There are always culinary surprises near the 47-50 St.-Rockefeller Center subway station, where the B line stops at Sixth Ave. Each visit yields a crop of undiscovered gems — like these three — serving great but affordable food to those lucky enough to work nearby.
Indian classics and lesser-known hits
You can get your chicken tikka masala on at the four-year-old Indian cafeteria called Spice Grill , but why not branch out a bit? In addition to the steam table curries and the tandoori chicken (like the naan, it’s cooked in a clay oven), there’s a broad list of lesser known items from south India all prepared to order.
Those include the thin, crispy crepes called dosas, made from rice flour and stuffed. The “masala” dosa is made with mashed potatoes seasoned with chilies, spices, vegetables, onions and chilis. It’s $ 7.95 and served with lentil-vegetable stew, coconut chutney and green chili sauce. You get the same set-up for idli, or steamed cakes made of fermented rice flour batter with lentils ($ 6.95).
There’s also a lengthy menu of chaat, or snacky dishes that are a mix of flavors and textures. For the $ 5.95 bhel poori chaat, for example, crispy puffed rice noodles, potatoes, herbs, onions, chilis, spices, yogurt and tamarind sauces are tossed together like a salad and topped with raw mango.
Spice Grill: 48 W. 48th St., near Sixth Ave., (212) 221-3005
Don’t look for the tiny OCD Cafe , which stands for “obsessive caffeine disorder,” above ground. This 10-month-old stall is right in the subway station. Sparkling clean and stocked with freshly made Illy espressos and hot Argentinian empanadas made using co-owner Alexander Reyes’ recipes, the shop seems almost like an MTA-induced mirage.
For Reyes — who runs the cafe with his parents — it’s also a dream come true. His family has worked for years in other people’s restaurants and coffee shops, with the eventual goal of running their own. Now they sell up to 300 of their empanadas a day, as well as cookies, croissants, quiches and other products they’ve sourced from the best of all the vendors they’ve worked with before.
The family hopes to one day make everything from scratch, says Reyes, once they secure a second (above-ground) location. Till then, don’t skip the empanadas, which range from $ 3 to $ 4 and come stuffed with nine different fillings, including perfectly cooked shrimp, scallops and crab in a creamy bisque; or steak and cheese with a mess of soft red peppers and onions.
OCD Cafe: 1196 Sixth Ave., at W. 47th St., (212) 575-2806
Super salad bar
There was a simple reason Norman Weiss and his father Isaac started Kosher Deluxe nearly 20 years ago with their friend Josh Schwartz. They worked in the Diamond District on 47th St., says Weiss, and “we needed a Kosher restaurant in the neighborhood.”
The sprawling spot — which has a sushi counter, Kosher-Chinese food and sandwiches like corned beef or schnitzel with excellent French fries — now draws a crowd of both Orthodox Jews and many others who work in Midtown.
The main draw is the chicken shawarma stand right by the front door. Choose your bread — thick pita ($ 11.95), a crusty baguette ($ 13.95), or the rectangular flatbread called laffa ($ 17.95) — watch your meat get sliced to order, and then garnish it from a salad bar that rivals any in the city. It has more than two dozen types of vegetables — grilled eggplant, whole charred peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes, shaved carrots, sweet potatoes, shredded cabbage and real sour pickles — that you can add to your sandwich or pile up on a plate as you see fit.
Kosher Deluxe: 10 W. 46th St., near Fifth Ave., (212) 869-6699