New Yorkers know that Danny Meyer has cornered both special-occasion dining and fast food that feels like a special occasion. (After waiting in line, getting that Shake Shack order seems like an accomplishment.) Now with no fewer than three new restaurant openings on the East Side—Daily Provisions, Caffe Marchio, and Pizzeria Martina—he’s giving fast-casual upstarts like Sweetgreen and Dig Inn a lesson in how grown-ups with the highest level of taste, expertise, and resources do fast-casual. Here’s our guide to getting the most out of them.
103 East 19th Street (between Third and Park Avenues), Flatiron
Starting at 7 a.m., this stylish sliver of a space—Meyer’s take on a local sandwich shop—next to the “new” Union Square Café is about expertly preparing Joe Coffee, of course. But the line forming at the minimal register podium is also there for the stellar baked goods: maple crullers, everything croissants (try one with cream cheese and gravlax), and a house-made English muffin with butter. Can we also talk about the breakfast gougères? Spheres of pastry magically filled with, say, green eggs and ham. For the traditionalists, the BECs (that’s short for bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches, for out-of-towners) are on point. Or simply get the house toast with cinnamon sugar.
The sandwiches at lunch, masterminded by the Union Square Café chef Carmen Quagliata, satisfy well through the midday slump. Think: rotisserie chicken with bacon, avocado, and mustardy mayo on whole-grain bread, or roast beef with crispy fried onions, Muenster cheese, and beets. If you’re more (or less) hungry, the seasonal soup and salad can round out your meal.
Need a late-afternoon snack? Return for a cup of tea from the city’s top purveyor, In Pursuit of Tea, paired with Salt & Straw ice cream from Portland, Oregon; a blondie with white chocolate and pecans; or lime meringue pie.
After 4 p.m., you can order a patty melt (the secret additional sandwich) and an excellent half or whole rotisserie chicken with seasonal sides like schmaltz roasted potatoes, either to eat in with a glass of wine or beer or to take home and pretend you made it. Grab a loaf from the excellent bread selection—you can get a half loaf, too, if you’d prefer—and you’ve got yourself a fully loaded dinner. Just bring your credit card; this café is cashless.
30 East 30th Street (between Park and Madison Avenues), Midtown East
Eleven blocks north, newcomer Caffe Marchio is Meyer’s nod to the cafés of Rome, where pedestrians lean against rosewood bars for a quick cappuccino and pastry. The space, on a nondescript block just east of the trendy NoMad district, truly feels like Italy, from the terrazzo floors and brass lights to the menu—even the decidedly New York staff in their bicycle caps.
If Sant Ambroeus is your usual taste and speed, Caffe Marchio is worth a visit. (Besides, the food here is better, even if it must be eaten standing up.) In the morning, the coffee is giusto; the espresso granita with whipped cream will transport you to La Tazza D’Oro; the spremuta (juice) is fresh-pressed; and the pastries, funnily enough, are just OK in that authentically Italian way. (Skip the cornetto and opt for a brutti ma buoni cookie or even a prosciutto-potato frittata panini.)
Come lunchtime, the menu board offers treats like Roman-style pizza bianca with mortadella, tramezzini sandwiches, chicken cacciatore, eggplant parm, and mix-and-match vegetable sides—all of which are perfect following a quick aperitivo…which must then be followed by a shot of espresso before returning to the office.
Caffe Marchio shows New Yorkers that fast doesn’t have to be so casual. This place has sprezzatura to spare. And now that we’ve embraced standing desks, a standing coffee bar should make more sense. Here’s to faster, more stylish meetings.
198 East 11th Street (between Second and Third Avenues), East Village
Continuing in the Roman spirit, Meyer also opened Pizzeria Martina, a quick-service spot that some say is his Shake Shack–ization of the pies perfected by Maialino chef Nick Anderer at sibling Marta. Plunked down on an East Village block that’s more NYU than NYC, Martina seems to have gotten the least attention from the decorator—but it’s not the end of the world. This place is about the thin-crust individual pizzas coming out of the oven in under two minutes, with prices starting at $7 for a Margherita. Add some crisp potato-chive croquettes; a satisfying mixed salad with artichokes, mushrooms, pickled peppers, and olives; and some fior di latte soft serve for dessert—maybe even a mini bottle of champagne or a spritz cocktail on tap—and you’ll realize that the college kids have it great. That said, Martina is best for lunch or early dinner before it gets bonkers. Is it worth a special trip downtown? No, but it’s perfect fuel for a concert or film around the corner.
Fast. Casual. Stylish. Delicious. New Yorkers have always been in a hurry. Now even the upper end of the food world has caught up with us. Thanks, Mr. Meyer!