Everyone brunches. There’s nary a New Yorker these days who doesn’t indulge in the weekend pastime of mimosas and eggs, bloodys and bacon. But what about the weekday power lunch? I say it’s more important than any kind of weekend meal, and it’s in danger of becoming extinct. Too often men and women day-laboring in Manhattan’s many industries are forced to eat the midday meal at their desks, settling for flavorless food court finds, Halal carts or, God forbid, Pret a Manger. Let’s reclaim the power lunch. Here are some under-the-radar places to dine colleagues, potential poaches, friends and foes during a break from the dreary office.
94 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012
Note: Soho is where you can find the offices of glossy magazines, chic public relations firms, fashion juggernauts and plenty of work-at-home artists searching for a bite come noontime. Sure, there are scores of flashy places nestled into walls beside the cobblestones of Crosby Street, but the serious folk come to Fanelli’s, on Prince. It’s outlived any other tavern in the neighborhood, and for good reason, as a beer and burger here can never disappoint. Try to impress an old friend who thinks SoHo’s all gauche fusion joints with a lunch at Fanelli’s and they’ll never drop a hundo at David Burke again. Plus, you might have a celebrity run-in: Channing Tatum and John Mayer always seem to be there – not bad celeb buzz for a comfort food spot.
105 W. 13th St.
New York, NY 10011
Note: In the drab office desks of every New York writer lies a half-finished manuscript of the Great American Novel. Few finish them, but when they do, perhaps they’ll hash out final edits, cover art and European rights over escargot at Cafe Loup, a modest West Village bistro that’s been a favorite of publishing vets for decades. For the young, aspiring novelist it’s a tantalizing taste of a future literary life – lunching with an agent who orders wine and tells stories in whispers about Sonny Mehta and Salman Rushdie, then promises film adaptations and giant grants to write in Rome for a year. Or for the elder statesman of the book world, it’s an enclave that follows the way things were, a place where martinis come in threes and the novel they’re discussing is their twentieth. Regardless of where you are in your literary career, you can dream of a lunch at Cafe Loup that ends with your signature of a dotted line.
59 W. 44th St.
New York, NY 10036
Note: Sometimes power lunches aren’t about stepping out with a client, a source or a kid at a rival agency you’re trying to screw over. Sometimes lunch is about bonding with your co-workers. And when that happens, there’s always a spot across the street from the office to share a bite and a beer. The most notable of these gathering places might be The Algonquin, on a golden old stretch of 44th Street, where the staff of The New Yorker would convene for legendary meals soaked in wit and liquor, each writer trying his best to out-talk his storytelling friends. That was a century ago, The New Yorker offices are now in a big shiny new building in Times Square, and there’s no physical round table to sit at anymore. But who cares. The Algonquin is still a great place to take amiable fellow staffers for a quick bite between meetings, as long as a few jiggers of gin won’t impair their productivity too badly. Skip the Blue Bar – it’s renovated and looks like Las Vegas – in favor of the lobby, which is still regal.
Bar III at the Bergdorf Goodman Men’s Store
745 5th Ave. Third Floor
New York, NY 10022
Note: Going suit shopping in the middle of a work day might be even more indulgent than taking a long lunch. So, why not go ahead and do both? Bar III is located in the middle of Bergdorf Goodman Men’s, the masculine counterpart to the flagship that’s planted on the opposite side of Grand Army Plaza. Once you pass through racks of Tom Ford ensembles and Armani ties, you’ll find Bar III in a little nonchalant nook, its sleek black-and-white tables rarely booked wall-to-wall. The play here is the Gotham Salad, a hefty plate of chicken, gruyere and greens big enough to protect all men from any kind of menu choice ribbing. Meet a friend after a fitting, or ply high-up fashion publicists with enough wine to secure primo seating at the next Alexander Wang show. Come Fashion Week, there’s no doubt they’ll remember that salad.
246 10th Ave.
New York, NY 10001
Note: Chelsea is the land of a thousand galleries, but when all these painting purveyors need a place to nosh, Bottino is the only spot. The cafe is known as “The Cheers of the Art World,” and there’s no doubt that if you’re a major player in the game, everybody there will know your name. The maneuvering of the art world allows for many iterations of power lunches. There are scruffy starving artists trying to get galleries to offer representation (and maybe pick up the tab for their chicken sandwich). There are billionaire collectors trying to furnish a new place in Amagansett with a dozen pieces by the next Nate Lowman. There are curators picking at salads while figuring out who to spotlight in new shows. With cash flooding the industry at an alarming rate, this modest spot is a major artery of the art world, allowing for commerce and creativity that will affect Basel and London alike. For sure, nothing that highbrow ever happened at the original Cheers.