Mangia

22 W 23rd St. New York, NY 10010(212) 647-0200mangiatogo.com

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There are a bazillion of these type of places in the city ranging from Essen to Dishes to those not even worth remembering. You know the kind. The ones with a sandwich station, a salad bar, a soup arena, a pizza pavilion, a patisserie nook and a juicing section all under one roof. And while most of these places are usually a jack of all trades at best, Mangia actually proves to be a queen. Not quite as good as Dishes, but definitely worth its salt if you know what to get.

Working our way around by station, let’s start with the sandwiches. This is where Mangia shines brightest. The Chicken Telera was named one of the Top 100 in Manhattan by New York Magazine and I concur. Served on telera bread, which is almost challah-like, then obviously topped with chicken, plus avocado, pepper jack cheese and chipotle aioli. Then, they stuff the whole thing in the pizza oven and warm it all up. Other worthy grabs are the short rib sciacca made with horseradish aioli. Might even be better than the Telera. And another go-to of mine is the smoked turkey on pumpernickel with cucumber, watrercress and herbed aioli. I could go through all of them, but these are the highlights. Most of them are good with only a few misses.

Next in rotation for me would be the salad bar. It might not be as large as most, but Mangia seems to focus on quality versus quantity. Hard for me to list too many highlights since it’s a bit of a roulette when it comes to what they stock it with, but some of my favorites when they have them are the pasta salads, the wild rice salad, the marinated mushrooms, the quiche/frittata and the sesame noodles. Again, most everything is good, so you can feel safe to explore.

Almost on par with the salad bar would be the bakery. They nail their cookies and most of the pastries hold up as well.

From there it’s a step down to Meh-ville, not to be confused with Melville, NY, where the pizza and the juice bar both reside in underwhelming harmony.

And last but not least, Soup town. A.K.A. The slums. For whatever reason, like Linguini in Ratatouille, Mangia just can’t seem to make a soup to save their souls. Case in point, Pret next door blows them away and Pret is a massive global chain.

My only other nit is that their fridge is always on the fritz, so it’s rare to be able to get a cold drink there. Not such a big deal in the winter, but come summer it’s a bummer. Hey, that rhymes!

3 teeth

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The City Bakery

3 W 18th St. New York, NY 10011(212) 366-1414 • thecitybakery.com
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My love for this place runs very deep, so if I seem irrationally effusive compared to its present day offerings, please forgive the reminiscent halo effect. And while this opening might sound puzzling to those who think City Bakery is still awesome to this day, I assure you that it is only half as awesome as it once was. Which is a testament to just how off the charts it was, because I’m still giving it five knives even with the menu flying at half-mast.

So, first let’s start in present day since this is the stuff you can actually still get. Three Ultimates back to back to back are the pretzel croissant (pictured), the chocolate chip cookie and the molten chocolate cookie. All three of them are so fantastically joy-inducing amazing they could give the likes of Prozac a run for its money.

Down any one of them along side a mug of their homemade hot chocolate (with an equally homemade marshmallow) and you will be so deep in a euphoric, diabetic bliss that the song “Revolution No. 9” by the Beatles actually makes sense.

And now for what you can only dream about, because they no longer make them. You see, once upon a time City Bakery also used to offer table service and upon that menu was a caramelized French toast the stuff of which fairytales are made. But sadly she is no more. And along with her has gone the fried green tomato grilled cheese on cornbread. The sandwich lasted a little longer than the French Toast as there was also a prepared foods/buffet period as well. A period that put the likes of Dishes. Essen and Mangia to shame.

Sadly the latter offerings are nothing but a memory. Happily, the former are still around in all of their diet-thwarting glory.

5 teeth