RECOMMENDED: The best cheap eats in NYC
The hookup was bound to happen eventually: Beloved baker Amy Scherber has set up shop downtown right near Murray’s Cheese. It’s a dynamic duo if there ever was one. Scherber will offer her famous loaves—including that addictive raisin semolina—along with a full spread of breakfast pastries; grilled sandwiches, salads and soups for the lunch crowd, plus giant cookies and old-fashioned layer cakes.
The 12-seat location of this café proves that vegan cuisine and comfort food aren't paradoxical terms. Look into the open kitchen, where chefs cook up meatless dishes, like the Midtown Melt (Cajun-spiced seitan, agave guacamole, vegan cheddar and chipotle aioli on rosemary focaccia) and a vegan burger with soy bacon and onion rings. Healthy organic fruit and vegetable juices are blended on site, including the Field of Green, which combines spinach, kale, ginger, lemon, apple, cucumber and parsley.
Actor Pauley Perrette, best known as Abigail Sciuto on TV's NCIS, opened this Southern-style bakery as an homage to her late mother, Donna Bell. The Alabama housewife's visage is found in old framed photos hung throughout the quaint café, also outfitted with vintage wallpaper, gaslight lanterns and a wrought-iron chandelier. Sweet tooths can dig into homespun goodies, including red velvet cake and Mississippi mud pudding, while those craving a savory snack can opt for deviled-egg sandwiches, mac and cheese, and pimento-cheddar-chive biscuits.
Imported and house-made salumi, including sopressata and cacciatore, are the specialties of this Italian deli and café. Mozzarella, ricotta and the dried mozzarella scamorza are also made fresh daily, and the spot stocks pedigreed provisions, like Delverde pasta and San Marzano tomatoes. Hell's Kitchen lunchers can snag one of the Carrera-marble tables for a quick salad, pasta or panino on Pain d'Avignon bread. Look for the VIP (Very Italian Panini), which layers prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, fig spread and arugula on ciabatta.
You won't need Spanish skills to gobble down $2.50 carnitas (pork seasoned with garlic, thyme and oregano) and garlicky, lime-marinated beef tacos at this tiny, fast-paced Mexican bodega. The two-layer tacos are easy for little ones to handle, as are the sopes (thick cornmeal tortillas) topped with cheese, beans and whatever meat you fancy. Work your way to the back of the store to find a handful of stools to eat at or, if weather permits, enjoy your feast at the Hell's Kitchen Playground right across the street.
Like a traditional Japanese ramen-ya, this narrow, below-street-level noodle joint is designed for quick meals. Most seats are along a counter, behind which the chefs crisp pork slices with a propane torch and tend to bubbling stockpots. The specialty here is paitan ramen, a creamy soup that’s a chicken-based variation on Hakata, Japan’s famous tonkotsu (pork) broth. The most basic version, the Totto chicken, is a flavorful, opaque soup bobbing with thin, straight noodles and slow-cooked pork ridged with satiny fat. The real winner, however, is the miso ramen, enriched with a scoop of nutty fermented soybean paste and wavy egg noodles. Ramen is generally a feast unto itself, but you can bulk up a meal with sides like char siu mayo don—a mound of rice heaped with more unctuous pork, yuzu-accented mayonnaise and raw sliced scallions.