The always good: Chola, where two friends and I convened at a crappy table for a few glasses of catch-up wine and the reliably satisfying buffet. I guess I’ve never been on a Friday, because there was a new, very spicy vegetable dish on offer (the name tags on the buffet are hopelessly generic), and a new potato dish (ditto), and the whole plate was just happy-making. The naan was a little flatter and drier than usual, but I was just happy to get it after flagging down several waiters. WIGB? In a second. There’s a reason it’s the only place jammed at lunchtime on that block. 232 East 58th Street between Second and Third Avenues, 212 688 4619.
The convenient: PJ Clarke’s across from Lincoln Center, where four of us headed after the intense “Rachel Getting Married” just because it was cold and it was close. The music was too loud and the waitress was too impatient, but my turkey club (with cheese) was actually beyond decent, and Bob’s chili was something we don’t get every day (bubble and squeak, either, but that I could skip). Our friends had burgers and shared fries, we split a bottle of cheap red and all got out for $26 a head including tax and tip. WIGB? Inevitably. The half-sandwich the replacement waiter happily offered to “box up” for me was actually still edible next day. 44 West 63d Street, 212 957 9700.