The Midtown Guide
Save for the theater district, this slice of Manhattan island has historically been associated with office buildings, salad bars, and little else: When you ask most New Yorkers where to get a great lunch or after-work drink, you’re met with blank stares. We’ve rounded up the best of the best, including a lot of great new arrivals, as the neighborhood has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Here, our favorites for everything from a quick lunch to the perfect last-minute gift.
Kaffe 1668530 5th Ave., Midtown
If you're meeting friends here keep in mind that there are actually two Kaffee 1668's in Tribeca, just a handful of blocks from each other on the north and south sides of the neighborhood. If they're looking to own an area, they've certainly done it, as it's the best spot south of Canal for an almond milk latte (or fresh juice). Another boon: There's plenty of seating and WiFI, too, particularly at the location in upper Tribeca.
Momofuku Milk Bar15 W. 56th St., Midtown | 347.577.9504 x5
While working at Momofuku in the early days, Christina Tosi—office manager at the time—started baking the occasional treat for the team. And her insanely sweet, totally novel confections quickly took off. Soon, she had her own shop next door (and now many more in NYC) where she and her staff crank out ridiculously complex layered cakes, the aptly named Compost cookies, and unusual soft-serve flavors—all simultaneously nostalgic and unlike anything you've ever tasted.
Culture Espresso72 W. 38th St., Midtown
The garment district isn’t exactly known for a stellar specialty coffee scene, so the fact that there are two excellent options a mere block from each other is pretty great. Culture Espresso is the original, but it’s snug, which means you might have to wait for a seat. The newer and significantly bigger Culture 36 is ideal for getting stuff done, if you don’t mind the semiloud music. Both locations brew Heart Coffee Roasters coffee and serve Culture's famous house-baked chocolate chip cookies (they sell out fast, so come on the earlier side).
Toby’s Estate81 E. 45th St., Midtown East | 646.747.0801
This is one of few places around that roasts their own beans, which are responsibly sourced from all over the globe. Meanwhile all five Toby’s Estate locations (the other four are spread out between Williamsburg, Bushwick, the West Village, and Flatiron) are consistently simple and comfortable in design—think communal tables, couches, and excellent lighting. Yes, it’s a great set-up for work, but also worth stopping by on your day off for a simple and hearty lunch. (They also offer a random assortment of classes in everything from art to cupping.)
Dean & Deluca156 W. 56th St., Midtown | 212.586.2970
Dean & Deluca has three cafes in Midtown, at City Spire, in Rockefeller Center, and in the New York Times building. While the cafés don’t carry the same selection of gourmet foods as the larger Soho and Madison Avenue stores, you'll still find excellent coffee and plenty of pastries and sweets behind the counter. It's a perfect pit-stop for a quick breakfast, or for picking up a treat on the way home from work.
Forty CarrotsBloomingdales, 1000 3rd Ave., Upper East Side | 212.705.3085
Hidden on the seventh floor of Bloomingdales, back in the bedding department, Forty Carrots is still serving the best frozen yogurt in the city. An early pioneer of the fro-yo movement (it opened back in the ‘80s), they have all the classic toppings, from gummy bears to Butterfingers, and you can ask for more than one flavor swirled.
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.
Lady M. ConfectionsThe Plaza Food Hall, 1 W. 59th St., Midtown | 212.452.2222
Even those who are not big on dessert can appreciate the paper-thin layered crêpe cakes that made Lady M. Confections so famous—not too sweet, and with a delicate consistency that literally melts in your mouth. The interiors of all nine international locations are kept strictly stark-white, with the cakes displayed like precious jewels on tiny podiums: there’s the Checkers cake, a chocolate gâteau, tarts, and so much more. While the original outpost is on the UES, the two Midtown boutiques are a blessing when a 3pm sugar craving kicks in.
ROYCE’509 Madison Ave., Midtown East | 646.590.0650
This minimalist Japanese chocolate shop actually has three locations in Manhattan (Bryant Park, the West Village, and Madison Avenue)—each one tinier and more compact than the next. Founded in Sapporo, their specialty is Nama Chocolate, a box of creamy rectangles dusted with cacao and arranged to geometric perfection. They make an unusual and always-appreciated hostess gift.