Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Financial District’ Category

Little Lad’s

Nooooo! Little Lad's has packed up its basket and is moving to Delancey St. I can't walk there for lunch. (8/16/11)

Last month James mentioned some half-secret subway passage he’d discovered that connects the M train at Broad Street to the 4/5. I’m still not convinced that that’s true (would it be the 4/5 at Wall Street or Fulton? Neither seem that plausible). I work a block from the M but that still doesn’t do me any good since I live on the F/G. I’m always trying to find ways of streamlining my commute and will stop at nothing. Even after a year-and-a-half at my present job I’m still in denial that four subway stops can take 40 minutes (an experiment of two F stops, then a one-block walk to the R, then another two stops took me 50 minutes this morning, I’m dead serious. I left home at 9:15 and didn’t get to my desk until 10:05).

I was more interested at his description of a dated subterranean greasy spoon that time had forgotten. Really? I envisioned 99-cent patty melts and woodgrain formica. Maybe you could even smoke at your table.

But I have a tendency to disbelieve people, James in particular because he’s not very observant. All he thinks about is work and his high maintenance mother. I might mess around in a subway passage during the middle of the day (actually, I wouldn’t either—I tend to use my lunchtime to write crap here but haven’t even had the time for that in the past week) but he wouldn’t. It must’ve been remarkable enough that he noticed at all, so a lunch meet up was in immediate order because this sounded good.

We entered the subway station on Nassau Street, below the Chase building. I can’t recall how many levels we descended or how many twists or turns we took, but we ended up in a narrow passageway that no more than two people could fit in at a time side-by-side. And then we were there.

Little lad's exterior

Hmm…faded, kind of like a Denny’s that hadn’t been remodeled since 1981. And photo murals and stained glass too? Even more perfect, the restaurant was called Little Lad’s. There didn’t seem to be menus, no one greeted us when we came in and there didn’t appear to be a counter or cashier. We sat in a booth-for-two and waited. This didn’t seem right. It wasn’t even close to crowded at prime lunch time either. I made James peek around the corner.

Little lad's interior

As it turned out, we came in the back door; the main dining room was on the other side of the L-shaped room and the centerpiece was a small buffet. Signs indicated that whatever you could fit into (no, overfilling) a Styrofoam bowl and plate on a plastic tray would be yours for $3.99. Yes! People mock my $5-or-less weekday lunch rule but it’s really only so I can splurge on dinners–they just don’t see me during the evening.

The food was odd, though. One section appeared to contain cold salady items and the other cart had what I guess you could call main dishes. Two pots of soup sit off to the side with a bag of hearty multigrain bread between them. I then noticed that meat seemed suspiciously absent but this wasn’t even ordinary vegetarian fare. Frankly, everything looked kind of boiled like prison slop. After I heard the girl restocking the blobby dressing respond, “that’s tofu, we don’t serve cheese” to a flirtatious inquisitive customer, I realized everything was vegan.

Maybe the clientele would give me further clues. There seemed to be large number of black patrons, office ladies in groups and solo gentleman. Ok, so this um, soul food? Not like I’ve ever seen before. Or maybe like a rasta vegetarian thing? But everyone was too clean cut. Should I be here?

Well, there were some white people who looked like the types who work in the Financial District but insist on commuting by bike. And a youngish Indian dude in skintight flared slacks, shades and sporting muttonchop sideburns and a pompadour. The staff seemed bizarrely mellow and polite. Too polite.  Something religious, kind of Amish, was definitely at play and I hoped I wasn’t going to be sucked into a modern day cult.

There also appeared to be a window where you could order food cooked on the spot. I wasn’t sure what to make of the first item on the list called a “handburger.” Or the “haystack” at the bottom of the sign. I’m guessing a handburger is a meatless sandwich, but they probably shouldn’t use such a fleshy word in the name. I’m still not sure what the hell a haystack is.

Little lad's lunch buffet

The food has grown on me during my two visits. It’s not really hippy but more bastardized Midwestern. I mean, three-bean salad and raisin-carrot slaw? I'm surprised they don't have animal product-free jello (I guess that would be agar agar, which is the base for crazy-pretty SE Asian desserts). The strange thing is that many of the items taste kind of pickled or fermented. The zucchini was tart and fizzy, so too the tomatoes. Mushy is the overriding texture. I like the beets, tofu dressing and how all the scoops of mysterious substances blend into a big wholesome blob. Their flyers and signage make all sorts of health claims. I don’t fall for hyperbole but my wild blood pressure and elevated sugars can use all the help they can get.

