Everyone has their pet peeves, and for me, it is taking too much time to eat when there are "better" things to do. And in New York City, there are always "better" things to do. This may sound very contradictory for a man who extols French culture, quality of life and the slow food movement. It is. But as a college professor once responded to me, when I detected some dissonance in one of his statements, "People are full of contradictions."
My frustration rises to crisis management when I am with people whose priority is eating over all other things and where no experience, no matter how exciting or exhilarating, will distract them from seeking food. I am in deep trouble when I am with these types of individuals in New York City, which is a literal smorgasbord of eateries. And typically, for these comfort seekers, eating on the run is not their preferred modus operandi - sitting and indulging is.
I had a relative who used to come to the city often and stay weekends. A refrain, which I can hear in my head to this day, was, "Let's grab a bite to eat." I became so irritated, because this was typically mid day, long before dinner, and we had an agenda of things to do and places to see. The "grab a bite to eat" always ended up becoming a production of an hour or more. Waiting, ordering, eating, coffee, getting a check, paying etc.
When very young, I had limited restaurant experience and thought "a la carte" was food offered on a cart, needing to be snatched quickly while passing by. The reduced service and quality of selections accounted for the lower pricing. This would seem a great option for New York, however, there are no carts to snatch from in restaurants (dim sum is close), so there is no way to really "grab a bite to eat." For the traveler or resident who does have the need to expedite a meal, there are places tailored to a quick bite, the most common being the New York pizza parlor for a slice on the run. There are other places, somewhat less noticeable, tucked into the nooks and crannies of the city's side streets.
In the Village, in the heart of NYU country at 6 West 4th Street, there is the Little Atlas Cafe. The place truly befits its diminutive name and is strictly takeout and delivery. There is just barely enough room for a few customers and the staff. The menu is quite extensive. Reviews vary. The place has a large range of vegan offerings, and many of the criticisms are from those who have specific issues with the vegan products. I enjoy their food, and for those on the run, who have no access to a fast moving cart, the Little Atlas Cafe is the perfect place to Grab a Bite to Eat :)