La Vie en Szechuan's $7.95 Lunch Special

La Vie en Szechuan's exemplary ma po tofu

Midtown now boasts the city's largest concentrations of Sichuan restaurants. Most of these are timid compared to the ones in Flushing, offering little in the way of Sichuan peppercorns or offal, but an agreeable - and often spicy - experience nonetheless. Not so La Vie en Szechuan, a goofy name for a very serious place a stone's throw from the Empire State Building, recently extolled by Ligaya Mishan in the New York Times.

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Delectable Masala Dosas From a Cart at Washington Square

Eat with your fingers for maximum enjoyment!

Carnivores: Vegetarian and even vegan food won't bite you! And it's often just as good or even better than meat-bearing fare. A case in point is the masala dosa available from the vendor called NY Dosas, usually parked at lunchtime near the intersection of LaGuardia and West 4th on the south side of Washington Square. For around $5, and available in several permutations, you get a giant crisp pancake made of fermented lentil and rice batter and stuffed with a potato mixture that sometimes contains nuts, a real South Indian treat. It comes with a spicy soup called sambar and coconut chutney for dipping the pancake. Eat it with your fingers for maximum authenticity.

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Sharaku's 5-Course Lunch Deal

This is the main course, and the fourth of five courses (dig the onion ring at the right).

Anyone who's read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein remembers TANSTAAFL, an acronym which originated in the 1930s and stood for "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." Well, it's still true - lunches are not quite free - but these days they're often a much better deal than other restaurant meals.

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UWS Street Cart Offers Cut-Rate Hot Pastrami Sandwiches

You read it right -- pastrami sandwiches for only $2.50 each.

A street cart parked at the southeast corner of 72nd Street and Broadway, the crossroads of the Upper West Side, has started outflanking area delis by offering a hot pastrami sandwich at the incredible price of $2.50. Typical pastrami sandwich cost in the neighborhood: $15.

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Slip Me Some Skin! Salmon Skin, That Is.

The salmon-skin don will set you back $8.75 at Ennju, just steps away from Union Square.

I know a guy who loves turkey skin so much, that he bribed a neighborhood deli man to save him entire intact skins when fresh turkey sandwiches were made. And who doesn't realize that the skin of a roast chicken is the best part? An entire snack-food industry is based on deep-fried pig skins, and the skin side of a fish filet is often the only thing cooked in fancy restaurants. Add to this skin adulation the salmon skin don at Ennju.

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Excellent Prix Fixe Lunch Deal at Vongerichten's Perry St

The skate with smooshed fresh peas and a pea-shoot salad was one of the afternoon's delights.

When Jean-Georges Vongerichten opened Perry St in 2005, it was his eighth dining establishment in New York. His intention was to return to his professional roots by opening an uncomplicated and unpretentious neighborhood bistro, as his original triumph Jo Jo had been. Perry St was located in the West Village in one of three newly built Richard Meier glass towers on the West Side Highway facing the Hudson River, a dramatic location but an isolated one. What's more, the chef lived upstairs, so the place would feel almost like his own commissary, and one suspected the august French figure of sneaking downstairs from his upstairs aerie for a bite of cheese or a small Alsatian sausage in the middle of the night.

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Foutou and Peanut Stew at Brooklyn's Abidjan

Chicken in Peanut Stew (left) and Foutou (right) are Ivory Coast fare.

Food from the Ivory Coast is one of the city's rarer West African cuisines, with only one place in East Harlem and another in Bushwick (or maybe Bed-Stuy. Depends on how you draw the border). Named after the country's biggest city and one of the urban jewels of West Africa, Abidjan is located on Broadway right under the Kosciuszko stop on the J train.

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Fatty 'Cue's Fried Oyster Roll

Alexia Nader

Fatty 'Cue's new lunch menu will surprise fans of the restaurant's porky signature dinner dishes. The best things on it are not the meaty mains -- quarter-pound deep-fried bacon, pork ribs, and fried chicken -- which are better saved for a time when you can lay undisturbed in a food coma for hours after your meal. Rather, the sandwiches, served with a pile of sweet pickles and decent homemade potato chips, are the standout options. Substantial and slightly greasy but still light enough for afternoon eating, the fried oyster roll ($13) is the best of the lot.

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15 East's $29 Three-Course Lunch

The chawan mushi appetizer arrives with a black-truffle crag.

When was the last time you were exposed to top-shelf sushi? Most of us measure out our lives in mediocre finger sushi and nori rolls, and only on rare occasions do we glimpse how perfect sushi can be. Not that the democratization of sushi -- whereby you can get sushi even in Duane Reade -- is such a bad thing (though if you're an overfished fish, maybe it is), only there isn't enough perfect fish to go around. Enter 15 East -- one of the city's best sushi parlors -- with a near-miraculous under-$30 lunch special.

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Grandaisy Bakery Serves a Mean Panino

Panino Greco.png
Lauren Bloomberg
It's like eating Greece without all the grease.
‚ÄčIf you've been to one of the three Grandaisy Bakery locations scattered throughout Manhattan, then you know that they do awesome things with carbs. Excellent breads, enviable pastries (try the Lumaca), and chewy silver-dollar-sized cookies. However, Grandaisy Bakery's sandwiches are also worthy of a try. Especially the Panino Greco.

It's not often that a meatless sandwich makes a satisfying lunch. Nor is it common for such a smallish sandwich to fill you up. This one breaks both of those expectations.

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