Bryant Park actually has a fair amount located directly inside of it: the library, an ice skating rink, and the largest patch of grass between Central Park and downtown.
There's also a fair amount to eat in the surrounding area, if you know where to look. From super spicy Szechuan to a bunch of Japanese options and some pretty serious sandwiches, your lunch break is officially ON. Go.
Some of the best Szechuan in town surprisingly lives right on 39th Street. Have to plan a goodbye lunch because Susan is leaving Bank Of America for a new job at Credit Suisse? Consider Szechuan Gourmet to spice things up, quite literally. Stick to the Szechuan side of the menu and make sure an order of cumin lamb and chili dumplings are on your table.
If you spend time in Midtown, you're going to have to eat at some chains. If you do, at least make it a chain from France. The to-go sandwiches and salads are solid, and all the breads are pretty amazing, if you're the kind of person who likes to buy baguettes to keep at your desk. Strive to become that kind of person.
In Union Square, there's a place called Breads Bakery, and they make what is without a doubt the best chocolate babka in America. Obscure? Yes. But also amazing. Lucky for you, they now have a kiosk in Bryant Park. This is also a good place to pick up a sandwich or coffee.
Following the trend of "great things from downtown now existing in this area," Alidoro is a famous Italian sandwich shop from Soho with a new location on 39th Street. The sandwiches here are simple: though the menu might look long, most feature some combination of prosciutto, smoked chicken, soppressata, mozzarella, and vegetables (there are plenty of vegetarian options as well).
If Alidoro's sandwiches are simple, Untamed's are anything but. A lot of them are fairly intense creations with meats like braised lamb neck or cider-braised pork butt, but possibly the most absurd is a PB&J riff that involves broccoli, fried almond butter, and pickled raisin jelly. Untamed Sandwiches is not going to finish that pitch deck for you, but if there's anything that can distract you for a bit, let it be a sandwich probably thought up by a very stoned person.
Ootoya is basically The Cheesecake Factory of Japanese food. That's a good thing. The big menu means something for everyone - whether you want a big bowl of raw fish over rice, yakitori, soba, or fried chicken.
Butter? Yes, that Butter. The Noho clubstaurant where you took a bottle of Belvedere to the face in 2007 has moved to midtown. It's not an underground hook up fest anymore, but the food is actually pretty good for a semi-formal but not too fancy meal.
Sunrise Mart is indeed actually a mart - a little Japanese supermarket to be specific, with a few locations throughout the city. The rice bowls make for a decent lunch, but you're really coming for the extensive collection of Japanese snacks. Bring some green tea Kit Kats back to the office and wind up a hero.
Another small Asian food chain, hit Xi'An for a quick (and spicy) lunch or dinner. Stick to anything with spicy cumin lamb - the burger, noodles, or dumplings.
As far as suit-friendly, expense account-friendly midtown restaurants go, The Lambs Club is the one we approve of most. The food here is consistently good, and if that suit didn't do the trick already, the dark black and red room will make you feel important.
There are two key reasons to know about Culture. 1) They make the best coffee in this part of town. And 2) They now serve sandwiches from the excellent Brooklyn sandwich shop Meat Hook. Bonus round: they have excellent cookies and pastries.
The heart of Koreatown is centered around 32nd Street, but Madangsui is further up at 35th, and also happens to be one of our favorite classic Korean BBQ spots. In addition to the excellent cook-it-yourself options, an order of bibimbop or a hot stew will do you well on a cold day.
This Japanese deli sells everything from rice bowls to sushi, but you should be coming mainly for two things: soft serve and onigiri rice balls. The soft serve comes in green tea and sesame flavors, and a swirl of the two both tastes and looks great. The rice balls (try the spicy salmon or shrimp tempura) come wrapped in such a way that the seaweed stays crispy, like a fresh handroll at a sushi bar. It's key, and so is Cafe Zaiya in your Bryant Park lunch routine.
Make-your-own bowls of marinated raw fish are the new make-your-own chopped salads, and one of the first and premier spots exists on 37th Street. Bowls can be filled with your standard raw tuna or salmon, as well as a few cooked fish options, and even chicken or tofu. They also do those sushi burrito things, but we can't condone those, on principle.
Certainly a bit of a walk from the lower parts of Bryant Park, but making the trek up to 48th is worth it for the most reliable sushi option around. Hatsuhana is quality sushi, but without being the financial and time commitment that some of the other spots around are. Most of the lunch sushi sets are under $30, but the big draw is the $42 "Box Of Dreams," a set of nine mini boxes of sashimi.
Kind of a sh*tshow at lunchtime hours, but worth it for the array of options, this new food court right by Grand Central has everything from Roberta's pizza to lobster rolls. We recommend the No. 7 Veggie Burger, the fresh summer rolls from Two Tablespoons, and the new chicken ramen from Kuro-Obi, a spinoff of Ippudo.
This gastropub, from the people who brought you the Upper East Side's Jones Wood Foundry, is one of the better places around here to hang out over beer, burgers, and other British-ish comfort food - there's even a whole section of the menu dedicated to toasts. This is a great place for a casual group lunch or an after-work gathering.