The landscape of a city can change so fast! I moved from NYC in 2015 and was a very frequent visitor of the Diamond District when I lived there. This district primarily consists of 47th street between 5th and 6th avenue- but also extends to the same 48th & 46th street blocks. I attended school a the Gemological Institute of America- both when it was on Madison Avenue and after it moved to it’s sparkling new home in the International Gem Tower on 47th street. I also used to travel to the diamond district to source diamonds, custom cut gemstones, and procure materials when I worked at Coach, Alexis Bittar, and later when I founded Sea+Stone. I’m very comfortable with the area and the colorful characters in it.
When I visited NYC this past week, I was surprised to see just how much this little section of New York had changed. I had a few frustrating instances of not knowing where showrooms were that I used to visit all the time. Change isn’t all bad though- I was delighted to see so many more dining options around New York’s Diamond District! I sampled some new spots and sought out some old favorites, and in the end revised a famous old quote:
Carbs, Cocktails, AND Diamonds are a girls best friend.. and you should have all three!
Here are six great restaurants offering tasty and affordable lunches near the NYC diamond district... because you can't actually eat diamonds and sparkle all day.
1. Xi'an Famous Foods
24 W 45th St
What to order: The spicy cumin lamb burger, spicy cumin hand-ripped noodles, and a jasmine tea.
So I first discovered their East Village location when I moved to the city in 2011. The restaurant has earned the praise of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman for a reason- its unique and delicious. This location on 45th street is always busy and be warned that often it is standing room only during busy lunch times. Fortunately, there is plenty of nearby tables and benches between 46th and 45th st that you can eat at. The spicy cumin lamb burger was always a favorite of mine- but it does not resemble a traditional burger. Keep in mind though that both of these dishes are SPICY.
20 West 46th St.
What to order: The mushroom & gruyere sandwich
It had caramelized onions, a medley of sautéed mushrooms, and delicious slices of gruyere cheese. I'm a huge fan of savory & sweet... this was perfection.
Their tuna salad looks wonderful, as do their acai and chia bowls. Wonderful to have a healthy and scrumptious lunch option in the area- plus the interior is charming and big enough that you could sit with friends while you enjoy your meal.
136 West 46th St.
What to get: The Cubano Sandwich
(image found on Yelp.com by Aaron N.)
This is a spot that I have not been fortunate enough to try yet. But I love a good cuban sandwich and yelp reviewers say that this is one of the best ones that you can get North of Miami. Its a hole in the wall- tiny and often crowded. The sandwich is big enough to make two meals out of though, so for the price and the taste- it is worth the wait.
4. Moshe's Falafel
Food Truck on the corner of 46th St. and 6th Ave
What to get: The Whole Falafel Pita
Photo by Yelper Errol B
This was a staple of mine when I went to class in the area. Its delicious but messy! Since Moshe's is a truck, you either need to take your meal back to work or school or dine at a table in the nearby courtyard plaza.
5. Potato House
Food truck on the corner of 46th St. and 6th Ave.
What to get: A loaded up baked potato, of course!
Image by Yelper Kevin L.
So this option was not around when I lived in NYC, but it did not go unnoticed on my latest trip! The potatoes are seriously huge and cost $6. On Friday there was a bit of Fall chill in the area, and this truck seems like the ultimate lunch comfort food in chilly weather. They have hearty options as well as healthier ones (toppings such as fresh veggies and baked chicken). I personally would probably opt for the typical chili, cheese, jalapeños, sour cream, etc. But they have a whole range of toppings from eggplant to Russian beat salad to crab meat!
6. Emporium Brasil
15 West 46th Street
What to eat: Coxinha, Pao de Queijo, (liquid diet: caipirinhas).
So truthfully, I've heard great things about Ipanema, another restaurant just down the street too. BUT since this part of the diamond district is also Little Brazil, it got me craving some of my favorite Brazilian treats- most specifically Coxinha. And Emporium Brazil was the only spot I found with coxing listed on the lunch menu. I absolutely fell in love with this fried snack when I went to Brazil several years ago. If I lived there, I would absolutely make myself fat off of them. They are made of a fried dough. The trick to how flavorful these are is that there is a ton of chicken broth in the dough. Often the dough is also made with mashed potatoes, so its super starchy (perfect for carb lovers like myself). The inside is filled with shredded chicken. I had one at Emporium Brazil with both chicken, cheese, and green peas that was wonderful. We also got pao de queijo (a yummy cheese bread), pastel (basically a Brazilian version of an empanada / meat-stuffed pastry), and more importantly... a passion fruit caipirinha! Caipirinhas are made from lime, sometimes other muddled fruits, and cachaca, a Brazilian liquor made from fermented sugar cane juice. Truly my favorite cocktail! The restaurant has lots of lunch specials too and all around $15. Its a great place to sit and eat a hearty lunch that will make you crave a taxi home followed by a nap.