Two years ago, we posted our first guide to eating well near Grand Central. It's not easy in Midtown East, which is awash in restaurants, but mostly mediocre ones that cost too much. But whether you work nearby or are just passing through, you deserve a good meal that's not crowded by tourists or burdened by heavy prices.
So two years later, here's our updated field guide, with everything from quick bites to full sit-down meals.
Breakfast Before Departure
Eggs Travaganza: A bit of a walk, but one of our favorite breakfast street carts in New York, with fluffy eggs and crisp chorizo on cheap, cheap sandwiches.
Pershing Square: A good-looking, if frenetic cavern of a restaurant with really, really good pancakes.
Joe the Art of Coffee: One of our favorite Manhattan coffee mini-chains, with a location right in the terminal.
Sandwiches, Slices, Cheap Eats
Uncle Gussy's: Pick up high quality, well-made Greek dishes from this family-run food truck.
Kwik Meal Cart: You can't go wrong with almost anything you pick from this food cart (a Vendy Award finalist in 2008!). Our favorites are the tender lamb, moist falafel, and perfectly cooked fish.
The Kati Roll Company: A solid mini-chain devoted to kati rolls, an Indian take on a burrito or sandwich. The vegetarian fillings are our favorites.
Xi'an Famous Foods: The best destination in NYC for the food of the Chinese city of Xi'an. Try the chewy liang pi noodles or "lamb face" salad, all doused in their alluringly fiery house sauces.
Hing Won: A solid lunch spot that features reliably good roast pork over rice and standout banh mi, made with the likes of roast pork or duck.
Le Pain Quotidien: An international chain that serves up rustic loaves of bread, salads, sandwiches, French pastries, oatmeal, and more to be enjoyed at the reclaimed wood communal tables. For something a little different, try the huge, crispy chocolate chip cookie.
Mangia: The menu here is expansive, including breakfast fare, panini, sandwiches, customizable salads, pasta, pizza, smoothies, bakery sweets, and full dinners.
Murray's Cheese at Grand Central: Grab bread of your choice, along with some cheese and charcuterie, and build a sandwich of your own; or pick up one of the tasty pre-made sandwiches. Be sure to ask the cheesemongers (they're professionals) for the tastiest selections.
Num Pang: The second location of one of our favorite sandwich shops; expect Cambodian-style sandwiches piled with well-prepared proteins, along with crunchy fresh cucumber, pickled carrots, fresh cilantro, and a house-made chili mayo.
Black Shack: Imagine a much better version of Burger King's Whopper; those are the sorts of burgers you'll find here.
Previti Pizza: A haven for pie-lovers in this generally pizza-poor area of Midtown. Check out their lunch deal (two slices and a soda at a discount) or their awesome roast beef sandwich.
Naples 45: Despite the name of this pizza joint within the MetLife building, we like the New York-style slices better than the Neapolitan. Dine in or take out.
Macchiato Espresso Bar: Good coffee, better sandwiches.
Pret a Manger: Grab-and-go sandwiches, soups, and more.
Dishes: Imagine a typical lunch buffet, but actually good, and you have Dishes. It's pricey, and a zoo during office lunch hours, but it's a good place for the indecisive to put together an impressive cold-dish plate, or a sandwich, or a salad...
Bill's Bar and Burger: Excellent crispy-edged smashed burgers that first wowed us downtown before their new, huge Rock Center restaurant opened.
'wichcraft Not every sandwich is perfect, and some are a little pricey, but we're rarely disappointed by the tasty sandwiches at Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortuzar's breakfast and lunch joint.
Got A Little Longer?
Szechuan Gourmet: One of the city's top Sichuan restaurants, a gem in the heart of midtown where you can choose from dishes like Crispy Lamb Filets and Stir-Fried Green Beans.
Sakagura: An underground soba bar serving great noodles without the pomp and circumstance. Well-loved by regulars.
Olympic Pita: A Kosher cafe with Middle Eastern specialties like shawarma, kebabs, and pretty decent falafel, available on pita or chewy laffa flatbread.
Salvation Taco: Stylish salads, tacos, tortas, and cocktails in an unexpected location. Braised lamb naan tacos and fried pig's ears are must-orders, along with sweetbreads tacos for the more adventurous or roasted cauliflower tacos for vegetarians.
Akdeniz Turkish Cuisine: Big stews of lamb and okra, always-hot pide bread, and other warming Turkish fare.
Katsu-Hama: Fried Japanese pork and more.
Café China (Midtown East): Our vote for the best Sichuan in midtown, and some of the best in the city, for that matter. The clean, well-designed space is several steps above your average New York Chinese restaurant.
A Few Steps Up
Kajitsu: Impeccable service, beautiful table settings and flatware, and outstanding food. Arguably the best vegan meal in town.
Sip Sak: Our favorite Turkush restaurant in New York with outstanding vegetables and kebabs in a marble-topped, bistro-like setting.
Sushi Yasuda: Some of Manhattan's most highly acclaimed sushi.
Aburiya Kinnosuke: Head to Aburiya for a taste of Japanese Izakaya cuisine. With side dishes that change daily, excellent desserts, and memorable tofu, their lunch special is a delight to any weary traveler.
Ai Fiori: Michael White's superb French-inflected Italian restaurant is pricey but worth it. Visit the bar for options that will do less damage to your wallet.
La Fonda del Sol: Tapas with great desserts.
Dos Caminos: Upscale Mexican fare and fresh guacamole with eight spins on the margarita and 150 tequilas behind the bar.
Grand Central Oyster Bar: For an upscale experience within GCS itself, head to the Oyster Bar. It's one of New York's iconic food institutions, and the raw bar doesn't disappoint.
db Bistro Moderne: A modern French bistro crossed with American burgers. It excels at both; don't skip the fries.
Smith & Wollensky: Iconic New York steakhouse with an excellent ribeye.
Neuhaus: The Erupean chocolate shop credited with creating pralines now sells a variety of filled chocolates (pralines, nougatines, and manons), truffles, gianduja, and bars. Good for gifts.
La Maison du Chocolat: A polished dessert bar dedicated to all things chocolate: in truffles, baked, ice cream, macarons, and more. Best for takeout, beautiful gift wrapping.
Bouchon Bakery: The second New York location of Thomas Keller's fantastic bakery. Go for the buttery kouign amann (like a croissant, but better) or the Oreo-esque TKO. If a savory craving strikes up their grilled cheese is one of the best in town.
Financier Patisserie at Grand Central: Decent French pastries right in Grand Central.
Minamoto Kitchoan: Delicate Japanese sweets.
Bars and Bar Food
Lantern's Keep: At this intimate bar tucked inside the Iroquois Hotel you can sip wine or beer, but we suggest trying the carefully-made, retro-style cocktails.
Bierhaus: A German ale house with five Hofbrau beers (along with a selection of liquor and wine) and food offerings much more substantial than the usual interpretation of "bar food." Expect thick, malty pretzels, creamy potato salad, juicy wurst sausages, and more. Good for groups.
Royalton Hotel: A classy, civilized bar where you can choose from wine, beer, or cocktails made with premium ingredients.