Media provided by authors, Alex Leddy ’22 and Charlie Wall ’22.
When Grace students reach their junior and senior years, they are awarded the privilege of leaving the building during their lunch period to enjoy the awesome food culture of our downtown neighborhood. Restaurants such as Shake Shack, Chipotle, or McDonald’s are favorites among students. Other, smaller, lesser-known places are often overlooked. This week, the two of us — Charlie & Alex, Alex & Charlie — set out to discover restaurants around St. Marks Place.
The first location we went to was Mamoun’s Falafel (30 St. Marks Place. Walk: 4 minutes). The Mediterranean restaurant is part of a chain, with locations in New Jersey, New Haven, and even Georgia. Being on St. Marks Place, it is a bit farther away from the school than other locations such as Shake Shack and Starbucks; however, our food did not take long to prepare and we made it back to Astor Place with enough time to enjoy our meals.
The presentation and aesthetic at Mamoun’s were absolutely fantastic. The two of us felt that Mamoun’s brought a very chill, low-key kind of environment that we greatly enjoyed. The visual aspect of their dining experience here didn’t stop at the restaurant, however, as the sandwich we both ordered, the MacDougal (without tomatoes), looked absolutely delectable. All of the items on the menu were named after areas such as West Village, Bleecker Street, East Village, etc. To make matters even better, the sandwich tasted as good as it looked.
Overall, our first restaurant visit as a duo was a great success with only a few minor critiques. We noted that there was a bit too much shawarma sauce (there is such a thing!), making for a messier eating experience. Additionally, Charlie felt that the hot sauce that came with the sandwich was a bit too spicy for his taste. Nevertheless, we greatly enjoyed Mamoun’s Falafel and would definitely recommend it to any Grace student looking for a unique and tasty meal during lunchtime.
The second restaurant we visited was the charming Paul’s Da Burger Joint, which stands on the corner of St. Marks Place and Second Avenue (walk: 5 minutes). The decor of the restaurant immediately fascinated us with signs stating, “Coffee Break 9:00-5:00 Daily” and “You’re rude! I’m going to talk to your manager! – Good luck, he’s more rude than I am.” Paired with old school Coca Cola advertisements and giant statues of cows and burgers, Paul’s Da Burger Joint’s aesthetic and environment will captivate anyone who dares to pass through their doors.
Moving on to the food, Charlie purchased a burger with onions and chipotle mayo sauce and Alex selected a bacon cheeseburger and a vanilla milkshake. The burgers were cooked using a unique style as the patties were put on the grill and then covered with metal bowls, resulting in a thick, juicy patty. Per usual, we brought our meals to The Cube and loved every bite of these huge burgers. Charlie was especially impressed by the spice of the chipotle mayo and Alex loved the milkshake. Overall, Paul’s Da Burger surprised both of us as the restaurant’s harsh, old-school-style produced one of the best burgers either of us have ever had.
The final restaurant we planned on visiting was a noodle shop named Udon’s Saint Marks, just across the street from Mamoun’s (walk: 4 minutes). We were all set to eat and review the food there, arriving at the restaurant at 12:10pm …only to find that the place was jam-packed, despite only having opened 10 minutes earlier. This, while initially disheartening, actually proved to work in our favor as we decided to go to the restaurant next door, a place known as Boxed To Go (also known as Bento To Go, walk: 4 minutes). And go we did — so fast, in fact, that the only reason it took longer than five minutes to obtain our food was because Alex was struck with crippling indecisiveness over what to order despite there being only five delicious-looking choices.
With a simple, elegant, and comforting style complimented by a window through which customers can see the kitchen, it was no wonder that this place stood out to us when we first arrived. The stellar presentation didn’t stop there, however, as the design of the box and the way the food was arranged also struck a chord with us. Charlie ordered a salmon bento box and Alex enjoyed a beef bento box, both served with a side of white rice, making for two very different yet equally delicious dishes. The boxes, while a bit small in terms of portion size, were absolutely fantastic in their own right. We both greatly appreciated how they didn’t seem to sacrifice taste for style or vice versa. This, in turn, ended up proving to us that, while things may not have initially all gone according to plan, it absolutely worked out in the end.
Overall, although things might have gone slightly awry, both of us had so much fun exploring the lesser-known eateries of Astor place. While these locations were a bit out of the way, we were able to get delicious, fun, and inexpensive (<$10) meals for lunch. We would definitely recommend these meals to any Grace student looking for a new dining experience during their lunch block.