Little lad's entry way

The foyer in what I think is the main entrance has a tv playing sermons and lots of baked goods and fresh fruit on display. On my second visit, I picked up a naturally sweetened apple-cherry pie and James grabbed a bag of lemon herb popcorn. We were rang up by a clean cut middle aged white man that seemed very bible belt and extremely un-NYC. We didn’t get proselytized, just asked, “How did you find us?” A good question.

I later found out that the restaurant is Seventh Day Adventist. I didn’t think that they had any particular dietary restrictions so that is peculiar. The only Seventh Day Adventists I’ve ever known were the family who lived kitty corner to me growing up. I’m certain that I’ve mentioned them before. They stood out, not simply because they were the only African-Americans in our neighborhood but also because the wife had multiple sclerosis and rode around on a motorized scooter, baked cakes from scratch (which my mom thought was outrageous) and the husband was a male nurse. I’m still not sure why male nurses are such a strange concept to people, but they most definitely are. Same for guy librarians.

Part of the appeal of Little Lad’s is that going there feels like I’m snarking out. My favorite book in middle school was Daniel Pinkwater’s “The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death” because I was/is that kind of a dork. The misfit teens would sneak out at night to watch schlocky movies and find places like hidden beer gardens constructed of abandoned railroad cars where they also served baked potatoes.

I guess I can’t truly call Little Lad’s excursions snarking out because out of the blue during a recent company dinner an office mate started talking about the vegan restaurant she goes to every week. It’s definitely a secret, though. When I mentioned that I wanted to write about it she begged me not to and I completely understand why. Luckily, my audience is infinitesimal enough that a mad rush at Little Lad’s will never ever occur as a result of this missive.

Little Lad’s * 120 Broadway, New York, NY


Not only am I still sussing out the Financial District lunch scene, I’m also figuring out office eating etiquette. Like do the women actually eat, do people take full hours, are these expense account steak folks or Subway buy one get one free coupon types (the latter, it turns out), are there brown baggers in the house, is desk eating ok or a gross out. Personally, I like getting something relatively cheap and eating at my desk so I can use the time to visit mindless internet sites. The major hindrance so far is that I don’t have a desk, which is getting peculiar since I’m going on week four as of today. I imagined the situation would’ve been rectified by now but since on any given day someone is working from home there is usually a random desk and computer available. There hasn’t been any sense of urgency.

Being a refugee, I feel weird about eating in near strangers’ workspaces. I try to leave during lunch and stay gone for an hour (so far I’ve discovered the weirdo fried chicken udon at a Korean deli and Bento Nouveau. At both places I just wanted plain hacked up chicken like my old favorite from midtown’s Yagura, yet was presented with broth filled with chunky chicken nuggets. I like fried food but you’re getting the calories with none of the crispness from the skin so it seems like a waste. I also think the $6.45 lunch special at Taste of Tokyo is great value but it’s take out only so it doesn’t solve my midday seating problem).

Last week I was careful because I was sharing a space with my supervisor and I suspected she was a particular person and possibly vegetarian. I’m good at gauging who’ll be sensitive to food smells (usually the skinnier the more stringent). But she was out one day and I was feeling abnormally hungry and wanted something more substantial than sushi, soup or salad, my three big S’s.

I decided to check out Alfanoose, a popular Middle Eastern (technically Syrian-Lebanese but I don't add more specific categories until I have at least two restaurants to tag and I'm not sure that I have other Syrian eateries–I'll have to check) place, not all that near the office. I never spend $9 for routine lunch and it’s been paining me to break the $5 barrier but it was my first payday so I went wild. And even soup breaks that budget, it seems.

I was more impressed than I thought I would be. I expected Alfanoose to be rattier (not literally rat-filled, though I don’t quite get all the recent vermin hullabaloo) and more of a take out joint but it’s slightly more welcoming. Good signs were in place, like a case with homemade desserts (I’m curious about what looked like butterscotch pudding with a rectangular cookie placed flat on top like a sinking raft) and snacks like spinach turnovers and kibbeh. If someone’s taking the time to bake and concoct, they must care about their offerings. I’ve never set foot in Pita Grill, closer to my office (there’s also one in my home neighborhood) but it doesn’t seem like they’d whip up goodies from scratch on a daily basis.

