684 Third Avenue (43rd Street)
New York, NY 10017
(212) 661-0000

Pity the poor vegetarian. Midtown Manhattan is awash in lunch joints. Fast food staples like McDonalds pepper the landscape. And while people like to complain that Starbucks is taking over, Starbucks can't hold a candle to Subway, which has an outlet on every single block. Delis serving Chinese food from a trough are so common that sesame chicken has lost all meaning. But where, oh where can our vegetarian go when he's bored to death of salad? The answer? Crisp.

Crisp cropped up a few months ago and has been packed ever since.

The clean, modern interior with its flat screen TVs displayng pithy sayings and chrome mirrors atop every table makes you feel like you're eating the cutting-edge of health conscious foods. In fact, to complete the illusion, Crisp even pairs its iced teas to each of its dishes, claiming that nutritionists recommend drinking Tea 1 with Salad 2 for the most beneficial effects. Well, I know BS when I see it, but I can't fault them with being original.

As history has shown us time and again through ages of experimentation and countless decades of research, the better something tastes, the worse it therefore must be for you. To prove this, we need look no further than the humble salad. Alone, it's boring and just this side of tasteless. But add some ranch dressing (aka: seasoned fat) and suddenly it's on the Bennigan's menu. Take that salad and deep fry it and you've got vegetable tempura. See what I mean?

Therefore, for all Crisp may allude to being healthy, it's just got to be bad for you. Falafel's fried, after all.

Crisp takes its cue from the Fleet-A-Pita franchise and avoids ethnicisms by renaming pita sandwiches handbag sandwiches. I tried three.

I first tried The Crisp. The original, so to speak. I ordered it with whole wheat pita bread. Inside is a falafel, hummus, cubed salad and pickles. I really wasn't expecting very much, especially since I live down the block from Pahal Zan, but I was pleasantly surprised. Trying this standard, average pita sandwich convinced me to try some more. So next I tried The Crisp Athenian, which at $10 is the most expensive pita sandwich on the menu. Whole wheat pita bread, falafel, Greek Salad, herbed yogurt, and scallions. This was the exact opposite of the Crisp. Boring, tasteless, and yet more expensive. It had nothing going for it and I didn't bother finishing the thing, despite trying to drown it in the chic pea dressing it came with. Finally, to break the tie, I ordered The Crisp Mexican. Whole wheat pita bread, falafel, cilantro pesto, avocado, corn, salsa, nachos, and a jalapeño dressing. This was really really good. And if you like spicy, all the better when you chomp down on the peppers.

Final verdict: I recommend the regular and the Mexican, but you won't catch me ordering the Athenian any time soon.

So our poor vegetarian appears to have a place to go for lunch after all.

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