Mess Around Downtown: Off The Beaten Path

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Welcome back to Mess Around Downtown!

People are always trying to tell me, The Mess, that there is nowhere to eat down here. After a momentous pause, when my empathy for this person kicks in, I inform them that there are over 100 full service dining restaurants and almost 350 casual eating spots to choose from within the square mile that is Lower Manhattan. So, in order to further advance my ongoing effort to inform and educate the appetites of my fellow Downtowners, I’m going to talk about five places that are just a bit off the beaten path of the central Downtown lunch circuit. Perhaps you want to break the monotony of going to the same lunch cart four times a week or are a bit tired of the assembly line made sandwiches at your usual joint. Maybe you just forgot your brown bag today.

Well, if you are willing and interested in change then read on Downtowner, read on. You may have to walk a bit farther and even get a little lost along the way to experience some newness, but that sounds like a good time to me. And, oh yeah, please feel free to use my comment space below to post your favorite places to eat and shop down here.  What secret deals are out there that I don’t know about? Who has the best burger or slice of pizza? Where can I find the freshest and cheapest salad? Comment, disagree with me, share your thoughts, argue amongst yourselves, inform me.  Below, in no particular order, are five places where you should eat.

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Sandwich House – 17 Ann Street – 212-566-6886

When you walk into Sandwich House, located next to Theatre Alley, you won’t be impressed by its decor. But unless you’re there to critique its interior design, it won’t matter because the quality of the ingredients and the friendly service more than make up for the lack of spacial flow. This aptly named Italian sandwich shop is a favorite little secret among the workers and locals in this sector of Lower Manhattan. Homemade soups, fresh bread, glorious Italian meats and cheeses, and choice greens take the menu to the next level. Don’t be scared by the $8 price tag for a sandwich. They are a generous mom-and-pop with weekly and daily specials. I recommend going for the soup, half a sandwich, and a drink for $10.

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Pan Latin Cafe400 Chambers Street – 212-571-3860

Walk as far West on Chambers Street as you can without falling into the Hudson and you’ll be at Pan Latin. This is a peaceful location with a beautiful view to enjoy your gnoshing. This place feels like a home when you walk in. It’s bit cluttered with fruit and baking ingredients scattered amongst an array of stools, tables and art; it feels like a family lives here. A family that knows how to cook. They serve breakfast all day and everything is made from scratch. I love their signature “Media Noche” sandwich bread and they may have the best Cuban sandwich in the city. I have to give a special mention to their “Guava Cream Cheese Bread Pudding”. Out of control I say I say.

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Inatteso Cafe – 38 West Street – 212-267-7000

A bit North of The Ritz in Battery Park City and just up the block from its cousin, Inatteso Pizza Bar, sits this reliable, panini-pressing cafe. Cross the West Side Highway for a fried green tomato with mozzarella and pesto panini. You’ll be greeted and tempted by the cakes and pies that line the glass case next to the register. If you live in BPC, stop here for your eggs, milk, and other supplies to get you through until that next Fresh Direct delivery arrives.

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Cowgirl Sea-Horse259 Front Street – 212-608-7873

Put on your favorite cowboy boots (with a snorkel to match) and you’ll fit right in with the funky decor that goes along with Cowgirl Sea-Horse’s nautically Southwestern themed menu.  Walk as far northeast on Front as you can without merging onto the Brooklyn Bridge and you will be in fried seafood heaven. Bring your appetite for hearty portions of fish tacos, nachos, and oyster po’ boys. The locals that hang here love that the Seaport tourists don’t stray over this way too often. Enjoy a frozen margarita or a good ol’ fashioned can of beer at the most neighborhoody feeling happy hour around. And it’s kid-friendly and open for weekend brunching. I dare you to have the ice cream baked potato for dessert. In fact, I triple dog dare you.

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The Grotto69 New Street – 212-809-6991

I had to include The Grotto on this list because the people in my office hold it in such high regard. It’s tucked into a lower-level space (watch your head on the way down) on the construction-laden and delivery truck-filled New Street. The Grotto has been around for years and it’s because they make good food and have good prices. Try an eggplant and sundried tomato wrap, the festive fiesta salad, or treat yourself to a whole bacon and jalepeno pizza. Everyone seems to know each other in this place and the daily specials have brought back the regulars for years.

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As always, thank you for being on the lookout and please continue sending any new retailers you come across or changes to existing retailers to me at tre@downtownny.com