If you’re lunching on an expense account, Columbus Circle affords some of the finest options in the city — Per Se, Landmarc and Masa.
Grabbing a bite on a budget, though, is another story. At some point, even Whole Foods’ by-the-pound buffet and takeout sushi gets tired. Here’s a week’s worth of options to add to the rotation, all priced at $10 or less.
BOUCHON BAKERY $$ (pictured above. Photo: Deborah Jones)
Time Warner Center, 10 Columbus Circle, 3rd fl., 212-823-9364
Don’t think you can afford Thomas Keller? Think again.
Tucked between the Landmarc and casual Bouchon Bakery café, is a to-go counter with items from the café menu priced $3-$5 less.
Our picks: Herbed tuna nicoise sandwich smeared with olive tapenade ($9.25); a dark, meaty chicken soup with herb dumplings ($8.25) that’ll cure any aliment. Budget right and you’ll have enough left over for a giant cookie ($2.50) or pistachio madeleine ($1).
CARNEGIE JOHN’S ¢
W. 56th St. at Seventh Ave., northeast corner, no phone
Three words: Get the burger.
John makes it to-order on a flat top grill, pressing his spatula onto the patty to give it a good char. (This technique is known as the “smash method.”)
After the American cheese has softened, John gently transfers the patty onto a sesame-seeded bun, half of which has been ketchuped. On the other half, tomato slices and a handful of crinkled iceberg lettuce wait — plus onion and pickles, upon request.
Our pick: Isn’t it obvious? The burger is just $4.50.
SZECHUAN GOURMET $
242 W. 56th St., 212-265-2226
With 43 lunch combinations under $10, ordering here can be daunting.
May we make a suggestion? If you can handle it, go spicy. The cuisine of the restaurant’s namesake province is known for packing heat.
Our picks: Anything with chili is outstanding at either of the two Midtown locations; in its take-out container, the soupy braised ma paul tofu with chili minced pork ($7.95) actually separates into layers of different shades of red. Go ahead, we dare you.
KASHKAVAL FOODS $$
856 Ninth Ave, 212-581-8282
It’s impossible to have an under-$10 sit-down lunch at this charming Mediterranean market and wine bar, but the front deli offers several satisfying, good-for-you combos for takeout.
Our picks: Your choice of either baked elephant beans or French lentil salad ($8) or one of two types of chicken salad ($9), includes a small salad and one of three sides — we like the baked beets.
AQ KAFÉ $$
1800 Broadway, 212-462-0005
This list wouldn’t be complete without AQ Kafé, where a Scandinavian influence dresses up even the most ordinary items. Sorry, pretty blondes not included.
Our picks: The turkey sandwich ($8.95) benefits from lingonberry jam and herbed mustard, in addition to the regular accoutrements. For something heartier, and decidedly Swedish, try the meatball sandwich ($9.50), which is dressed with pickled cucumber, lingonberries, mashed potatoes and cream sauce.
Seventh Ave. to Ninth Ave.; 56th to 62nd sts.
¢= less than $5
$ = $5-$8
$$ = more than $8