Hungry for Justice

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Published August 16, 2010

PHOTOS BY JULIA TURSHEN

I recently learned that getting summoned for jury duty in the fine borough of Manhattan does not merely promise boredom and restlessness—it’s also an opportunity for tasty, cheap, adventurous lunching. Over my eight days of serving on a jury for a medical malpractice case (I’ve learned more about the prostate than I ever even knew was possible), I got to make a bit of a project out of my lunch breaks. Between 1 and 2 PM each day, I managed to fit in not only more than a single meal, but also multiple cultures, normally all for less than ten dollars. Below is a guide to the most worth visiting, even if you’ve got no reason to be in court.

Nha Trang One [87 Baxter Street] Nha Trang One was my go-to. Fast, cheap, nearby and so busy (which means lots of turnover—fresh, fresh food). Terrific Vietnamese pho, the vegetable base light and punchy, the beef broth aromatic but not cloying; both enlivened by crunchy bean sprouts and whole basil leaves. You must order their Vietnamese iced coffee, if only for the spectacle–a tall ice cream sundae glass comes piled high with ice and a small coffee cup with its own percerlator arrives next to it. Wait for the strong coffee to brew and pour it over the ice, which will melt it some and stir in the condensed milk from the bottom of the coffee cup. It’s like a milkshake, and it’ll keep you awake for all kinds of testimony.

Xi An Famous Foods [88 East Broadway, #106]Well-regarded and often written-about, Xi An deserves all of its acclaim (there’s also now a branch on St. Mark’s).  Their hand-pulled noodles aren’t the most beautiful things in the world, but you can’t worry about appearances when something tastes so good you’ve got your eyes closed during your entire lunch.  Their savory cumin lamb burger is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  Ever.  A cute little bun gets generously packed with shreds of slowly cooked lamb that’s been crisped on the outside. The whole thing drips with red chili oil and pieces of green chili crop up here and there. It’s so divinely seasoned, such a mess, such a glorious  thing.  Eat it bent over at the waist to save your shirt. It’s the best $2.50 you can spend. Wash it down with a Korean Chilsung Cider, a soda that’s pretty much Sprite–it cuts all the spice.

 

Nice Green Bo [66 Bayard Street]Formerly known as New Green Bo (which I guess got old). Great standard Chinese-American food.  Try not to stare at the handsome young man at the shared table who gets impatient with his hot dumplings and eats them too fast and turns red as chili oil. Unwrap your fortune cookie; mine said, “Your wisdom is a treasure for all time”

The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory [65 Bayard Street]The place to be if you need something sweet to tide you over. Maybe not New York’s best ice cream, but a pretty impressive variety of flavors. The pandan is my official recommendation.

Excellent Dumpling House [111 Lafayette]Excellent for sure. So quick and quite cheap. You can have a plate of Chinese greens with a generous scatter of crispy pieces of garlic. Ask for brown rice and feel good about your health.

 

 

 

Ajisen Noodle [14 Mott Street]A Japanese ramen chain, but popular for good reason.  You can choose between curry, miso with clam or pork bone stock.  Go with the pig.  Super rich, ultra satisfying.

 

Landmark Coffee Shop and Pancake House [158 Grand Street]Sure it’s become a SoHo hipster favorite, but the Landmark still couldn’t care less.  Terrific French fries, bad coffee, good eggs, and a fresh iceberg salad with warm grilled chicken is the way to go. I saw the woman next to me eating mashed potatoes with her eyes closed: a good sign.

Food Sing 88 Corp. [2 East Broadway]Cheap and fast, apparently the two requirements for the jury duty lunch break. They specialize in  bowls of soup made with toothsome noodles and heady, satisfying broth.

 

 

Joe’s Shanghai [9 Pell Street]Almost too famous–and therefore too busy–but worth it for the soup dumplings, those bundles of dangerously hot crab and pork with rich, fatty broth miracurlously enclosed in chewy dough.  Punch a hole and sip your soup, then take the whole thing in one bite. A quick dip in the vinegary soy sauce doesn’t hurt one bit.  If it’s way too busy, try Joe’s Ginger down the street.

 

Great NY Noodletown [28 Bowery]Cantonese style food, a late night chef’s favorite that’s also good mid-day.  Very good congee if you’re in an oatmeal kind of mood.

Hong Kong Station [45 Division Street]A noodle and rice assembly line with all sorts of add-ons. Kind of like a midtown salad bar, but much less depressing. Lots of familiar stuff (chicken wings, vegetables including great mushrooms) and lots of unfamiliar (insides like beef stomach and outsides like pigs feet).  Don’t miss the fish balls, if only for the bragging rights.

New Beef King Corp [89 Bayard Street]Great beef jerky, pick up a bag to nosh on in between closing statements. The wet spicy beef is yum.

 

 

Winnie’s [104 Bayard Street]Who knew Winnie’s was open before midnight?  If you want to skip eating and sing karaoke on your lunch break, it’s just around the corner from Centre Street.

Wo-Hop [17 Mott Street] Great Chinese-American food. Tell a friend to come downtown and meet you and split wilted greens and an order of clams with black bean sauce.