As a tour guide in NYC, I am often asked to recommend a good place for lunch. The policy of NYC by Foot is not to recommend restaurants, but to provide information to guests on the tour. This blog will offer readers information about a variety of restaurants located in Greenwich Village, New York.
“Why Greenwich Village?” you may ask. Because that is where I eat lunch...because of the variety of restaurants, cafés, lunch spots in a range of ethnic and cultural cuisines...because....
Isle Thai Restaurant is located on Bleeker Street right where John Street ends on Bleeker. I frequent Isle because I enjoy curry dishes, and my daughter does not. If I prepare curry at home, she sticks up her nose and complains about the smell in the house. My best defense is a good offense — eat curry out. Also, I can have lunch, including an appetizer, for $9, excluding tip.
After a recent chilly morning tour, I decided it was a good curry day. I could almost taste the green curry as I provided tourists with information for finding their afternoon destinations, such as subway routes, walking directions, etc. One young lady on the tour said she was taking my afternoon tour but wanted to go up to the 50’s for lunch at a pizza place she had seen on the internet. I explained to her which train to take, and which one would get her back for the afternoon walk I was guiding. I did caution her that she may not make it back in time for my afternoon tour, though.
With that, she asked if I could recommend a restaurant closer to the start of the afternoon tour of Greenwich Village. In Greenwich Village are several pizza places — the description of which will fill a blog on a later date but which I gave to her as we walked to Church Street along Chambers to the A and C subway station. I asked her about her accent, since she had told me at the start of the morning tour she was from Thailand. She explained she is studying in Seattle, Washington, and in Thailand the children start studying English early.
As we entered the subway, I told her where we would get off and in which direction I would take her. She asked if she could join me for lunch.... My habit is to eat lunch alone, decompress from the morning, and energize for the afternoon. I do not eat with the tour guests — plus I intended to eat Thai curry, which I was not sure is authentic Thai, but is one I enjoy. I explained this to her, but she seemed to like the idea of dining on NYC’s interpretation of Thai food.
We arrived at the restaurant and I ordered, as is my custom, and retreated to the bathroom to wash before eating. When I returned to the table, she told me she hoped I didn't mind, but she had ordered us Thai iced tea. While I drink water at lunch, to replenish my system after walking for more than two hours and two miles in the morning, I wanted to taste the red concoction with milk floating on top. It was interesting — spicy with a touch of sweetness. She was drinking coffee and smiling...she noted it was authentic Thai coffee, not American coffee spiced up to resemble Thai coffee.
As we ate, I asked about the proper use of utensils. On the table are two forks and chop sticks. With the meal comes a large soup spoon. She showed me how Thai people use the fork to push the various ingredients onto the spoon, which then is inserted into the mouth. “When do you use chop sticks?” I asked. “Only when eating noodle dishes,” she said.
We enjoyed our entrees — I had my green curry with tofu, and she had ordered crispy fish. “The food is good,” she acknowledged. “We do not have any places like this in Seattle,” she informed me.
While at Isle, she spoke to the waiter and manager in Thai, and translated to me what she and they were saying. It was a comfortable lunch, the food satisfying, and conversation informative as I asked her about her childhood in Thailand and her studies at the University of Washington. Also, she gave me insights into her travels to NYC, what she had seen so far, and the woman she was visiting who had been a friend at school last year.
We finished our lunches and went to Sixth Avenue to meet the rest of the group I would be guiding around Greenwich Village. It was a lovely afternoon, and one I will not forget soon, especially since I have been to Isle since our little excursion to have the manager ask me if I were eating alone that day. I am treated with warmth most times I have lunch there, but with an extra touch since bringing one of their countrymen with me.
The atmosphere is cozy...bird cages dangle from the ceiling over the bar, tables and a long row of booth seating line one wall of the narrow restaurant. When it is cold, the manager offers to seat you away from the doorway and closer to the kitchen. Choices for appetizers include soup of the day, two types of salads, Crispy vegetarian Spring Rolls and Tofu Nuggets.
Entrees are grouped by sauces and styles with a choice of protein: chicken, beef, shrimp. tofu, vegetables or Vegetarian Duck. Asian Wok dishes, Curries, Noodle dishes, Special Seafood ($1 extra) and Perfume of Rice dishes are the styles offered for lunch with the portions large enough that I often take home leftovers to eat at the train station waiting for the 5:16 p.m. to leave Hoboken north.