New York minutes/Mid-October 2007

The pretty close: Charm, where we headed for a fast lunch on a crazed day with no time for the extra 15 blocks to Land and where the food was surprisingly decent even though the staff clearly wanted to sit down to its own lunch that late in the afternoon. My consort had the $8 special of lively salad with peanut dressing and respectable pad Thai, while I went off the cheap chicken-or-beef menu and indulged in the vegetable spring rolls and the duck salad. We both ate too fast and regretted it, but there was Gilileo just around the corner for excellent coffee. WIGB? Yeah. It’s pretty close. 722 Amsterdam near 95th Street, 212 866 9800.

The pretty dirty: French Roast, where I can only hope the kitchen floor is kept mopped more than the one where all the customers can see the filth. It was one of the few places I passed that had something more than eggs on a late Saturday afternoon, though, so I succumbed and had a two-steps-above-diner-level grilled portobello sandwich with a little Fontina and a lot of radicchio on soft toast. A big pile of mesclun came with it, with a few clots of dressing. But the service was great and the food came fast and the room certainly looks nicer than the real diners a few blocks south. WIGB? Inevitably. The alternatives are grim and slim. 2340 Broadway at 85th Street, 212 799 1533.

The pretty gougey: Brooklyn Diner on 57th Street, where I found myself in despair after walking all the way west from PT without finding anywhere that called my name and where I realized too late I had squandered the price of an infinitely superior lunch just a short walk away, at BLT Market. I chose one of the cheapest things on the menu, the $15.50 fish sandwich, and was just glad I had not sprung for anything pricier. It was a piece of decent fried cod on a plain bun — no lettuce, no tomato, no nothin’ — with a couple of wedges of lemon, a handful of adequate fries, a little ramekin of tartar sauce and a honking portion of flavor-free coleslaw. The waiter was great, though. WIGB? Silver-plated revolver to the back of my head, maybe.