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New Options Abound for Weekday Lunch

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Sweet Chick's fried chicken sandwich, a stalwart of the "weekday brunch" menu.
Sweet Chick’s fried chicken sandwich, a stalwart of the “weekday brunch” menu.

While destination brunching has become a competitive weekend sport on the Lower East Side, the neighborhood hasn’t traditionally offered a large selection of midday meals during the work week. Unlike a lot of other Lower Manhattan neighborhoods that host an abundance of office space and tourist hotels—guaranteeing restaurateurs captive audiences and steady foot traffic—the LES has never been known for its lunch scene.

“Very few restaurants are open during lunch in this area, and yet there is a large community of bartenders, restaurateurs and small business owners that need to be fed,” says Boulton & Watt owner Darin Rubell, who launched a lunch menu at his gastropub in July.

Pockets of lunch spots have cropped up around attractions like the Tenement Museum, and iconic places like Katz’s don’t want for customers. Of course, there’s always a dollar slice, a bodega sandwich or a clamshell of Chinese dumplings if you’re in a rush. But sometimes, the hunt for a more substantial sit-down meal with co-worker or a client can drag up and down several blocks.

That’s changing, slowly, as new restaurants open and incorporate lunch into their plans from the start, and others that have been around a while expand their hours and their menus. Given the impending Essex Crossing development, with about a quarter-million square feet of business incubator and office space, and the flood of hotel rooms coming onto the market across the neighborhood, it seems a trend that will continue.

Here are a few of the new spots to try.

Sweet Chick, 178 Ludlow St.: The Williamsburg fried chicken and waffles joint opened its LES outpost in early June, and launched “weekday brunch” service a couple of weeks later. The menu includes the restaurant’s signature chicken and waffles ($16), kale BLT salad ($12), fried chicken sandwich with pickled red onions and fries ($12) and waffles with spiced honey, seasonal fruit and whipped ricotta ($12). Specials in September include shrimp and cheddar grits with poached egg, short ribs and eggs with housemade barbecue sauce, and a turkey pastrami hash. For those indulging in spirits midday, there’s a spicy bacon bloody mary.

Paulaner, 265 Bowery: After a big reboot earlier this year, the German brewery added a lunch menu in June. Served from 11:30 a.m to 3 p.m. weekdays, the menu includes bratwurst burgers with sauerkraut on a pretzel roll, pork weiner schnitzel and potato pancakes. For an extra-hearty meal, there’s a prix-fixe option for two courses (appetizer and main) and a beer for $24.

Cochinita Dos, 49 Canal St.: The casual Cal-Mex eatery that launched in May offers late breakfast and lunch beginning at 11:30 a.m. daily. Egg dishes such as huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos are available until 3 p.m., in addition to the regular menu of tacos, burritos and combo plates with sides. Fillings include pork, chicken and beef, as well as several vegetarian and vegan options. Beverages include housemade limeade and horchata, as well as bottled Mexican beer and made-from-scratch margaritas (which are $5 all day).

Boulton & Watt, 5 Ave. A: A selection of bar snacks, pickles in mason jars, salads and entrees make up the lunch menu at this gastropub on the corner of Houston Street and Avenue A. The burrata is made in-house and is almost a meal in itself; the burger comes with a generous heap of shoestring fries for $14. On the lighter side, there’s a refreshing baby arugula, date and orange salad with lime vinaigrette, toasted pistachio and ricotta salata ($12), soft scrambled eggs with a side of avocado toast and watercress ($10) and  an heirloom tomato sandwich ($10). A “hangover” sandwich of two fried eggs, cheddar, avocado, bacon, chipotle aioli on seven grain bread ($12) purports to cure what ails you after a hard night. Weekday lunch service starts at noon, and the full bar includes a nice selection of craft beers on tap.

Ivan Ramen, 25 Clinton St.: After much advance hype and long delays, Japanese noodle guru Ivan Orkin finally opened his eponymous shop in May. Dinner service at the popular spot often means a wait, but you can now slurp your share of broth at lunchtime without delay. The lunch menu, which is served noon to 3:30 p.m. daily, is an abbreviated version of the evening one, but it still contains seven varieties of ramen bowls ($13-$17) as well as the most popular of the non-noodle dishes, like the 1,000-year-old deviled eggs ($3.50).

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