The Best Grab-and-Go Lunch Spots
Here’s the deal: Quick, packable, healthy lunch recipes are very much our jam—but we all have those days when pre-planning a week’s worth of meals, much less an emergency trip to the grocery store, just isn’t in the cards. The grab-and-go spots below offer low-maintenance alternatives to a packed lunch and, for the most part, won’t set you back from your clean eating goals (we threw in a few indulgences, just for fun).
Chelsea Market75 9th Ave., Chelsea | 212.652.2110
Located in the old Nabisco building just north of the Meatpacking District, you'll find a warren-like maze of restaurants and specialty shops here. There are many hits, but we like Los Tacos No.1 for authentic Mexican and Num Pang for Asian-inflected sandwiches. And, if cooking a special meal at home is an option, we'd pick up our bread at Amy's, cheese at Lucy's Whey, fresh groceries at the Manhattan Fruit Exchange, and crustaceans at The Lobster Place (they also do great pre-made rolls). You'll also find Bowery Kitchen Supply, Chelsea Thai Wholesale, Kingdom of Herbs, and Posman Books, where the offerings are more suitcase-appropriate.
Eataly200 5th Ave., Flatiron | 212.229.2560
This is kind of foodie nirvana, care of Mario Batali. Essentially Costco-sized, this Italian gourmet grocery store stocks aisle after aisle of the best artisanal ingredients, including truly fantastic fresh pasta. Throughout the space (which also includes cookware), you’ll find plenty of places to sit down and eat. While there are several gussied-up Batali restaurants upstairs, including a rooftop birreria, we find the best way to experience Eataly it is to grab a seat at one of the many bar-size specialty eateries scattered across the main shop floor.
Gotham West Market600 11th Ave., Hell's Kitchen | 212.582.7940
This new development in the formerly sleepy and overlooked West 40's gathers some of the city's top food purveyors like Blue Bottle Coffee, Ample Hills Creamery, and Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, under one roof, with a stand and bar-seating at each. It's worth trekking to this desolate part of town purely for Chef Seamus Mullen's tapas concept, El Colmado.
Sweetgreen100 Kenmare St., Nolita | 646.964.5012
We’re big fans of this sustainability-first spot, which is growing like crazy. The focus is on local farmers, proper sourcing, and environmental respect, which is also reflected in the hands-down delicious food. Besides the build-your-own salad bar, the bowl-centric dishes range from Mexican-inspired salads to basic cobbs—and in the true spirit of transparency, they reveal calorie content, too. Come lunchtime, the lines extend around the block.
Mile End Deli97A Hoyt St., Boerum Hill | 718.852.7510
Hearty, meaty sandwiches and Montreal-style deli food (house-smoked meats, poutine, brisket, and more) are served here, deluxe. Make sure to get a pickle on the side and wash it all down with a good glass of wine. There's also a location in Manhattan.
Olive’sBrookfield Place, 225 Liberty St., Financial District | 212.858.0111
No matter that no more than five people can fit in Olive's at once (and that it's really easy to miss when walking by), the sandwiches, soups, and salads here are mighty: While the offerings change daily, you can always count on a pretty delicious (and hearty) turkey sandwich, or a chopped salad packed with everything you could ever want. There's also a location in Soho.
Le DistrictBrookfield Place, 225 Liberty St., Financial District | 212.981.8588
This 30,000 square-foot French-style food hall offers a bustling market divided into different “districts" (from a café and an ice cream shop to an ample salad-and-prepared-food section to a fish shop, rôtisserie chicken bar, cheese section, candy store, etc.), as well as multiple restaurants. There’s Le Bar, which as its name suggests is best for a glass of wine and share plates (open until 2am), and then the gigantic Beaubourg, with standard bistro fare and a view of the water. The second restaurant, L’Appart, is tiny (only 28 seats) and helmed by an El Bulli-trained chef.
Dos Toros TaqueriaBrookfield Place, 250 Vesey St., Financial District | 347.515.6846
Co-owned by two brothers from San Francisco—who were dismayed by the dearth of good Mexican spots in NYC—the emphasis here is on the basics: Tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and burritos-in-bowls. The ingredients are fresh and local, and the flavorings are equal parts subdued and complex. This spot is popular: There's practically one in every neighborhood.
City Kitchen700 8th Ave., Times Square | 646.863.0901
This food market in Times Square occupies the first floor of the Row NYC Hotel. The place opened in March with nine vendors from all different parts of the city that occupy tiny outposts with simplified menus in one larger marketplace. It's not at all touristy, but the food is excellent—Luke's Lobster, Whitman's (their burgers are great), and Kuro Obi (a tiny concept shop from Ippudo ramen) all have stalls. Gabriela's serves breakfast tacos and hot coffee if you're stopping by early.
Dig Inn275 Madison Ave., Midtown | 212.697.7867
Dig Inn’s philosophy is “farm to counter,” which means that they serve sustainably sourced, usually local food in a casual setting and in a price range that makes it a reasonable option for everyday lunch. The salads and the market plates are easy to take back to the office (or home for dinner), and the menu changes with the seasons, so you won't ever be bored with the offerings. There are locations in Morningside Heights, Union Square, Tribeca, and in Midtown on 52nd, Madison, and 55th, in Lower Manhattan on Pine, Liberty, and Broad St., in Nomad, and off Madison Square Park.
Little Collins667 Lexington Ave., Midtown East | 212.308.1969
This tiny little café on Lexington serves great coffee (Counter Culture roasts), alongside a small-but-mighty food menu. While there's no denying how good the schnitzel and the braised short rib sandwich are, this is an especially great choice for vegetarians—the avocado smash (which is drenched in pumpkin seeds), the butternut squash and chickpea sandwich, and the mograbieh & cannellini bean salad are all fresh-tasting yet totally filling. The tiny space can get a little bit crowded during the lunch hour, so it's best to take your brown bag to go.
