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One topic that we can all agree is interesting: good cheap eats around Mid-Manhattan

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What shall I eat?, Digital ID 495326, New York Public LibraryOne topic that I know everyone here at Mid-Manhattan Library is into, and that I’d really like to get a good discussion started about, is something near and dear to everyone’s heart - in fact, according to staff at our Health Information Center, it is located directly below the cardiac muscle. The topic is food, and where to get a good cheap square meal in this neighborhood.

I myself have a few regular lunch stops, listed here in no particular order:

Curry Dream - 66 West 39th (btw. Fifth and Sixth, south side, close to Sixth) 212-810-4125 - friendly service, and knock-your-socks-off good Indian food. I am fond of the “Vegetable platter” ($6.95), which includes two curries (I usually get the sag paneer, and the chana masala), basmati rice, nan bread, and a delightful rice pudding.

Szechuan Gourmet - 21 West 39th Street (halfway btw. Fifth and Sixth, north side) 212-921-0233 - friendly service, and carefully prepared Szechuan-style food that can be as fiendishly hot as you may ask for. I usually go with the either the “Enchanted Pork” or the braised crispy tofu with chili sliced pork ($6.95). Lunch specials come with rice (I usually get brown), and soup or soda.

When I’m feeling carnivorous (and rich - usually after payday) I go to Berger’s On the Go Fine Foods and Catering - 2 East 39th Street (just off Fifth) 212-719-4173. Two things I usually get - pastrami on rye, and the matzah ball soup (~ $12.00).

When I’ve got a yen for raw fish, I go to Chiyoda Sushi at 16 East 41st (aka Library Way -http://www.grandcentralpartnership.org/what_we_do/beautify_library_way.asp ). It’s expensive (it usually takes me about $12.00 to get my fill) but no other take out place I’ve been to in the neighborhood serves anything quite as fresh and brine-kist, though I wish they didn’t only offer the soy sauce, ginger, & wasabi in those awful little plastic packages.

On the street, I’ve had excellent chicken and gyro platters ($4.25) from a Rafiqi’s Delicious Foods stand on the southside of 40th Street just west of Park Avenue, and decent platters from the guys on the northeast corner of Fifth and 40th, and the southeast corner of Madison and 41st.

Ratings for these and other stands can be found via Chowhound and Street Grub among other Websites. There are a number of more distant lunch spots that I don’t go to on a regular basis, but are worth an occasional trip, including the Wolf’s Bay Diner, the Diamond Dairy, the buffet at Ho Yip, the Cafe Edison (aka the Polish Tea Room), BBQ at Virgil’s, and cuban sandwiches at Margon Restaurant.

Lastly, a block away from MML, I’ve been a recent convert to Asia Culture Inc. (aka Heavenly Bamboo Pavilion) at 10 East 39th (halfway btw Fifth and Mad., southside of the street) 212-684-2100. Their kitchen got off to a rough start a few years back, but of late I have been really digging their tasty (though admittedly standard) noodle dishes, especially the chicken mei fun. Get this though - the lunch special, which includes soup or soda and a salad, is only $5.95!

Not does the Heavenly Bamboo Pavilion offer good food, but they also have great crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon-inspired decor and a happy hour special whose moves are unstoppable - $2.50 bottled beers!

Which is, I suppose, is yet another topic that we’re all interested in, that of where to go for drinks - naturally, only after our work day is done!

Any other suggestions for lunch here in the neighborhood? Breakfast? Dinner? Drinks?

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