The Great Lunch
The grilled Cheddar burger on the new lunch menu at Prune probably isn’t quite as good as the perfect cheeseburger at Shake Shack, but you can dine on it indoors, in the midst of winter (with a small tub of tripe Milanese, perhaps, and a wedge of cherry pie), and you don’t have to stand on line for hours to get a taste of it. My other favorite noonday sandwiches are the copiously large BLT at my neighborhood bistro, Marquet, and the toasty, Swiss-style pork sandwich (spread with horseradish mayonnaise, sauerkraut, and melted Gruyere), served at Ralf Kuettel’s neighborly new restaurant in Chelsea, Trestle on Tenth. For a properly greasy midday feast, however, I like to sneak into Fatty Crab, for servings of Zak Pelaccio’s slow-cooked pork ribs, a plate or two of brined, crisp fried fatty duck, and finally, a bowl of Malay chile crabs, which are dunked in a rich chile sauce and served with big chunks of toast for mopping.
Le Bernardin is my choice for the ultimate, discerning, $57 prix fixe luncheon in midtown, although the Grill Room at The Four Seasons is still the place to go if you wish to observe the city’s great bull elephants gathered for their ritual midday meal. But if you grow weary of shelling out $65 for a few meager slices of Kobe-beef sashimi, or $56 for a bite or two of sole meuniere, then join the mob of secretaries, riotous stock touts, and assorted other Wall Street pizza hounds who line up outside Adrienne’s Pizza Bar, down on Stone Street, in the financial district, for a taste of Nick Angelis’s excellent “old-fashioned” pizza pies. Angelis bakes his pies in great, crispy-edged squares bubbling with cheese. But the key to their strange, almost primal goodness is the bountiful toppings, like buttons of fresh zucchini, crumblings of sweet Italian sausage, and the thin, crinkly wheels of eggplant, which bake into the cheese in a delicious, almost confectionary way.
Whenever I wish to soothe one of my kinetic, bonus-obsessed corporate friends, I take him to lunch at Cafe Gray, where we nibble on Chef Kunz’s baroque constructions of baked halibut or steak tartare, while gazing out over the chef’s toques at the soothing treetops of Central Park. The slick, perpetually mobbed barroom at The Modern remains the favorite lunchtime haunt for many wise-guy editors I know, but whenever I’m in the mood for a real slap-up daytime meal, I’ll take them a few blocks south, to Bar Americain, where lunch is the only time you can get a taste of Bobby Flay’s big-city rendition of the Kentucky Hot Brown. This calorie-laden monster is composed of a slab of French toast, piled with fat peppered slices of turkey breast, strips of smoked bacon, and a segment of roast tomato, all liberally bombed with a thick flour gravy. And if that doesn’t fill you up, you can always fortify your luncheon with tasting plates of artisanal ham, or the squash blossoms, when they’re in season, decorously stuffed, in high chowhound style, with deposits of barbecued pulled pork.