Monday, July 22, 2013

Eating While Shopping in Manhattan

[Update: Spring Natural and Once Upon a Tart have closed.]
[Update: Spring Street Natural has changed its name to Spring Natural and relocated to 98 Kenmare Street, which is about a block away from the previous location.]

Shopping is one of the great pleasures of a visit to Manhattan, along with sightseeing, theater and incredible dinners. After a few hours and laden with shopping bags, you’re bound to be hungry.

Since we tend to splurge on dinner while in New York, we like to keep lunch light and simple, but that doesn’t mean sacrificing taste. Below are some of our favorite places to duck into for lunch while on the retail trail.


Our favorite shopping neighborhood is dotted with little cafes, which, for better or worse, tend to fill up pretty fast around lunchtime. Soho is also home to Balthazar, but good luck getting in—when we tried to go in for lunch, despite many open tables, they weren’t accepting walk-ins. 

Instead, I suggest heading over to Spring Street Natural on Lafayette Street, the border between Soho and Nolita. For the area, it’s a fairly large restaurant, so you’re bound to get a table. If you can get there early, you might be able to snag a seat by one of the corner restaurant’s large picture windows that look out onto Spring or Lafayette Street. Definitely great people watching.

On a hot day, their entrée salads are particularly satisfying, loaded with fresh ingredients and meats like generous strips of grilled chicken. Their southwestern salad with sun-dried cranberries, roasted corn and toasted almonds is one of our favorites, and I recently enjoyed their Asian salad with pineapple, crispy wonton strips, mango and jicama.

Since a lot of the stores in Soho open a little later, if you find yourself in the neighborhood early and need to kill a little time, I suggest you check out Once Upon a Tart, which has a nice selection of baked treats.


View of Columbus Circle from Bouchon Cafe
Fifth Avenue is New York’s busiest shopping strip and also one of its trickiest for finding a good lunch. I prefer to get away from the bustle and head over to the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle on 8th Avenue. Although home to Thomas Keller’s upscale four-star restaurant Per Se, the shopping center also houses another Keller establishment, the Bouchon Café. The restaurant is set up in the concourse of the shopping center’s third floor, which gives the space a great view of Columbus Circle and the southern tip of central park through the windows of the building’s massive entrance atrium.  

Bouchon Café’s menu consists of salads, sandwiches and a few entrees. If you’re in the mood for a glass of wine, they also have a nice selection. One of the most satisfying meals I’ve ever had in New York was when we ducked into Bouchon Café on a scorching hot summer day and enjoyed a bowl of delicious cold corn soup (my corn soup recipe was inspired by it). 

For a sweet treat after your shopping is done, grab a corn or compost cookie at the Momofuku Milk Bar on 56th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. 

Union Square

For a break from the clothing and housewares stores around Union Square (and famed bookstore The Strand), I suggest a short walk to the next square north along Broadway, Madison Square at 23rd Street. There you will find Eataly, a giant Italian food emporium that is part market, part restaurant. 

I’ve made a habit of stopping at Eataly to pick up interesting pastas and other assorted food stuffs (I found hard-to-find fennel pollen here), but Chris and I enjoyed a meal here for the first time on a hot day when we wanted something light with lots of vegetables. We took a table at Le Verdure, the vegetable-themed space that is one of Eataly’s seven sit-down restaurants (if it hadn’t been so hot that day, we’d have been tempted by the rooftop beer garden, Birreria).

Grilled peach, bean and pea salad from Eataly

At Eataly’s Le Verdure, we shared a spot-on lunch of beans salad with sugar snap, green and yellow beans, toasted hazelnuts and grilled peaches that were so tender and sweet. We also enjoyed the polenta "pizza" bites, which had a base of polenta with a nice crispy charred corn flavor topped with tomato sauce, greens and fresh mozzarella with peppery watercress on the side.

Obviously, there are many more good choices for lunch while shopping in New York, but these have become favorites of mine over the years. What are some of your favorites? Please let me know in the comments.

Bouchon Cafe, Ten Columbus Circle, 3rd Floor (In the Time Warner Center, at the intersection of Broadway, 8th Avenue and 59th Street), New York, N.Y. (Midtown). (212) 823-9364. 

Eataly, 200 5th Avenue (on the Broadway side of Madison Square Park between 23rd and 24th), New York, N.Y. (Flatiron District). (212) 229-2560

Spring Street Natural, 62 Spring Street (at Lafayette Street), New York, N.Y. (Soho). (212) 966-0290. 


  1. Great roundup! That corn soup at Bouchon Cafe remains one of my favorite New York meals. Man, did that hit the spot. I also really appreciated the service we received at Eataly's La Verdure. Our server was especially friendly and helpful.

    1. Thanks honey! Thanks for mentioning the service at Eataly. It was a very good and I wasn't necessarily expecting that the service there would be great.

  2. did not know about Momofuku Milk Bar on 56th. Heading to that area tomorrow. woo hoo!

    1. The Milk Bar on 56th fronts Ma Peche. The first time I tried to go there, I actually walked past it. What's on your eating agenda?

  3. Fun post. Fifth Ave IS tricky for food, as you noted. I used to go to Two Boots on the lower level of Rock Center but alas, that location closed.

    1. Thanks! Always sad to see a favorite close. I bet the people-watching there was great.