Thursday, November 18, 2010

Block by Block

Lately, I've been finding myself having a late lunch and being short on time (i.e., I can't walk all the way to the east side or up to the 50s or down to the 30s). Instead of just going to Europa and Pret (and similar places) every day, I thought it might be good, for those days where I'm short on time and not craving anything in particular (often), to finally put in place the block by block idea that I have been considering for a long time. After all, the West 40s have so many options to eat lunch.

When I was a kid, I used to wonder why we often returned to the same restaurants when there were so many other places we had never tried in the same area. Why not just go in order down the street and go to each restaurant? That way, we can say we tried them all, and we would know for sure if they were good or not. Being the kid (and not the payor), it wasn't really my choice to implement this. And besides, I liked going to places like Chevy's. (Mmm, tacos.) (Side note: I had the same idea at the mall - why not just go in every store in order? I'm really not much of a shopper now so that idea no longer appeals to me. I do, however, go up and down every single food aisle at the grocery store. Love grocery stores.)

I've often wondered why I haven't done the same for lunch. I have worked at the same place for over 5 years now yet there are some places on these neighboring blocks that I still have never been to (despite having them on my list of places to go "at some point"). Some of it is due to what I'm craving at the moment, some of it is due to trying to get in midday exercise and take a long walk, and some of it... well, I don't know, can walking by without going in become a habit?

So, I'm starting my block by block challenge now. Start at one end of a nearby block and then go to the next establishment, and then the next, trying each place until that block is done. And then start with a new block. I'm not going to do this every single day because if I have time and ability to walk, I certainly will go further than across the street, but if I'm short on time and am not like "I must have Korean food!" why not try this out?

A few ground rules:

1. I can skip places that I have been to before. Maybe I've been before and really didn't like it (can't think of anything off the top of my head) or didn't think it was worth it (like the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck). I can skip those because I've done them. Maybe I'll talk about past experiences. But I haven't really hated most things enough to skip them entirely so I'd probably go again.

2. I can skip places that don't really do takeout. I'm not really going for a sitdown lunch all the time. If it doesn't look like a place where it's comfortable to go in and order something to go, I really don't want to do it. Social norms and all. But considering how many places are on Seamless Web, this may not be a large number of places.

3. I can skip places that are too damn expensive. I don't like spending more than $10 on lunch, definitely not more than $15 (I feel guilty going over $10). My ideal lunch amount is $8 and under. When I first started working, it was $6. I ate a lot of hot dogs, street meat and sandwiches. But I'm not going in to an Italian trattoria and ordering takeout pasta for $15 for lunch. No thanks.

4. I can skip places that look hazardous to my health. For some people, this would eliminate large segments of the city, but not for me. I've eaten at restaurants before that ended up in the paper now for getting a C. (Chinatown bakeries, c'mon, what do you expect?) But if the place looks like it will make me sick, sorry, I'm not interested in food poisoning. Been there, done that. I'll also include here places with broccoli in everything, like some of those street meat carts, since unfortunately I'm allergic to it.

5. I can skip and go back to a place if the line is too long. I HATE waiting on line for lunch. I used to wait on the Dishes 1 pm double circle back into the market table lines. Not fun. I see the lines down the block for the famous chicken and rice cart. Is it really worth it? I won't wait on line for an hour for Shake Shack, why would I wait for a melted sandwich? In those cases, I'll go back if the line is unreasonable. But considering that lately I've been eating lunch at 2, I wouldn't be too concerned about this one.

6. I can skip a place that isn't really "lunch" to me. By that, I mean a place that just specializes in dessert or something similar. Sure, to some people, dessert is lunch, but for me, having solely dessert for lunch isn't that satisfying. So places like Pinkberry, Red Mango, etc. I can skip for this.

I think that's it. By the way, I started the block by block challenge today. Look for a falafel filled post later.

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