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10Best from Casual to Haute Lunching in NYC: Midtown Madness at High Noon



From 57th Street to Madison Square Garden lunch in New York City is a fool’s paradise. Lunch time is the perfect time to check out some of the city’s finest restaurants because they feature prix-fixe deals that cost 30% less than dinners. Shift gears from your workday and plan for a repast at the seductively elegant Le Bernardin, take a trip to a soulful sanctuary named Hangawi in Little Korea on 32nd St., or stroll to a Paris bistro at Benoit. Comfort food on your mind? You don't have to plan very far ahead for a quick New England getaway at the Oyster Bar counter, one of the city's most famous landmarks. Not much time to eat, hit one of the better grab and go hubs such as Shake Shack at Madison Square Park or Grand Central Terminal's Dining Concourse or across the street Cipriani's offers a taste of enchanting Venice at lunchtime … you choose.


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The restaurant's slogan â€" "Put Some South in Yo' Mouth" - Brother Jimmy's mission is to bring "down-home" cooking, hospitality and merriment to the heart of the Northeast. Over the years, Brother Jimmy's established itself as the home away from home for A.C.C. Alumni. Homesick alums from Duke, UNC, N.C. State, Georgia Tech, U.V.A., Clemson, Maryland, and Wake Forest began to flock to Brother Jimmy's to catch the big Duke/UNC game, or to watch the Demon Deacons take on the Terps. By opening in Manhattan's most popular neighborhoods, Brother Jimmy's found a home in the hearts of not just transplants to the city, but all New Yorkers. 416 8th Ave.; 212-967-7603; TRAINS: A, C, E & Long Island Railroad/Penn Station

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The name Cipriani conjures images of luxury hotels and elegant bellinis served at Harry's Bar on Piazza San Marco in Venice. This taste of Cipriani across the street from Grand Central Station is about breakfast, lunch, on-the-go-New York style. Crowded at lunchtime, plan ahead, order online, but enjoy a full meal at less than $20. This is a work crowd, few stay because seats are at a premium. The ingredients are fresh; the menu features hot specials like tagliolini al pesto to red snapper alla livornese; special salads are meals in themselves, soups of the day come in two sizes. Desserts are to die for â€" tarts, pies, souffles, tiramisu, panna cotta even the cookies taste special. 120 E 42nd St., b/t De Pew Pl & Lexington Ave.; 212-557-5088; TRAINS: 4, 5, 6, S/Grand Central Station

Recommended for Lunch because: Known for luxury, Cipriani's pragmatic little sister in NYC, sells hot dishes, sandwiches made to order and elegant desserts.

Maria's expert tip: A tiny place, be prepared to squeeze in, know what you want, order fast then jump out of the way until your name is called and you pay.

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8
Flatiron District


Here's the scenario: You're working near Madison Square Park, it's winter, summer, spring, fall. You're hungry, and don't have a lot of time. What do you do? Head to Shake Shack's Mother Ship in the Park. Easily one of the best grab and go options in town, as are its siblings dotting Manhattan from Battery Park to the Theater District, the Upper East and Upper West sides; and beyond to11 states and five international locations. Born out of hot dog cart in the park, its menu promises and delivers everything from breakfast sandwiches to burgers and bird dogs to shakes and frozen custards. Update for the super-vigilant: the Chick'n Shack is made withy 100% cage-free chickens, served on a non-GMO Martin's Potato Roll. Shack Swag is available as are doggy treats. Southeast corner of Madison Square Park (near Madison Avenue & E.23rd Street); 646-747-2606; TRAINS: N, R, 6/23rd St

Recommended for Lunch because: Modern-day take on roadside burger stands, this place brings people of all ages and backgrounds together for high-quality classics.

Maria's expert tip: If you're only here for sweets, skip the burger line and B-Line it to the front.

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Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant


Timeless New York, this famous Oyster Bar dates from 1913 and continues to provide first-rate seafood dishes to business people, socialites and foreign dignitaries. This classy restaurant hearkens back to the Gilded Age, when the "spare no expense" mentality reigned supreme. Head Chef Sandy Ingber's seafood specials change seasonally and include over 25 varieties of oysters, soft-shell crab and her highly regarded herring. The lunch counter offers a great place to enjoy the daily paper or to have a business lunch over an oyster pan roast or your favorite stew. Of the sandwiches that are only available at the counter, the fired oyster po' boy is among the favesLower Level, Grand Central Terminal, 89 East 42nd Street; 212-490-6650; TRAINS: 4, 5, 6, S/Grand Central

Recommended for Lunch because: Beneath the grand and gleaming Guastavino vault ceiling is more than a century of New York City history and affordable lunch options.

Maria's expert tip: Hop on a stool at the counter for a classic New York experience: don't miss the oyster stew and clam chowders. Note: half-off-Mondays, when wines under $100 are half off all day.

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Del Frisco's Grille New York could not have a better location: in the heart of Rockefeller Center near Times Square, three blocks from the Museum of Modern Art and one block from Radio City Music Hall. Among its finer features: a sweeping bar with a wood-burning oven, expansive walls showcasing over 700 bottles of wine and a sprawling patio for alfresco dining. The decor is accented with stylish architectural elements and original works of art. A high-quality lunch spot that isn't ostentatious. With such eclectic options as Shaved Prime Steak Sandwich and the Grille Prime Cheeseburger to healthier options like the Steakhouse Salad and Kale & Brussels Sprouts SaladThe bar buzzes with a high-energy after-work scene while the dining room lowers the volume for guests escaping from the rush of the city, or for a tête-à-tête with a client for a business lunch, or dine with friends. 50 Rockefeller Plaza; 212-767-0371; TRAINS E, M/5th Ave., 53rd St.

