West 38th Street
Between Seventh and Eighth Avenues
1. Lazzara’s Pizza Café, No. 221, second floor: Undersung thin-crust Sicilian pizza baked in old soot-black pans. Plus exemplary heros, crisp salads, and pretty good pastas, all of it served in an old-fashioned tin-ceilinged dining room. 2. Djerdan, No. 221: The best Balkan cooking in Manhattan, including bureks (giant slices of phyllo pie stuffed with spinach and cheese or ground beef) and cevapi (grilled Bosnian veal sausages). 3. Veronica Cafe Inc. (Italiano), No. 240: New ownership, a less “Italiano,” more something-for-everyone menu, and a renovation have rid this garmento favorite of its shabby-cafeteria charm, but the pasta is still good, especially considering it’s served from a steam table. 4. Pick-a-Pita, No. 247 (located in the back, past the elevators and a loading dock): The best falafel you’ll find at the end of a loading dock. 5. Rong Bao Fast Food, No. 270: Gives competitor 38th St. Restaurant a run for its money with comparatively posh premises and its own $3.75 three-item steam-table special (available all day). 6. 38th St. Restaurant, No. 273: Like the name, the décor and the level of cleanliness leave much to be desired. But the $3.75 steam-table lunch specials, the Hong Kong–style barbecued pork, and, especially, the sweet and savory Chinese pastries make up for the decrepit surroundings.
West 47th Street
Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
1. Diamond Dairy No. 4: Landmark lunch counter on the shopworn mezzanine of the National Jewelers Exchange, renowned for classic kreplach, dense latkes, cylindrical blintzes, and no-nonsense waitresses. 2. Diamond Garden No. 41: Taam-Tov owners expand their kosher domain across the street with a third-floor aerie serving kosher Chinese, sushi, and Mexican. 3. Berger’s No. 44: It may not be Katz’s or the Carnegie, but this bustling Jewish deli covers all the belly-busting basics, from knockwurst to corned beef. 4. Sabor Latino No. 46, third floor: Single men hunker over Styrofoam containers heaped with hearty, filling Ecuadoran fare: tender chicken stew, pork skin and potatoes, and four kinds of seviche on Fridays. Don’t miss the hot sauce or the cold oatmeal drink called, aptly enough, Quaker. 5. Taam-Tov No. 46, fourth floor: Packed with Central Asian Jews lunching on lamb shish kebabs, oil-slicked Bukharan rice pilaf, and deliciously dense hummus with thick, crusty bread.
1. Prince Restaurant No. 37-17: Plenty of great dim sum, provided you get there early enough, but big families fill the archetypical round tables at all hours. 2. TVM Mandarin No. 38-08: Everyone goes for the Peking duck at this spiffy newcomer, where the wide-ranging menu extends into Sichuan, Shanghainese, and Cantonese territories. 3. Laifood No. 38-18: A taste of Taiwan, from spicy pig’s ear to sweet-and-sour pomfret. 4. Sentosa No. 39-07: Savory standards like beef rendang and roti canai have survived the move from Chinatown to more elegant Queens quarters. 5. Spicy & Tasty No. 39-07: Bigger and better than its original location down the block, New York’s premier Sichuan restaurant tempts passersby with an unrivaled cold-appetizers station. 6. Waterfront Int’l Enterprises No. 40-09: This rambunctious new spot packs in the locals with northern-Chinese specialties, pitchers of beer, and complimentary kimchi and peanuts. 7. CHML H.K., Inc. No. 40-09: Hong Kong–style noodle soups accessorized with dumplings, wontons, and all manner of fish and meatballs, plus similarly bedecked congee and lo mein, draw a young crowd.