by Bridget Kiley
I consider myself lucky to be working in a neighborhood of NYC that offers good quality and inexpensive food. Hell’s Kitchen is known for its grungy flair — the nitty gritty old New York nostalgia — and its variety of restaurants. At around 11:30am every day, my colleagues and I begin emailing back and forth about what kind of food we’re in the mood for.Thai? Mexican? Japanese? Vietnamese?
More often than not, we settle on Vietnamese because there’s a great little restaurant right across from our building called ChaPa’s Noodles and Grill.
ChaPa’s serves up the perfect bowl of pho (beef noodle soup) that really warms you up on wintery days. But be careful of timing — it gets a huge lunch crowd and it’s hard to wait with only an hour break. Get there just before 1:00-1:30 pm and you should be in the clear. *Pro tip: The lunch special is from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm and comes with an entree and your choice of salad or spring roll. Fried spring rolls are stuffed with pork and glisten (yum).
The chicken pho is made with glassy rice vermicelli noodles with a light, herbal broth. The fun part about pho is that you get to add toppings your way, with fresh basil, lime, bean sprouts, jalapeño peppers, hoisin and Sriracha.
The easiest way to eat pho is to use chopsticks to pick up the noodles, meats, and veggies and place them on the spoon. Use your spoon to catch anything that slips away as you maneuver everything into your mouth. It sounds a lot trickier than it actually is.
In addition to their signature pho, ChaPa’s has a variety of vegetarian options and great sandwiches that are equally as scrumptious. Note that banh mi is Vietnamese for “bread.” ChaPa’s has a cool beer selection as well; mostly from east Asian countries. Stop in during happy hour when they’re only $4. Try the black lychee tea that’s hard to find in most restaurants. The lychee undertones cut the bitterness of black tea and tastes delightful without milk or sugar.
ChaPa’s is a cozy joint with friendly and helpful staff. Indulge at this Hell’s Kitchen lunch staple.
Photo courtesy of ChaPa’s Noodles and Grill