Friedman’s

It always pays to have a lunch buddy. Today, My Lady Dining Partner (MLDP) invited me to lunch with her at a spot I’d never been: Friedman’s. Known for their bustling ambiance and delectable comfort fare, I knew I had to take her up on the offer.

Friedman's BLAT with chicken

BLAT

We trekked up to lower Midtown West, just above Flatiron where we work, and made our way to Friedman’s. The facade is unassuming, but the moment you enter, you realize you’re in for something good. It was packed and everyone’s food looked incredible. We snagged a few stools at the counter and got down to checking out the menu, but I had already done my due diligence and selected a sandwich to order prior to setting foot in the restaurant (as usual).

I ordered the B.L.A.T. (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato) with grilled chicken. “Phenomenal” is too empty a word to even describe how good this sandwich was. The bread was toasted just enough to offer a crisp exterior to hold onto, and the mayonnaise was dill-inflected, offering up a robust and fresh flavor. My only complaint would be that the grilled chicken piece was dwarfed by all the green leaf lettuce (no iceberg at this place), but that’s a small qualm. I asked for their housemade chips to accompany my dish (for $2 extra – one thing about Friedman’s is that it ain’t cheap), and they were paper thin and delicious.

MLDP opted for the adobo chicken salad, which comes with grilled chicken, black beans, tortilla crisps, pepperjack and an amazing chipotle dressing. I snuck a bite of it and was impressed.

Friedman's carrot cake

carrot cake

Since our entrees were so good, we knew we had to get dessert. The limited menu does not disappoint. We opted for the carrot cake. When it came out, we marveled at the gigantic chunk of cake in front of us and the waiter said, “This is half the size we used to serve.” I can’t even imagine what that serving looked like–and I don’t even want to think about what kind of person consumed the whole thing. This carrot cake is supremely special: it’s moist, chock full of carrots and covered with coconut flakes that offer a new dimension of flavor and texture. I was quite pleased with our selection, and MLDP liked it so much, she took the enormous leftovers to go! (She later shared the piece with me as the afternoon wore on.)

Friedman’s is definitely worthy of a true destination venture to try their offerings. I’d like to go there for dinner, too, but I fear there may be a wait. Though they do not take reservations, it’s certainly worth hanging around for a table, whether you like it or not. Trust me.

Friedman’s

132 W. 31st Street (bet. 6th and 7th avenues)

Midtown West, NY

Take the orange or yellow to 34th Street, walk south a few blocks and toward 7th Avenue on 31st Street.

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Empellón Taqueria

Situated on the corner of West 10th Street and the ever-confusing West 4th Street (why, exactly, does it run diagonal across other numbered streets?), Empellón Taqueria is a kind of Mexican cuisine oasis. Once you step inside, you’re transported to another place—one where graffiti on the wall behind the bar is the norm and the list of margaritas stretches on and on.

queso fundido at empellon taqueria

queso fundido

Don’t be fooled—Empellón Taqueria is a true taqueria, meaning that they primarily serve (and specialize in) tacos. You won’t find your overstuffed burrito or simpleton’s quesadilla here. Go somewhere else, like Chipotle, if this is what you seek.

My Lady Dining Partner (MLDP) and I began our meal with a box of tortilla chips and one of the salsas (tomatillo-chipotle). The salsa can only be described as smokey, and its consistent composition delighted and surprised me. Many salsas have chunks of vegetables mixed throughout, whereas Empellón Taqueria’s rendition (at least the one I had) was a smooth, thick sauce. MLDP ordered the classic margarita, which was tangy, and I got a standard Negra Modelo.

chicken tacos at empellon taqueria

chicken tacos

We moved on to the next must-have at this spot: queso fundido. For the uninitiated, queso fundido is a wonderful creation: a small, cast-iron pan is filled with melted Chihuahua cheese and served with warm tortillas. As anyone who’s ever had breakfast with me will attest, I love building little sandwiches out of anything in front of me. So, the prospect of lathering up a tortilla with a bit of cheese excited me. The queso fundido we chose had green (?) chorizo with spinach. Unlike other versions I’ve had in the past, this QF was rather meaty. Chunks of delicious chorizo covered the surface of the cheese. Spinach did make an appearance, though it was more of a cameo rather than a starring role. I loved it, and I highly recommend you try this dish.

For our entrees, we both ordered tacos (not that we had much of a choice!). The list of tacos is creative, to say the least, and I opted for possibly the most boring one: chicken. But! The tender chicken pieces came with black kale, crema and salsa verde, for a satisfying combination of flavors. I ordered two, but you’re welcome to order three, if you’re hungry. Pro tip: get the chips and QF like I did, and just order two tacos. MLDP tried the fish tacos, which were doused in tempura and looked quite good.

milk chocolate flan at empellon taqueria

milk chocolate flan

The helpful waitress came over to us once we were finished with our entrees and asked us about dessert. She rattled off a few options, and we landed on the milk chocolate flan, which came with densely cinnamon-flavored ice cream and crumbled (Oreo?) cookies. ‘Twas delish, but don’t count on having that when you go. It sounded like the desserts rotate.

Empellón Taqueria is definitely at the top of my list of New York City taco shops. I’ve been told that Salvation Taco is a must-try and I’ll definitely report back with an assessment once I go. For now, I urge you to go to Empellón Taqueria. You’ll need a reservation, most likely—even on a weeknight! So head to OpenTable now and get to this restaurant as soon as you can.

Empellón Taqueria

230 W. 4th St. (at W. 10th  Street)

West Village, New York

Take the 1 to Christopher Street, walk north one block and turn left onto West 4th Street.