The Best Affordable Lunches in Midtown East


With endless towers full mostly of office workers, Midtown Manhattan has plenty of hungry mouths to feed come lunch. And it's a sad truth that most of those lunches are downright bad, especially if you're looking for something quick and affordable.

So if you're tired of the same sad delis and fast food chains, we have you covered with the neighborhood's best, most reliable fast and cheap lunches, from deli sandwiches to falafel to Indian street food.

Falafel: King Of Falafel & Shawarma Express


The King and his falafel. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Astoria falafel superstar Fares "Freddy" Zeideia made a lot of lunchers happy when he opened a cart in Midtown. His falafel are oblong rather than round, giving them a great ratio of crisp exterior to light interior. The Midtown menu is more limited than that of the Queens original, but you can still find those signature falafel and two versions of shawarma: chicken and a beef-lamb mix. You'll also find Zeideia's homemade sauces and pickles.

King Of Falafel & Shawarma Express: East 53rd Street and Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022 (map); 718-838-8029;

Egg Sandwiches: Eggs Travaganza


Mexican grilled cheese at Eggs Travaganza [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

In Midtown, some of the best (and worst) lunch options are food carts. Eggs Travaganza upgraded to a truck, but still makes a great Mexican grilled cheese with chorizo, bacon on multi-grain bread. The truck is a great place to stop before work for breakfast—where else can you get freshly made pancakes on the side of the street?

Eggs Travaganza: East 52nd Street and Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022 (map); 917-657-0987;

Inventive Sandwiches: 'wichcraft


Roasted pork loin at 'wichcraft [Photograph: Lily Chin]

Tired of the typical Italian combo? Tom Colicchio's sandwich shop 'wichcraft doesn't just lean on the classics, but instead features a seasonal menu of inventive options. Offerings change frequently, but you're always likely to find something good. Like in Colicchio's high-end restaurants, a lot of importance is placed on using quality meat and produce.

'wichcraft: 245 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10167 (map); 212-780-0577;

Solid Slices: Pizza by Certé


The Italian Wedding pizza at Pizza by Certé [Photograph: Adam Kuban]

Pizza by Certé has a large menu, so we recommend sticking to the sandwiches and pizzas. The Italian Wedding pizza, topped with juicy, light meatballs, spinach, grana Padano cheese, mozzarella, and hot pepper, is a great square slice. The Pomodoro is a great slice too, topped simply with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Cer Té: 132 East 56th Street, New York, NY 10022 (map); 212-813-2020;

Indian Street Food: The Kati Roll Company


Kati rolls at The Kati Roll Company [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Kati rolls, Indian street food consisting of various fillings wrapped up in a paratha, are a great snack that easily turns into lunch. If you can trek west to 6th Avenue, hit up the Biriyani Cart, but in Midtown East, the Kati Roll Company also makes a great roll. Go for the undo aloo, gently spiced eggs and potatoes wrapped in flaky, doughy flatbread. The cheesy achari paneer is a solid option as well.

The Kati Roll Company: 229 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022 (map); 212-888-1700;

Greek Classics: Uncle Gussy's

Uncle Gussy's Sampler Plate

A sampler plate from Uncle Gussy's. [Photograph: Donny Tsang]

Uncle Gussy's isn't your average gyro cart. Brothers Nick and Franky Karagiorgos are making restaurant-quality food in their truck, like pork souvlaki and some of the best fries you'll find on the street. The brothers' mother Ekaterini and aunt Georgia are also involved, marinating pork chops or baking baklava for daily specials. Lines get long at this truck come noon (with good reason), so hit it early or late to beat the crowd.

Uncle Gussy's: 51st Street and Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022 (map);

Southeast Asian-Inspired Sandwiches: Num Pang

The Sandwich

Pulled Duroc Pork at Num Pang. [Photograph: Laura Togut]

New York has no shortage of banh mi, but Num Pang looks just west of Vietnam, featuring sandwiches inspired by chef-owner Ratha Chaupoly's native Cambodia (though authenticity is definitely not the shop's main concern). These are big, meaty sandwiches, Americanized if you want to think of them that way. The produce gets lost on the Pulled Duroc Pork, but the massive pile of tender, moist marinated pork belly more than makes up for it. Picky eaters beware—Num Pang has a strict "No Modifications" policy.

Num Pang: 140 East 41st Street, New York, NY 10017 (map); 212-867-8889;

Chinese Takeout: Hunan Manor


Sautéed Preserved Pork with Dried String Beans at Hunan Manor [Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Hunan Manor proves that Chinese takeout doesn't have to be a gloopy mess. This underrecognized Hunanese spot in the shadow of Grand Central is a full-service restaurant, but has cheaper lunch options that will make your coworkers jealous. Skip the Americanized General Tso's and head for the traditional Hunan menu, which has a way with pickled, smoked, and otherwise preserved ingredients. Preserved pork with dried string beans and fish submerged in chili oil are standouts on both lunch and dinner menus.

Hunan Manor: 339 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016 (map); 212-682-2883;

Updated Deli Standards: Spreads Sandwich Shop


Turkey at Spreads Sandwich Shop [Photograph: Ben Jay]

Spreads' sandwiches are balanced, flavorful, and inventive enough to excite, but simple enough to satisfy on a regular basis. The shop proves that with a little care, even a humble turkey sandwich can be great. It elevates its version with aleppo-pickled roasted peppers and spicy chipotle mayo as well as sliced avocado and crumbled tortilla chips. The chicken schnitzel features the same peppers along with a kale slaw and garlic mayo for bite.

Spreads Sandwich Shop: 441 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016 (map); 212-758-5555;

Upscale Salad Bar: Dishes

Honey Pumpkin Cake from Dishes

Honey pumpkin cake at Dishes. [Photograph: Niko Triantafillou]

You know Midtown's nightmarish steam table buffets? Dishes is like that, only good. The prices can be a little steep, and during the lunch rush it's packed with office workers, but it's worth it for the wide selection of reliable lunch choices. An indecisive eater can pick from an array of sandwiches, salads, and more. You can also find good desserts, like a creamy, not too sweet mango coconut tapioca pudding and a very nice honey cake.

Dishes: 299 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022 (map); 212-421-5511;

Mexican Street Food: El Rey del Sabor


Al Pastor torta at El Rey del Sabor [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

New York has a reputation for lacking good Mexican food, but the El Rey del Sabor cart in Midtown challenges that assertion. Owned by siblings Ofelia and Vilio Cardoso, the cart puts out the food from their youth in Puebla, made fresh to order. Overstuffed tortas are delicious—bursting with meat and various fixings. Fat quesadillas, topped with homemade salsa, are a great choice too.

El Rey del Sabor: East 49th Street and Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022 (map); 347-353-2939;