In 1981, Rolf Babiel disembarked in New York City with $500 to his name, quickly transforming the cash sum into Hallo Berlin—the city's first German food cart. Two brick-and-mortar locations now bear the Hallo Berlin moniker, vending traditional German dishes such as marinated herrings and schnitzels. The midtown location—a New York magazine Critics' Pick—surrounds guests between yellow and red walls that resemble the German flag and patriotic lederhosen. According to the New York Times, the restaurant's authentic fare "goes perfectly with the selection of German beers," which includes labels such as München, Kölsch, and Spaten.
The kitchen and wait staffs at Lemongrass Kitchen understand the importance of first impressions. With that in mind, they have surrounded the booths and plush chairs in the dining room with plum-colored drapes, vases full of lilies, and Asian-inspired artwork and pottery. To take it to the next level, each of their contemporary takes on Asian culinary traditions is plated with panache, such as jumbo shrimp suspended above a bed of fried rice noodles or Malaysian fried rice served inside half a pineapple.
Quirky, enigmatic owner-and-adventurer Karina Murphy founded The Blue Frog Coffeehouse as a venue for similarly spirited sippers to take in live music, delectable bites, and obscene amounts of caffeine. Blue Frog's main event— coffee—entices java junkies with a wide selection of morning medicines, such as the finger-fluttering triple espresso ($2.50), the creamy white mocha ($2.95–$3.95), or the smooth, sleep-banishing breve ($3.25–$4). Classic coffee companions, such as steel-cut oatmeal ($4) and a bagel with cream cheese ($2.40) are the pillars of the breakfast menu, and creative concoctions, including the banola bagel with banana, honey, granola, and a choice of peanut butter or cream cheese ($3.50), exude an enticing, experimental allure. Late-risers and night owls can satisfy cravings with an assortment of savory, café-style sandwiches, such as the curried chicken-salad wrap ($5), or the warm, turkey-bacon-guacamole panini, which is topped with avocado, melted together with asiago cheese, and kept zestfully keen with a cilantro and onion bite ($6.25).
Fabio's Italian Restaurant appeases appetites of all sizes and styles with a well-equipped kitchen and staff prepared to make fresh, authentic Italian cuisine to order and serve it up family-style. Hungry taste buds can peruse the comprehensive menu in search of pastas, Italian-style seafood, and sandwiches, while mouths in search of lighter fare can please their palates with heart-healthy creations that feature leaner proteins. Cast off on a Mediterranean meal cruise with a tongue-tempting appetizer, such as an order of stuffed portobello mushrooms, each brimming with fresh mozzarella, basil, and fresh diced tomatoes ($5.50). Entree options squelch the wild urges of untamed canines with savory forkfuls pan seared veal piccata plate-paired with capers and mushroom ($24.50) or tightly wound fork-spools of spaghetti alle cozze with sautéed black mussels ($22.50). Pay homage to Italy’s rich peninsular past with the Italian-style grilled tuna steak, which combines aquatic life and detailed preparation, much like the mermaid-themed mosaic in the Sistine Chapel’s lost and found office ($23). Complete culinary equations with flavor-flattering sides such as sautéed vegetables ($6) or homemade pasta slathered in alfredo or meat sauce ($6).
The Deli Downtown keeps it simple. They serve comforting American cuisine of baked-daily bagels, as well as inventive sandwiches made with tangy balsamic dressing, fresh mozzarella, smoked turkey, and homemade focaccia bread. An air of nostalgia permeates the restaurant, with its chessboard linoleum floors, silver-and-vinyl soda-fountain stools, and red-neon accents. The savory smells of toasted reuben and turkey-club sandwiches fill the remaining air as chefs labor at the panini press. For those who refuse to conform, diners can plot out their meal to perfect specificity with the build-your-own-sandwich menu.