafel netherworld… and with no other suggestions from friends or message boards- I was forced to go to a place that I don't think is known for it's falafel, but I've alway been curious about… Aaron's Restaurant.

Because Aaron's Restaurant is on 46th between 5th & 6th avenue, I walk by it all the time (on my way to Hing Won, Variety Cafe or House of Pita).  Their sign hangs right over the sidewalk, but the place itself is on the second floor, so you can't see in.  Only a staircase leading up to god knows where.  And when I say "god knows where", I mean that literally, because Aaron's is a Glatt Kosher restaurant, which I think is loosely translated to mean "extra" kosher.

After climbing the stairs you find yourself in the front of a bare bones restaurant, with a buffet style counter where you can order things to go, or a seating area where you can order off the menu from a waiter or waitress.  The food behind the glass counter looked pretty good… but once again- it's falafel week, so I ordered a falafel with everything to go.

I'll try not to spend too much time on this falafel, because to be honest with you, it was pretty bad.  It was edible… and I finished it (after all I'm a fat man who loves to eat)- but every other place this week was better.  The first sign of trouble… after stuffing the pita with hummos and falafel he then put it in a microwave.  Once that happened, I had pretty much given up any hope of this place earning a second visit (for the falafel that is… I will be back but more on that later).

The pictures and +/- after the jump…. Read the rest of this entry »

House of Pita

June 19, 2006


House of Pita was the first falafel I had when I started working in Midtown.  One Avenue away from my office, on the most visited food street for my building.  (46th between 5th and 6th is also home to Hing Won, Variety Cafe, Lenny's, Cosi, City Market Cafe, Pronto Pizza & Wu Liang Ye- among others)  What better place to start then the original…

I really liked the House of Pita falafel the first time I had it… and there are some good qualities to it- but as I've tried more and more falafel's in this area I realized there a few areas where it falters.  First off, if you're not looking you could easily walk by this place.  It's not a cart, or a restaurant, but more of a counter where you order, and they prepare your meal.  There's no door, or seats, and the entrance is in a "knick knack store" filled hallway that connects 48th street with 47th Street.  There is usually a line/crowd of people in front of the counter, but it moves pretty quickly.

A description of the falafel, and the +/- after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »


June 9, 2006

lennys1The last thing NYC needs is another Deli (especially a chain!) but Lenny's continues to open up new locations- with one of the newer ones being right in Midtown on 48th between 5th and 6th Avenue.  I feel like eating at a chain deli in NYC is like eating at Taco Bell while you're in Mexico.  With so many sandwich choices already in midtown, when I walked by the sign the first time, I wondered why anyone would get a sandwich at a seemingly yuppified, over-priced chain like this. 

Well, after eating there a few times, the answer is simple… it's pretty damn good.  As for it not being authentic or home-grown, apparently the chain is an offshoot of a place opened in 1989 on the Upper West Side by Sei Hoon Lenny Chu, possibly the most unlikely named "Lenny" to ever open up a New York style deli in the history of the city.  They've recently begun franchising with plans to open 80-100 stores in the Northeast over the next 5 years.

As for the food, I'm sure everyone has their favorite deli to get a sandwich in Midtown- but it's ok to branch out every once in awhile, and Lenny's is definetely worthwhile.  The ingredients are fresh, every sandwich is made to order (unlike a lot of the Midtown delis) and the choices are endless.  You can order your ingredients ala carte, or choose one of their TONS of pre designed choices like Lenny's All Time Favorites, Cold Cut Combos, Grilled Combos, Homestyle Combos and Lite Sandwiches. 

The place is not without it's problems, but alot of those can be solved with a few easy suggestions… more on that, and the +/- after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »