6 Downtown Spots to Take Back Your Lunch Hour



Charlotte Rudge

If you’re one of the hordes of West Side-ish workers somewhere between Tribeca and FiDi, boldly push away from your desk and check out these nearby spots to calm down, cut loose, fuel up, and feel inspired.

When you’re feeling social

“After months of being homebound, I’m ready to turn strangers into new friends.”

PJ Clarke’s on the Hudson, 250 Vesey St

The original PJ Clarke’s on 54th street has been the city’s unofficial afterwork social club since 1884. (Fun fact: It’s where Don and Joan finally bonded over whiskies in season five of Mad Men.) This newer offshoot keeps that convivial, we’re-all-friends-here spirit alive and well. Sit at the bar, order a bacon cheeseburger—dubbed the “Cadillac of hamburgers” by Nat King Cole—and make friends with your neighbors, who are likely doing the same thing.

Photo via PJ Clarke's.

To impress that VIP client

“I need to show them a great time, but make it seem effortless.”

Locanda Verde, 377 Greenwich St

When you want to impress a lunch guest, you need to deliver on three things: service, food, and wow-factor. This Northern Italian Tribeca institution performs in all of the above. Think: lavish bowls of pasta and steak tartare that’s confidently upgraded from the norm with almonds and truffles. The staff is professional and polished (i.e. not college students grabbing shifts between class). But the kicker is its impressive celebrity presence, thanks to the impeccable cool of owner Robert De Niro. Hey, it can’t hurt to hope Brad Pitt stops by (again) and happens to chat up your table. Pretty sure that’s a deal-clincher.

When you’re feeling maxed out

“My current avatar is Snoopy with a rain cloud over his head.”

Fraunces Tavern, 54 Pearl Street

Having a rough one? This is the place for five-star comfort food and a dose of fightin’ spirit. This 250-year-old watering hole served as George Washington’s headquarters during the American Revolution and has survived everything from hurricanes and pandemics to bombings and civil war. A highlight: Memorabilia from the city’s history lines the wall. Pair it with the tomato bisque and a grilled cheese studded with creamy dill havarti to make any bad day better.

For a gluttonous, belt-busting meal

“Maybe it's adrenaline from that presentation I just nailed, or maybe it’s just Tuesday and I feel like treating myself.”

Smorgasburg WTC, 185 Greenwich St

On Fridays when weather permits in the warmer seasons, some of the best food trucks in the country gather together in this roving outdoor market made up of 70-plus rotating, local-favorite vendors. The lineup changes weekly, so check their website to make sure your favorite will be there. Either way, the overall flavor is novel and adventurous: Spaghetti donuts, artisanal chai, local oysters, and fried pickles are just a few options. There’s tons of outdoor seating, so plan to kick back for a few. 

If you’re craving healthy-ish with a vibe

Where does one get a dignified salad??”

Two Hands Tribeca, 251 Church St

The go-to lunchtime salad is a sacred thing, a healthy-ish workday ritual that inevitably loses its luster when you hit up the same Chop’t day after day. (Everything gold fades, etc.) Skip the standard mega-chain in favor of this stylish, Australian-inspired café. They serve aesthetically pleasing, inventive salads and sandwiches packed with local greens and heritage meats raised on owner Henry Robert’s upstate farm. Our pick: The Pulled Chicken Bowl stars crunchy kale and pickled veggies in every bite.

Photo via Two Hands.

To stretch your legs (and mind)

“How can I sneak in a mental getaway?”

The Brookfield Place Waterfront, 230 Vesey St

No spa, no massage pro, no problem. When you’re dreaming of pulling a “Calgon, take me away,” brown bag your lunch and bring it to this iconic waterfront promenade—look, it’s the Statue of Liberty! Stroll and take in deep breaths of the fresh air (fresh for Manhattan anyway). If you’re feeling more active, there’s an ice skating rink in cold months, outdoor exercise classes when it’s warm, and plenty of people watching—a sport that’s always in season, am I right?

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