Nobody wants to walk more than three blocks for lunch during the workday. We comb the city's micro-micro-neighborhoods in search of affordable spots for dining with co-workers, eating solo, or just getting takeout.
Today: Around Bellevue and Hunter College on 27th Street and Third Avenue.
Murray may rhyme with curry, but there are plenty of ethnic options besides Indian on the Hill. The scrub-clad workers of Bellevue and the NYU Medical Center shore up the East Side, while the collegiate triumvirate of Baruch College, SVA, and Hunter College fill out the area. Cheap South and Southeast Asian food and pub grub abound. The neighborhood's also a sure bet for vegetarians (and, by extension, kosher keepers).
•Chinese Mirch Feel the burn at this unique eatery, which combines Chinese wok technique with earthy Indian spices. Split spicy and mild dishes so you don't fatigue your taste buds, and share a large paper cone full of flash-fried crispy okra dusted with cumin and chile. 120 Lexington Ave., nr. 28th St.; 212-532-3663.
•Vertigo If you can't decide between indoor or outdoor seating, the front wall of this bar opens onto the street, so you can catch some sunshine without subjecting yourself to sidewalk traffic. An ample selection of protein-bulked salads like classic cobb with freshly grilled chicken breast and classic brewery fare like Buffalo wings and burgers are served on classy white dishware. 354 Third Ave., nr. 26th St.; 212-696-1011.
•Bamiyan This low-ceilinged Afghan eatery feels as cozy and cloistered as a rug-lined cave. Spill your office gossip over silky lamb and chicken stews accented by exotic ingredients like saffron, cinnamon, and pomegranate juice. 358 Third Ave., nr. 26th St.; 212-481-3232.
•Saravana Bhavan Dosa Hut Crisp vegetarian dosas with masala potato filling make excellent one-dish solo meals. Tear them apart by hand and dip into the savory coconut chutney, tomato cream sauce, and lentil soup. 102 Lexington Ave., nr. 27th St.; 212-725-7466.
•Waterfront Ale House Sit with the locals at the bar in this clean, comfortable brewhouse. We recommend the pulled-pork sandwich, which comes with creamy mustard coleslaw. The hearty Continental fare emphasizes game meats and ale; enjoy your meal with a covert cold pint. 540 Second Ave., nr. 30th St.; 212-696-4104.
•Ziggiz Feed your inner frat boy from one of the three basic food groups — burgers, burritos, and Philly cheesesteaks. (You can get a grilled-chicken-sandwich variation when you're feeling extra repentant.) Leave the few tables for the sluggish co-eds; carry your guilty pleasure back to the office, and make your calorie-counting co-workers jealous. 333 Third Ave., nr. 25th St.; 212-683-3663.
•Rice Same Asian-grocery-store décor, same smart mix-and-match Chinese takeout boxes of rice and toppings as its sister restaurants in Nolita. None of the pan-ethnic dishes are particularly authentic, but where else can you order Indian curry with bananas over Bhutanese rice with a side of avocado salsa? 115 Lexington Ave., nr. 30th St.; 212-686-5400.
•Curry Leaf The Kalustyan's ads on the wall don't do much for the dining room's glum interior, so get your tikka, tandoori, and carnivore-friendly curries to go. 99 Lexington Ave., nr. 27th St.; 212-725-5558.
•Jaiya This was the place for authentically spiced Thai food before Manhattanites learned to venture into Queens. Their rard nar noodles travel well and are as good as anything you can order across the river. Ask for the traditional chile-spiked white-vinegar condiment. 396 Third Ave., nr. 28th St.; 212-889-1330.