Schnippers1 NY Plaza, Financial District | 646.964.5409
Goop HQ will enthusiastically vouch for the fact that Schnippers (the original outpost is conveniently located on the first floor of the New York Times building) has the best chicken fingers in the city. While kids go wild for their fries and milkshakes, it’s a pretty great indulgence if you’re working late and need a convenient sugar bomb. They also have locations in Flatiron, Midtown, and in the Financial District.
The Plaza Food Hall5th Ave. at Central Park S., Upper East Side | 212.759.3000
The designer behind the Plaza's food hall is Todd English, who kept things upscale and fancy (if a little bit overly branded) for the venerable New York venue. Home to stands like Lady M, Epicerie Boulud, Luke's Lobster, and Sabi Sushi, it's a great, quick lunch stop if you're heading into Central Park. Pick up dessert at Billy's Bakery or William Greenberg—the former makes amazing black and whites.
Nanoosh469 7th Ave., Midtown | 212.390.0563
This Manhattan mini-chain specializes in healthful, Mediterranean food and is particularly convenient for lunch if you work in the area. Unlike the delis and salad bars you’ll find on every corner, the focus here is on mostly organic, impeccably sourced foods, meaning there's no mystery surrounding the origin or freshness of your salad, sandwich, or soup.
The Little Beet135 W. 50th St., Midtown | 212.459.2338
Ask someone with a gluten allergy about the Little Beet, and you're bound to get an earful of praise—the entire, delicious menu is celiac-friendly. Chef Franklin Becker was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when he was in his 20's and devoted the rest of his career to rebuilding his cooking style; the menu is full of light, healthy meals with an emphasis on lean protein and tons of vegetables. The seasonal menu items are always a sure bet, as are the make-your-own-plate options. There are also locations on Park Ave. and at Penn Plaza.
FreeFoods (Closed)18 W. 45th St., Times Square | 212.302.7195
This fresh, airy takeout spot is an automatic lunch staple. The restaurant itself is lovely; gleaming white subway tiles line the back wall and a long, clear bar showcases the cold lunch options. The Mexican salad is amazing (as is the guacamole), and the Sriracha chicken wrap is kind of insane.
Just Salad151 W. 34th St., Midtown | 212.244.1111
Just Salad was an early adopter of the fast casual dining option, and they now have locations in practically every New York neighborhood. While they have some great existing menu options (including a few rotating seasonal choices), the main move here is to create your own salad and have it chopped. The ingredients are always really fresh, as they source them from within 350 miles of the restaurant at New York, New Jersey, and Vermont farms; everything is organic and exclusively non-GMO. Other locations: Flatiron, Fashion District, Financial District (on Broad St., Gold St., and Broadway), 30 Rock, Murray Hill, Chelsea (there's one on 8th Avenue and one on 6th Avenue), World Wide Plaza, Lexington, Park Slope, Downtown, Upper East Side (on 3rd Avenue and also on 1st Avenue), Hudson Square, Downtown Brooklyn, Macy’s Herald Square, Upper West Side, and the Woolworth Building.
by CHLOE.185 Bleecker St., Greenwich Village | 347.620.9621
Chloe Coscarelli was fresh out of culinary school when she won an episode of Cupcake Wars with a vegan cupcake recipe: She was the first person to do so on that show or any other televised cooking competition. She’s since opened a casual restaurant in the West Village (followed by others), with an adorable interior (striped wooden floors, colorful tiles, hanging swing) and a little fridge with pre-packaged food. While the menu is focused on smoothies, juices, and great vegan burgers, you can still pick up her famous cupcakes.
Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop174 5th Ave., Flatiron | 212.675.5096
Eisenberg’s has been serving deli sandwiches and egg creams to New Yorkers since 1929, and while these types of delis are a dying breed at this point, owner Josh Konecky will proudly tell you that Eisenberg’s and its old-school style are here to stay. The menu offers all of the classics, from pastrami to BLTs to tuna melts, and regulars like to hang out at the counter and chat with the chefs (and Josh himself, of course, as he can usually be found somewhere on the premises). When you order your lunch to-go, they’ll package it '50s-style, in wax paper and a brown lunch bag with your name on it.
The Pennsy2 Pennsylvania Plaza, Midtown
The cast of characters at Pennsy is surprisingly star-studded, all things considered. Vegetable lovers, as always, will appreciate the presence of The Little Beet, but the market is also home to The Cinnamon Snail, a brick-and-mortar version of the beloved vegan food truck, which serves the kinds of sandwiches that make veganism much more appealing. Lobster Press is there as well, Marc Forgione's take on a casual seafood spot, where the thing to order is the sandwich for which the cart was named—a hot lobster panini, pressed and served hot. There's something here for carnivores too, at Mario by Mary (a fast-casual Italian collaboration between Mario Batali and Mary Giuliani that promises excellent Italian sandwiches and muffalatas) and butcher Pat LaFrieda's first restaurant (order the filet mignon sandwich or the meatball sub). While that line-up is enough to garner a lot of regulars, La Colombe coffee really cinches the deal.
Union Fare6 E. 18th St., Union Square | 212.633.6003
Union Fare, a newish foodhall smack-dab in the center of Union Square, has a little something for everyone: made-to-order salads, tacos, poké, burgers, pizzas under one roof. Bonus: there’s a coffee bar that serves matcha croissants for a midday pick-me-up.