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Something exciting has happened at that iconic bistro, Benoit. Alain Ducasse is a world traveller and it is explicitly expressed in the fact that he likes to open French restaurants outside of France, such as Tokyo and Osaka. Of course, the original centenarian Benoit is in Paris, and the New York version welcomed a brand new team this year. With Executive Chef Laëtitia Rouabah in place, Benoit is ushering in a new era. Alongside Rouabah is the young Head Pastry Chef Thomas Padovani, who hails from Corsica. Together they focus on the New York Meets Paris approach that includes new interpretations respecting traditional fare. Young and up-and-coming winemakers are spotlighted with rotating wine flights such as the Vine a la Ficelle system where guest pay based on the amount of wine consumed.

Recommended for Lunch because: Ideal place to savor upscale French classic bistro fare in the heart of town.

Maria's expert tip: Another wonderful spot to try out the ease of bistro fare: prix-fixe two-course menu at lunch costs $32; a three-course prix-fixe, $38.

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4
Garment District


Boasting, perhaps, what is the area's best vegetarian menu, Hangawi offers patrons a chance to dine in a refined, traditionally decorated setting and enjoy some of the best Korean food you can hope to find. It's not uncommon to find a wide range of customers here, from business-types to neighborhood artists, most of whom make the wise decision to opt for the Emperor's lunch or dinner combinations. These provide excellent ways to sample all the best that Hangawi offers. Of course, experienced diners will go with one of the tofu or mushroom specialty dishes. Prix Fixe lunch $24, dinner $60. Reservations suggested. Smart casual dress. 12 E. 32nd St. b/t 5th & Madison Aves.; 212-213-0077; TRAIN: B, D, Q, N, R, F to 34th St

Recommended for Lunch because: HanGawi is more than a restaurant; it's a sanctuary serving artfully-prepared Korean vegetarian cuisine in a harmonious and spiritual atmosphere.

Maria's expert tip: HanGawi's busiest times are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Best to make reservations in advance.

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Located a stone's throw from historic Grand Central Station, in the heart of Midtown East, Docks Oyster Bar boasts a menu rich with fresh fish and thoughtfully executed dishes. The extensive raw bar features shrimp, crab, clams, and daily oysters shucked on the half shell from both the east coast and the west. Seasonal items are de rigeur: Nantucket Bay Scallops, Florida Stone Crab Claws, Maryland Soft Shell Crabs, and Wild Alaskan King Salmon. Lobster hash is among the most popular items and it arrives with two poached eggs drizzling over the potatoes.The three-course $28 prix-fixe lunch menu choices include a decadent Mac & Cheese Carbonara with Gulf Shrimp. Don't say we didn't warn you. 633 3rd Ave. b/ 40&41st St., 212-986-8080; TRAINS: 4, 5, 6, S/Grand Central Station

Recommended for Lunch because: A cavernous, bustling high-energy lunch spot between Grand Central Station and the United Nations.

Maria's expert tip: Make reservations midweek or sit at the counter for some rich bartender banter. The pace is quick, the conversations colorful. Check for prix-fixe plates.

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Grand Central Dining Concourse


No place reflects NYC's energy and character as does Grand Central Terminal. Beneath the hustle and bustle of the terminal, are 35 casual lunch options on the Dining Concourse for average Joes, Janes, an dvisitors. Grab a table, or an Alice in Wonderland high-backed chair, belly up to the counter of choice â€" and expect to pay under $20 and often just $10 for a meal served inside the heartbeat of Manhattan. Concourse players include: Cafe Spice (Indian), Chirping Chicken, Ciao bella Gelato, Dishes, Eata Pita, Feng Shui (Chinese), Frankies Dogs on the Go, Golden Krust Patties (Jamaican), Hale and Hearty Soups, Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, Junior's (burgers and cheesecake), Magnolia Bakery, Manhattan Chili Company, Mendy's Kosher Delicatessen/Dairy, Shake Shack, Shiro of Japan, Thai Toon, Tri Tip Grill, Two Boots Pizzeria and Zaro's Bakery. Grand Central Terminal 89 E. 42nd St. TRAINS: 4, 5, 6, 7, S & Metro-North Railroad

Recommended for Lunch because: The Dining Concourse is a cornucopia of eateries from bars and kiosks to ethnic cuisine options at affordable prices.

Maria's expert tip: New Yorkers tend to favor grab and go lunches, but several spots include wait service while the spaces in between recall train cars and Alice in Wonderland seats.

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One of the finest tables in New York City and ranked among the top 50 in the world, Le Bernardin has a sublime blend of celebrity in chef Eric Ripert whose blend of a French and Spanish influenced seafood menu is served in an elegant and tranquil setting accented by life-sized artwork that is romantic and seductive even midday. Eric Ripert, a close friend and disciple of the original owner Gilbert Le Coze, came on expanding the choices to include such treats as the savory Chinese-spiced red snapper with crepes, crowned with an aged port and Jerez vinegar reduction; and the scallop slivers with shaved black truffles; meats are prepared on request. A prix-fixe three-course lunch menu costs $85 for a meal that will remain in your gastronomic memory for a very long time. 212-554-1515; 155 W. 51st TRAINS: B, D, F/47-50th St-Rockefeller Center, Q, N/57th St.

Recommended for Lunch because: The menu has garnered Michelin stars, George Beard awards, and the staff reflects that quality, they will pamper you at Le Bernardin's.

Maria's expert tip: Men are required to wear blazers; jackets of all sizes are on hand; dress to match the experience you are about to have.

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Meet Maria Lisella

No matter how many countries Maria Lisella has visited (62), this native New Yorker finds the world at her doorstep in amazing Queens where its residents speak 138 languages.

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