I get nervous about lunch time heavies with long lines and regulars because I’m impatient, myself, and don’t want to mess up the ordering flow with clueless questions. That’s why I’m a big scrutinizer of online menus pre-meal. Normally, I would opt for a sandwich, but since I was starving I couldn’t resist the platter, my nod to temperance was ordering falafel instead of meat (I’m not sure if fried chickpeas have any health advantage over grilled lamb).

That’s the easy part, then come the questions. Hummus, baba ganouj or tabouleh, then I was confused by a choice of three grains which you could see through the glass. I think there was a reddish tomato rice, a rice with lentils and couscous with lentils, I went for the latter. I always agree to “everything,” it’s easier. That includes sliced red onion as well as sweet carmelized onion shreds, tahini and hot sauce. People are very particular about the amounts of condiments, lots, less; I got into the spirit of things and asked for a few extra squirts. Oh, and there is a sprinkling of those beet-stained pickled turnips that I could eat a small plate of, plus regular pickle shreds too. You also get a large pita rolled and wrapped in foil that doesn’t manage to maintain heat. It’s a lot of food, practically a whole cup of hummus and too much starch which is way better than typical filler. The couscous and lentils were soft, chewy and cohesive. I never got bored like I tend to with pasta and grains and had to force myself to stop eating the entire serving.

This looks like crap because I'd been carrying the carton sideways for seven blocks.

I brought my bounty back to the office and attempted to furtively eat in peace but the aroma of my Alfanoose styrofoam platter elicited “what is thats” from numerous people and then prompted, “you picked a good day,” implying that that the person who’d normally be sitting ten feet from me wouldn’t be as tolerant of the scents. I’ve never been bothered by food smells but I’m also chronically stuffed up.

The only time I took issue with unwelcome odors was when I moved into my first NYC apartment that had been occupied by an Indian family of five. I always thought curry was a pleasant scent but after a month the madras powder situation (and severe roach and mouse problem) still hadn’t dissipated. And matters weren’t helped any by my using their left behind mattress for three years because I couldn’t afford a bed (they’d been using two on the floor for all of them so I figured I was better off in some inexplicable way). It was as if cumin, turmeric and grease had seeped into every surface, and I don’t know if it ever went away or if I just got used to it.

But enough about work (and soiled mattresses) I don’t want to ruffle any feathers if someone inexplicably decides to Google me (I do work in the research department). Next time, I’ll get a sandwich instead of the full on platter and go late enough in the afternoon to snag a seat at the restaurant. I should take advantage of my full hour anyway and stop being a desk eater. Computers probably contribute to brain rot anyway, that’s why I can’t write a concise, non-meandering critique.

Alfanoose * 8 Maiden Ln., New York, NY

Adrienne’s Pizza Bar


There are those nights when food hardly matters. Admittedly, they're rare
for me, but have been occurring with greater frequency since starting a new
job (where a weird coworker informed me that someone who used to do my job
"went down to a size 4 from stress" Uh, was that a threat or a promise?)
where by 6pm I feel more like a stiff drink than a satisfying meal.

My visit to Adrienne's occurred on one of those Thursday nights. I barely
remember how my food tasted. I didn't even touch the bread and olive oil set
out to start, and I'm never one to shun fat and carbs. This was evening so
it was all rounds, not the square pies they're better known for (to be
honest, I'm a little afraid of the square slice). We split a salad with
roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, and a prosciutto and arugula

The whole Financial district, boisterous men in suits atmosphere doesn't
lend itself to relaxation. I felt edgy and watched while squeezed into our
small two-seater with the precariously placed pizza stand and jumble of
small plates. I would hardly write Adrienne's off as a bust, but I would be
more likely to go again for lunch rather than dinner.

Adrienne's Pizza Bar * 54 Stone St., New York, NY

Carl’s Steaks Downtown

Tony Lukes let us down a second time. The first time I attempted a sandwich it was too late and they were closed. This time it was a Saturday afternoon and the gate was down. It's not looking too good, I'm afraid. We were driving home empty handed, heading down Chambers St., just about to get on the Brooklyn Bridge when I remembered Carl's other branch. To the rescue. Phew. And they do a pretty good rendition too.

