We almost never see this yet to fail: whilst walking along a street in Manhattan, between one appointment and the next, we get hungry. And, if it's between 2 and 6 PM, there is no place to eat.
Luncheonettes and places called "Burger Aroma" or the like still exist, of course, as do McD's and BKs and DDs. (We would like to see the person who offers us one of those egg white flatbreads and expects us to eat it). Anyway, we've really outgrown both fast-food burgers and tuna fish lunches.
The fact is that when we are in New York City we expect all our dining options to be just a little more exciting. And, in terms of exciting food, 2-6 has long been a great wasteland.
But...having just made this point...we will overthrow it by saying that in the past month we have found three different places which are open all day and offer interesting, well-prepared, good-tasting food at reasonable prices. And we find that this fits in with our schedule, since we frequently have a big breakfast at 11, schedule our dinner for 8 PM and find ourself stranded when hunger bites.
"Afternoon Eats", if you want to call it that, offer a tremendous opportunity for creative munching. You want something small--maybe several somethings small. You want freedom to start on one small plate and then, if you feel like it, move on to another. Who would dare to order twice at Per Se or even Tocqueville? The waiters would feel honor-driven to sneer at you. But, in one of the restos named below, afternoon is a drowsy and quiet time. The waitress would as soon talk to you about the pedigree of the cheese as anything else. And okay, you started out drinking homemade quince soda (available at Northern Spy, below) but you just decided you'd rather have a beer? Why not? Jean-Georges isn't here to be outraged. Go ahead!
Northern Spy Food Company has just open on 12th Street near Avenue A, and it looks like becoming not just a hipster fave but a mom-and-kids, teens-after-school, visiting-families and just-about-everyone-else hot spot. The menu is (mostly) locavore and hearty eating, but you can make yourself a nice snack of potato-rosemary flat bread and pickled eggs (perhaps with that homemade quince soda, or the one made from Concord Grapes) for not much money and a lot of flavor and tummy-filling. There are larger plates and sweeter ones too; the very complete web site tells you all, including what's being offered right now on the "market" shelves in the rear. Whatever else you do or don't do, pick up some lovely candies by Liddabit before you leave. Everyone makes caramels these days, and almost never this good.
The Tipsy Parson, on 9th Avenue near West 20th Street, has a website which doesn't tell you much, so we will refer you to here to get information and menu. We had a bite here yesterday when a too-fast cab left us at the right address 45 minutes before our appointment time. But this cute little tearoom/bar sat with an open door and we just walked right in. There were deviled eggs on the menu...we always have room for a deviled egg. And guess what? The cute little plate held five half-eggs, each piped full of delicious yolky goodness, as light as a mousse and with, of all this, a lemony flavor to compliment the caper/onion/buttery goodness of the yolk. Best of all, the whites were in perfect proportion to the yolk filling (meaning that they were rather smaller) and were tender and fresh as well (no matter how great your filling, a deviled egg can be ruined by a too-large, rubbery white).
And finally, we were walking along one day, minding our own business, when we felt hungry--this happens a lot. Detecting a bare, bright, sunny room with a bar in front, we swerved off course and found ourself at the Flatiron location of Taralucci e Vino (15 East 18th Street). Although we couldn't be served with a full entree, we were able to pick and choose...a little meat,a little cheese, a little salad...and it was exactly the meal we wanted, tasty and fresh and light as well.
Do you have any favorite spots for tasty, light bites? Tell us about it in comments, below. This is the kind of place of we we can't have enough.