Midtown’s lunch rush is back.
On a sweltering summer weekday in Midtown Manhattan, where supposedly no one works anymore, a fashionable crowd lined the sidewalk outside the fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant Cava.
The Greek-inspired chain’s Broadway and 38th Street location was jokingly hailed as “the hardest club to get into in all of Manhattan,” in a now-viral TikTok posted by the Big Bang influencer. Apple @HannahSueWilson.
Remember the pandemic? Remember when Midtown’s restaurants ran out of steam? Tell that to hip luncheons who wait up to 90 minutes in a queuing situation for their lemon chicken bowls.
“I queued for an hour and a half to get food here. It’s good and it’s healthy,” Kathleen Miszkiewicz, 25, told The Post, sweating in the glorious sunshine.
Cava was first launched in the 2010s in Rockville, Maryland, and the brand has now become commonplace in the Washington, DC area. Lately, however, the more recently opened branches in Manhattan have become something like the post-pandemic answer to Chipotle, or the various $20 hash salad joints.
In the TikTok clip, which has garnered more than 1.1 million views, a horde of subsistence seekers sacrifice their hour-long lunch breaks while waiting to be served $13 worth of mixed vegetables, proteins and grains .
The build-it-yourself bowls of Cava are so popular, with options like falafel, spicy lamb meatballs and roasted vegetables, as well as a range of delicious dips, that those hoping to grab a lunch in the not-so-fast food chain often try to beat the rush by pre-ordering through the Cava app or website. Miszkiewicz, who ordered ahead with his two colleagues, found those efforts foiled.
“We pre-ordered our food [online] at 11:30 a.m. for a 12 p.m. pick-up. It is now 12:30 p.m. and we still have to wait,” the business consultant said. “It’s boring, but the food is worth it.”
The disconcerting popularity of the restaurant argues in favor of the return of the power of the city at lunchtimewhich took a nosedive in 2020 and 2021 as most of the workforce worked (and ate) from home.
But Broadway Cava general manager Yasmairi Mercedes said her store had seen a boom in patronage since more and more workers were forced to return to their officeslot on a hybrid schedule, earlier this year.
“It’s really nice to see how the business has grown since the pandemic,” Mercedes, 21, told The Post as customers thronged through the door. “We’re actually making more money now than before the pandemic.”
Other locations, such as the Cava on 42nd Street near Bryant Park and the one on Madison Avenue at 40th Street, also draw crowds of hungry midday customers.
And as nine-to-fives continue to readjust to their physical working lives, many are using every minute of their afternoon recess eat, drink and maybe even establish a romantic relationship.
“I wish so,” said Emily Seitz and Jill Folger, two 26-year-old Cava regulars and fashion retail colleagues, when asked if they’d ever flirted with another hottie. business on Cava’s nightclub line.
The work besties, who pre-ordered their takeout, waited 15 minutes as part of the pick-up crowd.
Still, most seem content just to get in and score good afternoon food.
“The line is almost always very long,” Mani, 35, who works in construction and asked not to share his last name, told The Post. In the past, she’s waited over 45 minutes for her usual bowl of habanero chicken, leaving her only 15 minutes to feast.
In cases like that, Mani said with a laugh, “I just ran to my desk and ate really fast.”
Similarly, software pro David Carmichael, 29, told the Post that he usually doesn’t mind letting the minutes go by while he waits for a bowl of falafel and feta.
But even he has his limits. “Every time I see the line at the door, I walk away,” he said.
Such was the case for 33-year-old Loren Fass and her co-workers, who all took one look at Cava’s intense line and immediately opted to eat elsewhere.
“It’s long, and you have to come back [to work]moaned Fass, a staff member at a women’s lingerie wholesaler in Midtown.
Others were also deterred by the Cava crowd.
“I’m not a person who waits in line,” said Meagan Neville, 37, who stopped with her fashion industry colleague Margaret Derby, 30.
“It’s good food,” Derby said. “But the TikTok nightclub [aspect] is not for me.