Carl's Steaks 79 Chambers St., New York, NY

Les Halles Downtown

All that a bistro should be, at least it feels that way. I went all classic
and ordered the hanger steak with frites and a frisee salad with lardons and
blue cheese. Meals like this make me think the Atkins Diet might actually be
doable. But can man live on meat and fat alone? (11/9/02)

Oh, this place always makes me go overboard on fat. The lardon filled
frisee salad with blue cheese heaped crouton-bruschetta would be a
sufficient meal, but I went nuts and also ordered the duck confit with
truffled potatoes. You know, I think I mightve ordered that exact same combo
the last time I visited Les Halles, which wasn't recently at all.

The food is always satisfying, but the service tends to mystify. Waiters
change throughout the meal, drinks are screwed up and then you are never
asked the rest of the evening if youd like another or even how your food is.
There's nothing maliciously poor about any of it, but you get the sense that
no one knows what theyre doing.

I was internally making fun of the young obvious out-of-towners a table
down from us because they wanted vegan items and then the guy just ordered
and ate while his girlfriend watched (I guess she was the no animal product
person). Why would anyone think French food would lend itself to this style
of eating? But then the tables were turned (almost literally) when I tried
to squeeze out of our two-seater without pulling out the table and my tipsy
(I eventually was able to flag down more wine) fat ass barely fit between
ours and the next and I almost fell on my head. Though I still think trying
to order vegan fare in a bistro is more foolish than forcing a large body
into a small space. (6/30/05)

* John St., New York,NY

Bennie Thai Cafe

I just found out that's its real name. James always referred to it as
Benny's and all I could think of was Benny's Burritos, and that's one place
I could do without. It's been said this is the best Thai place around Wall
St., but I think that's because it's the only Thai place near Wall
St. Not to imply that it's bad, because it isn't at all.

I only tried two pretty standard dishes, pad thai and beef with basil.
Both were very eatable. It's the sort of pad thai that's sweet. I don't know
if that's authentic or Americanized, but I do like that flavor. It's not one
of those deals where you specify the filling you want, it automatically
comes with tofu, chicken, shrimp and those unidentifiable crispy, rich bits
of meat that I've had in Malaysian noodles. Pork would be a good guess.

An interesting feature is the open kitchen that looks like it was
directly transported from a '70's suburban home. Wood cabinets, earth-toned
formica counters, and a regular no-frills stove are always a welcome sight.

Stopped in for a little basil chicken and red curry after guiltily
peeking at the World Trade Center wreckage while trying to not seem like a
gawker. Enjoying Thai with the smell of burnt who-knows-what in the air may
seem like a challenge, but it's not impossible. (10/9/01)

Take out green curry and E3 (basil chicken that James insists is the
best) made for good casual Fri. night dining. (2/15/02)

I hadn't been here in a million years, but it was 5pm Friday and I thought
I'd meet James near his office. Les Halles was bandied about initially, yet
somehow we settled on Bennie's even though we'd already eaten toned down
Thai two nights before (and 9D didn't serve pork
either–what gives? Thais eat pork). I'm not crazy about Bennie's, though
James has a sick fondness for E3, gai pad krapao, chile and basil
chicken, because it was the first version he ever had. Gai pad krapao
has become known as E3 ever since, even at other restaurants, and even in
other countries such as Thailand where they don't know much about E's or 3s,
but still whip up a mean version (usually served a lunch dish with a fried
egg on top).

I decided to try something other than a curry and ended up with an oddball
called rama dish, described as "sauted beef or chicken topped with peanut
sauce on the green." What arrived was a slew of vegetables like carrots,
Chinese broccoli, and baby corn mixed with beef strips and caked in peanut
sauce, served with a steak knife. Not thinned down nutty curry like penang,
which was what I'd anticipated, but the thick stuff used for satay dip. A
little goes a long way, you don't necessarily want mouthful after mouthful
of the sweet ochre condiment. It was weird, though not hideous, to say the

I felt unsettled by the fact that nearly every diner that evening was huge
(and that they were playing an all Christmas music station). I'm not tiny,
myself, and maybe that's why I don't want to be associated with a room full
of obese people eating fried rice and pad thai with chopsticks (I think we
were the only ones not eating pad thai or using chopsticks, including our
waitress). It's my own insecurity and I shouldn't fault Bennie's for drawing
inexplicably hefty patrons. (11/18/05)

Bennie Thai Cafe * 88 Fulton St., New York, NY