Review | 5 Common NYC Eateries

TIA HERE with the latest dish on some of the dishes I’ve been trying while in the Big Apple. Although you should be expecting detailed posts focused on specific restaurants and cafes in the future, I’m going to start out with the basics.

Before living in New York (City), I had never heard of such treasures as Pret A Manger (French for “ready to eat” and notoriously mispronounced), Le Pain Quotidien, Hale and Hearty, Organic Avenue, and Liquiteria, but now that I have, I’ll be issuing a little grade for all those that caught my eye.

Now before we get started, I believe it is my duty to fully disclose that:

1) I am not a “foodie,” whatever that really means, just a normal girl with a growling stomach, and 2) none of these places knew I was going to be writing about them, nor did I receive any favors, so the only bias you will see here is my own.

a pret a manger storefront

Let’s start with the classic (read: omnipresent) sandwich-and-etc. store, Pret A Manger. For those interested in the pronunciation, think “pway-ah-mongee” with a French accent, or just listen to google translate read it ten times like I did. Pret A Manger stands out from competitors by giving their many sandwiches, soups, quinoa bowls, salads, and more a one-day expiration date. Basically, they stand for freshness of ingredients, so everything you see in the store the day you enter will be removed from shelves (donated) before the next morning comes.

While this is all quite dramatic and definitely in line with the world’s recent (and, hopefully, lasting) obsession with healthy, fresh, and organic food, I do think that this choice makes an actual difference. The food I bought from there for my lunch during the work week (did I mention that there’s one right downstairs from where I work?) tasted very fresh, considering that they were simple, cold sandwiches and wraps. (They also have some hot sandwiches and soups, but I’ve yet to try any of those.) I stuck to sandwiches with avocado and/or salmon, and I must say that I wasn’t terribly disappointed. Service is fast and easy at Pret A Manger, and even though I’m not a huge fan of their prices, I was definitely willing to go there more than once.

Overall, I would give Pret A Manger a B+. Although the food is not, by far, the best thing I’ve ever tasted, I’ve got to give them props for their dedication to freshness, quick and friendly service, and convenience--as they are almost as common a sight as a Starbucks or Duane Reade.

seasonal organic egg frittata from le pain quotidien

Now let’s move right along to the other Frenchly named eatery, Le Pain Quotidien. Also famously “everywhere,” Le Pain is a bakery-meets-restaurant that offers a somewhat rustic, yet refined, atmosphere. There, I had myself the “Seasonal Organic Egg Frittata” for brunch with my good amiga Winnie. It was alright although the price had me feeling a little ill (around $12 for some eggs, a salad, and a tiny slice of bread--call me old-fashioned, but I think that should be under $10), but hey, New York isn’t known for being cheap and this is on the low side for a NYC meal. Still, I’m not a NYC girl--I’m a cheapskate, so I’ll make my complaints.

In the spirit of moving this jam-packed review along swiftly, I’ll just jump to the chase--Le Pain isn’t worth the price (which I believe includes atmosphere more than actual meal quality) and is not worth eating at if you’re a tourist looking for something that captures the supposed charm of NYC. (I mean, neither is Pret A Manger, if we’re being real, but that place is a good quick stop for those working in NYC.) The only time I would say Le Pain is the place to be is if you are starving for a nice, semi-fancy feeling, more-organic-than-greasy brunch and don’t have time to seriously Yelp something more distinctive and unique. Go there with your family from out of town--don’t go there with your NYC boss. For what it seeks to be and with careful consideration of its pushing-it prices, I’d give Le Pain a C--average. It’s not bad, but in NYC, you can do better.

a hale and hearty storefront

Hale and Hearty, which is scattered about Manhattan like light rain, offers a variety of interesting soups as their main dishes, with sandwiches and salad options as well. Although I’ve only been there once, for a work lunch, I was quite smitten with the place. For about $8, I got a small cup of gumbo and rice, a chunk of wheat bread, and half a turkey and brie sandwich. For a quick order-and-go kind of place, they sure know how to make good soup.

To me, Hale and Hearty is the hot work lunch alternative to the cold Pret A Manger. The prices are reasonable, the food is good, and there are no pretenses about the place. It’s simple, it’s easy, and the food delivers. (Can you tell that their gumbo changed my life?) Maybe their food is just really salty--which I like--or maybe it really is good, especially for the price. Either way, for a hot work lunch at a decent price, I’d give Hale and Hearty a solid A. If you work in the city in winter and there’s one nearby, I’d hole up there every afternoon for soup. Maybe I just really like soup.

rosemary orange kombucha from organic avenue

Next on the list is Organic Avenue, a grab-and-go juice cleanse place that also offers some light meals. Full disclosure: I’ve only been there once, and it was to buy a random juice/tea item on a day when I was feeling very thirsty, but it had such a profound impression on me that I’ve just got to write about it. Now that I’ve gotten you needlessly excited about the place, I’ll just describe my experience.

I went to the one on Third Ave., because it’s close to the NYU dorm where I’ve been staying. It was pretty empty, probably because of the awkward time of day, but the two people working there were so friendly and honest and helpful that I felt like I had just made two new friends. They let me try some of the drinks so I could figure out what I wanted and gave me the honest lowdown on the acquired taste that is kombucha. Eventually I decided to get the Rosemary Orange Kombucha to be adventurous and because I didn’t think it tasted all that bad. I felt really good about my decision and even enjoyed drinking it as I went home.

Later, after I’d been trying the kombucha for a while, I realized I actually didn’t like it all that much, and maybe it was just the sweetness of the employees that had tricked me into enjoying the strange tasting drink. Regardless, I would give Organic Avenue a B, mostly because of the awesome experience I had with the service, but also because I think I would like their juices if I tried them. That said, I’m not so sure about the prices, being cheap, but I’m just too charmed by the employees (and limited by my solitary experience) to say any bad about the place.

a liquiteria storefront

Lastly, we have Liquiteria, a juice and smoothie place that I’ve been seeing all around the city, like a PI in a trench coat that won’t stop following me wherever I go. Here’s the thing about Liquiteria--it’s good, but it’s not that good. If anything, it’s just another marker of the juicing craze that’s spread from California to the rest of the universe (or at least the big cities in the U.S.).

Every time I go in there I see a ton of gym rats, which is not the crowd I initially expect, but one I’ve become accustomed to seeing around. The smoothies and juices there are good (but how can you really do a smoothie or juice wrong?), although I’ve always been slightly disturbed by the room temperature juice, mostly because my gut says a drink has to be iced or scalding--nothing in between. Ignoring my peculiarities, I’d say the (overpriced) drinks at Liquiteria are good and worth the boost of feeling healthy that Jamba Juice doesn’t quite deliver. Regardless, Liquiteria gets a C. It’s not bad, but not worth the money. I’m sure it’s a great place to go on an all-juice cleanse, but for the casual smoothie drinker, it’s a little too needlessly “fancy.” For now, I think I’ll stick to Jamba.

Much love,


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