The Midtown lunch rush is back.
On a sultry summer weekday in Midtown Manhattan, where presumably no one works anymore, a hip crowd lined the sidewalk in front of the Cava Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant.
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 Big Apple influencer @HannahSueWilson.
Remember the pandemic? Remember when Midtown restaurants were overwhelmed? Tell the trendy lunches that wait up to 90 minutes in an out of doors situation for them bowls of chicken with lemon.
“I stood in line for an hour and a half to bring food here. It’s good and it’s healthy, ”Kathleen Miszkiewicz, 25, told The Post, sweating in the bright sun.
Cava was first launched in the 2010s in Rockville, Maryland, and now the brand has become commonplace in the Washington, DC area. Lately, however, the most recently opened branches in Manhattan have become something like the post-pandemic response to Chipotle, or the various $ 20 chopped salad joints.
In the TikTok clip, which has garnered over 1.1 million views, a horde of sustenance seekers are shown sacrificing their hour-long lunch breaks waiting to be served $ 13 blends of vegetables, proteins and cereals.
So popular are Cava’s DIY bowls, with options like falafel, spiced lamb meatballs, and roasted vegetables, as well as an array of delicious sauces, that those hoping to get their lunch from the fast food chain often try to beat the hurry by pre-ordering via the Cava app or website. Miszkiewicz, who ordered ahead with his two colleagues, found those efforts thwarted.
“We pre-ordered our food [online] at 11:30 to pick up at 12:00 It is now 12:30 and we still have to wait, ”the business consultant said. “It’s annoying, but it’s worth it.”
The staggering popularity of the restaurant constitutes a valid reason for the return of lunchtime to the city, which had a steep decline in 2020 and 2021 as the majority of the workforce worked (and ate) at home.
But Broadway Quarry’s general manager, Yasmairi Mercedes, said his store saw a boom in customers as more workers were required to return to their offices, many with a hybrid program, earlier this year.
“It’s really nice to see how the business has grown since the pandemic,” Mercedes, 21, told The Post as customers sneaked in the door. “We are actually making more money now than we were before the pandemic.”
Other places, too, like the Quarry on 42nd Street near Bryant Park and the one on Madison Avenue on 40th Street, are commanding throngs of mouthwatering midday shoppers.
And as nine- to five-year-olds continue to readjust into their brick-and-mortar working life, many are using every minute of their afternoon recess to eat, drink, and perhaps even make a love connection.
“I wish,” said Emily Seitz and Jill Folger, both 26-year-old Cava-goers and retail colleagues, when asked if they’d ever flirted with another corporate bombshell on the Cava nightclub-like line.
Best friends at work, who pre-ordered their takeout, waited 15 minutes as part of the pickup crowd.
However, most seem satisfied just to gain entry and get a good afternoon lunch.
“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 has waited over 45 minutes for her usual habanero chicken bowl, leaving her only 15 minutes to celebrate.
In cases like this, Mani said, laughing: “I run back to the office and eat very quickly.”
Similarly, software professional 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 he too has his limitations. “Whenever I see the line out the door, I walk away,” he said.
Such was the case with Loren Fass, 33, and her co-workers, who took a look at the intense line of Cava and immediately decided to eat elsewhere.
“It’s long and we have to go back [to work]Groaned Fass, an employee of a women’s underwear wholesaler in Midtown.
Others were similarly dissuaded by the crowd of Cava.
“I’m not a person waiting in line,” said Meagan Neville, 37, who stopped by with her colleague from the fashion industry Margaret Derby, 30.
“It’s good food,” Derby said. “But the TikTok nightclub [aspect] it’s not for me.