Here's the thing about shopping. When you need a break, you need a break—and wandering about overpopulated, overcrowded commercial areas looking for a snack is pretty much the most miserable experience imaginable. (Especially when you end up paying $15 for a bad sandwich and stale coffee.) So here's our guide to good eats in three shopping districts—Fifth Avenue uptown, Fifth Avenue / Flatiron, and Soho—to save you from the curse of a bad lunch.
Recommendations, maps, and more, after the jump.
Fifth Avenue, Uptown
View Fifth Avenue Uptown in a larger map
Prime Burger: Totally old-school, and one of Ed's favorites.
Angelo's Pizza: More-than-decent coal-fired brick-oven pies with fresh mozzarella.
Five Guys Burgers: It's not the best in New York, but as far as fast-food burgers go, we've got none better.
Katsu-Hama: Fried Japanese pork, and more.
Biryani Cart: It's a long block off Fifth, but the kati rolls from Biryani Cart—thick, doughy flatbreads wrapped around various spiced meats—are a must-try for anyone in this part of the city.
Michael Jordan's Steakhouse: Not the steaks—the bar menu. A gorgeous $6 plate of fried clams and tasty petite burger.
Eggs Travaganza: A little off the beaten path (in the other direction), but it's Ed's favorite breakfast cart in New York.
Cafe Zaiya: Delicate Japanese sweets.
Danku: We're ambivalent about their croquettes, but pretty in love with their stroopwafels and other sweet snacks.
Ma Peche: Falls into the "Might have a crowd, but you should still know" camp. David Chang of Momofuku just opened his fourth restaurant in the Chambers Hotel, and while Ma Peche still isn't serving a full menu, even lunch is worth a trip.
Fifth Avenue and Flatiron
View Fifth Avenue and Flatiron in a larger map
Aldea: For a lovely, quiet, first-class lunch. Not cheap, but three courses for $20.09 is an incredible deal.
Pita Joe's: Ed recommends their falafel.
Rainbow Falafel and Shawarma: There's nowhere to sit, but the cheap, hearty pita sandwiches can't be beat.
'Wichcraft: For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, this is about as classy and tasty as a sandwich chain can get.
Craftbar: A casual arm of Tom Colicchio's empire, its corned beef sandwich landed on Ed's definitive NYC sandwich list.
Brothers L&C Taco Truck: Fast, cheap, reliable,
Bar Stuzzichini: Way above-average Italian bar snacks, plus larger plates.
Num Pang: Wander a bit south of 14th Street for fantastic Cambodian sandwiches. Not the cheapest, but when the pork is this good...
The Adore: Japanese-style European pastries, plus dainty sandwiches.
Rosa Mexicano: It's big, it's glitzy, and it's not exactly cheap, but for refined Mexican food in New York, this is a very solid bet. Or just drop in for guacamole and a pomegranate margarita—the ultimate pick-me-up.
Eisenberg Sandwich Shop: A truly old-school New York sandwich counter.
Shake Shack: Okay, this isn't where you'll avoid the crowds. This legendary burger shack always, always has a line—but we can't talk about this neighborhood without mentioning it. General consensus? Best burger in New York.
Soho and Nolita
View Soho And Nolita in a larger map Sure, you could go to Balthazar—if you've got three hours to kill waiting in line. We've got a few other ideas.
Caffe Falai: Some of our very favorite breakfast pastries.
Pinche Taqueria: Ed's favorite fish tacos.
Ground Support: Excellent sandwiches, and tons of comfy seating.
Oro Bakery: It's a bakery, it's a bar, it's a cafe, and it's all worth eating.
Lovely Day Thai: Fantastic ginger fried chicken.
Despaña: There's not much seating, but you'll find the best Spanish sandwiches imaginable. "Asking what my favorite sandwich here is like asking a parent to choose a favorite child," Ed once wrote.
City Girl Cafe: If you need a brownie break (or some Stumptown coffee), this is your spot.