It's old news that New York is one of the best eating cities in the entire world. With so much variety, even choosing a place to grab a quick lunch can be overwhelming, especially if you're short on time. As a busy resident of downtown Manhattan who enjoys some variety during lunch time, a few establishments have proven their consistency and value time and again. Whether I'm on my own, with friends or the parents are in town, I always know I'm guaranteed a fabulous meal. Here's my top-five list of places to get lunch in downtown Manhattan. Let's eat!
1. Caffè Reggio
Located in the heart of Greenwich Village and a stone's throw from Washington Square Park, Caffè Reggio has been a popular neighborhood eatery since it opened in 1927. Long before there was a Starbucks on every block, Caffè Reggio was serving cappuccinos (The original 1902 machine is on display in the dining room today), the first restaurant in the U.S. to do so. Despite the lavish artwork that decorates the restaurant's walls (Caravaggio anyone?), the prices are incredibly affordable. (Great news for NYU students on a budget!) Whether you go for a panini, a plate of pasta, or a salad, what arrives at your table will be delicious. It's the perfect place to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon; with the Norwegian Benedict and a glass of sauvignon blanc.
Nestled amongst the other food stalls in Chelsea Market, LOS TACOS No. 1 offers visitors a simple menu of tacos, quesadillas, and tostadas. Look behind the blue and white tile counter, and it's obvious that everything is homemade. Fresh flour tortillas brown on a flattop grill. Rotating spits of carne asada glisten under the bright kitchen lights. Despite the chaotic energy and the struggle to wedge your way up to the counter to fill your order, it's a beautiful sight to behold. While the incredibly friendly staff whips up your meal, round up your extra toppings (including radish, lime wedges, fresh pico de gallo, and salsa) and be prepared to move. Prime real estate to enjoy tortilla-wrapped heaven is down the hall (NOT at the counter. Don't be that person.) where recent renovations have added additional undesignated dining space.
Navigating St. Marks Place is confusing, to say the least. Despite being only three blocks long, this lively corner of the East Village packs in over 60 restaurants! While the street is famous for its nightlife, lunch here can be equally as enjoyable. Near the street's junction with 3rd Avenue is Klong, a modern Thai restaurant with an industrial-themed dining room. Make the most of their lunch special that lasts every day until 3:30pm. For under 10 dollars, you can get a main with a complimentary appetizer and a side salad or soup. The pad noh mai (a shrimp and chicken dish sautéed in red chili paste) is a personal favorite. Did I mention they have $3 margaritas and mojitos until 10:00pm? Heck yes!
Avoiding pizza on this list is like going an entire day in New York without hearing a siren. It's impossible. There are dozens of pizza joints peppered all over downtown Manhattan, but not all are created equal. Prince Street Pizza, located (unsurprisingly) on Prince Street is, without question, the best pizza I've ever had in my life. Anywhere. Whether you order thin crust or Sicilian-style pizza, with pepperonis or without, it will be delicious. There's something incredibly reassuring about seeing a hole-in-the-wall family-run joint with an insane cult following in the middle of a neighborhood as bougie as Soho. Yes, there will be a line when you get there, so plan ahead. While there are two ledges where you can eat your slice inside, it's better to doctor it up (read adding the obligatory red pepper flakes and parmesan) and head outside. Don't think about how you look while eating it. It can get messy, but it's so worth it.
5. Café Habana
Located less than a block away from Prince Street Pizza, Café Habana's lively atmosphere of excited conversation and Spanish music will never fail to draw you in. While a part of a larger franchise that comprises several other locations (Including one in Brooklyn!) and a non-profit that preserves urban communities and encourages environmentalism, the restaurant on Prince Street is the original. After starting your meal off with the Mexican street corn slathered with mayonnaise, cheese, chili, and lime, skip over the Cuban sandwich and head straight for the eggs. The huevos rancheros are particularly delicious. Whether you decide to wash it down with a coffee or a margarita is up to you.