Midtown East Specialty
667 Lexington Ave., Midtown East
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.
Grand Central Market
Grand Central Station, 89 E. 42nd St., Midtown East
Spread out in one of the ground-level corridors, the Grand Central Market is packed out with NYC-specific food kiosks like Oren's coffee, Zaro's bakery, and Eli Zabar's Farm to Table. Some, like Li-Lac chocolates and Murray's Cheese are almost as famous as Grand Central Station itself.
509 Madison Ave., Midtown East
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.
81 E. 45th St., Midtown East
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.)
Grand Central Terminal, 370 Lexington Ave., Midtown East
Come here for classic, hand-rolled, kettle-boiled bagels: And all the relevant toppings, from super-thick cream cheese variations, to smoked lox, to a pretty great egg salad (and an egg sandwich, for mornings when nothing else will do). There’s room to sit quickly, though most people don’t linger (although they do serve La Colombe coffee). It’s also a great option for catering.
Murray’s Cheese Shop
Grand Central Station, 43rd St. and Lexington Ave., Midtown East
Murray's seems to import every conceivable cheese in production for public consumption, and has a staff that can happily walk you through (and sample) all of them. There are cheese cave tours offered for those who want to learn even more and delicious sandwiches—or melts—for anyone who wants more than just a few hunks of the good stuff. While they supply most of Manhattan with their cheese plate offerings, they also ship across the states. The original and main location is in the West Village.
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