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Cabs double parked outside the entrance to Penn Station with a crowd about to cross the street toward us. Robert Sietsema/Eater

What To Carry Out on the Way to Penn Station

Senior critic Robert Sietsema picks nine favorites for your holiday travel

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While “crossroads of the world” Times Square remains comparatively moribund, with many of its restaurants still closed, the area west of Herald Square is hopping when it comes to getting an excellent meal at a modest price. The reason? All roads lead to Penn Station, the point of departure for trains going to Long Island, New Jersey, and Amtrak destinations countrywide.

In case you need to hop on one of those trains, here is a choice selection of the meals that can be quickly picked up on the way to the station and consumed on the train. Most places are outside Penn Station, with only a couple of choices from the welter of often-mediocre food inside.

Check out the dining opportunities at area airports.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Aaron's Thai & Chinese

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338 9th Ave
New York, NY 10001
(212) 560-9858
Visit Website

Normally, you might stay away from a place that serves both Thai and Chinese, thinking the kitchen is spreading itself too thin with cuisines that possess contrasting nuances. But Aaron’s does a good job on both, and being able to eat both kinds of cooking in the same carryout dish is appealing, such as with this lunch special of Thai chicken wings and Chinese pork fried rice, sided with some very good wonton soup, in an old-school rendition.

A white carryout container with chicken wings on one side and fried rice on the other with some translucent brown wonton soup on the side. Robert Sietsema/Eater

2. Salumeria Biellese

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378 8th Ave
New York, NY 10001
(212) 736-7376
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This venerable Italian salumeria now manufactures its pork products elsewhere, but this is still a great place to pick up a salami and other charcuterie and cheese for an impromptu railway picnic. But why not go for a prepared pasta like lasagna, or one of its famous heroes? The one I like best is piled high with ghostly white chicken Valdostana — breaded, broken-up chicken cutlets in a thick sauce of fontina cheese and white wine.

A hero sandwich divided into two parts, with a white filling tumbling out the sides onto reddish brown butcher paper. Robert Sietsema/Eater

3. NY Pizza Suprema

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413 8th Ave
New York, NY 10001
(212) 594-8939
Visit Website

With its red italic sign, Suprema has been a prominent culinary landmark at the southwest corner of Penn Station since 1964. Dash inside and see a multitude of enticing slices and whole pies displayed under glass, thick of crust and immensely cheesy. It’s just the thing to grab on the way to the train, but pick a pie or slice that’s not too messy, such as the garlicky spinach slice shown here.

A wedge shaped slice of pizza with wads of green spinach on a white cheese background, with no tomato sauce. Robert Sietsema/Eater

4. Purple Rice

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263 W 30th St
New York, NY 10001
(646) 861-3536

In researching this map, I stumbled on this steam table joint in what used to be the Fur District, and was impressed with its pristine fixins and efficiency in assembling its dishes. Bento boxes are available, incorporating Korean and Japanese elements, perfect for train rides due to the compartmentalization. But what I picked was a classic bibimbap, with julienned vegetables, a gooey fried egg, and heap of sweetish bulgogi. The gochujang was spicier than most. It wasn’t very Instagrammable, but the taste was delectable.

A recyclable brown bowl with a sunny side up egg, heap of shredded beef, and dark red sauce in a little plastic up placed on top of the dish. Robert Sietsema/Eater

5. Just Pho

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252 W 31st St
New York, NY 10001
(917) 261-7494
Visit Website

This place was a real surprise when it hit town across the street from Penn Station last year, a pho parlor that specialized in the beef soup as it’s eaten in Hanoi, where it was originally sold by street vendors. This is a fundamental version, with superior rice noodles, and few of the herbs and add-in sauces favored by the Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) version of the soup. If soup seems too messy for your train ride, get the Hanoi style fried rice or crab spring rolls instead.

A bowl of soup with herbs and sliced beef pink at the edges, as a pair of chopsticks lifts up some translucent white noodles. Robert Sietsema/Eater

6. Penn Sushi

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2 Pennsylvania Plaza
New York, NY 10121
(212) 564-5496

In Japan, sushi bars are often located in train and subway stations and other transportation hubs. The reasons go way back to when sushi was simply a boxed lunch of preserved fish for rail travel, but convenience plays an important role. Sushi can be eaten easily on a jouncing train on the way to somewhere else. Accordingly, Penn Sushi feels like it belongs in Penn Station, on the Amtrak level of the terminal entered via 9th Avenue. Rolls and nigiri sushi are made moments before purchase; I’m very fond of the eel-bearing dragon roll.

Three boxes of sushi package for carryout including a dragon roll with eel and avocado and dribble with dark syrup in the foreground. Robert Sietsema/Eater

7. Krispy Kreme

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Amtrak Level, 2 Pennsylvania Plaza
New York, NY 10121
(212) 695-0428
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No, they don’t make the Krispy Kremes in this small doughnut concession on the Amtrak level, but ultimately does it matter? Especially since you intend to carry them onto the train, and then eat one every 10 miles or so.

Two doughnuts held on the palms of two intersecting hands, one with chocolate frosting, one simply glazed. Robert Sietsema/Eater

8. Stick To My Pot

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224 W 35th St
New York, NY 10001
(646) 822-2003
Visit Website

This narrow Taiwanese snack shop just west of Macy’s with a name that sounds like a reggae song turns out some pretty good dumplings, fried to order and sometimes even assembled right before cooking. Three varieties are available, all very thin-skinned: pork, shrimp, and chive; chicken; and a vegan model filled with pumpkin and edamame. The brief menu fills out with scallion pancakes and spring rolls, but don’t neglect the larger meal-size specials scrawled on paper slips around the room.

Four oblong ridged dumplings with browned bottoms and two dipping sauces, soy and chile oil. Robert Sietsema/Eater

9. Ess-a-Bagel

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108 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001
(917) 781-4040
Visit Website

Founded across the street from Stuyvesant Town by a family of Austrian bakers in 1976, this homegrown mini-chain now has several branches, though the original is long closed. The 13 bagels are notably bigger than usual, so big that some bagel fans complain. Dozens of cream cheeses and faux cream cheeses are available, and spread with a liberal hand.

A sesame seed bagel split and slathered with cream cheese. Robert Sietsema/Eater

1. Aaron's Thai & Chinese

338 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001
A white carryout container with chicken wings on one side and fried rice on the other with some translucent brown wonton soup on the side. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Normally, you might stay away from a place that serves both Thai and Chinese, thinking the kitchen is spreading itself too thin with cuisines that possess contrasting nuances. But Aaron’s does a good job on both, and being able to eat both kinds of cooking in the same carryout dish is appealing, such as with this lunch special of Thai chicken wings and Chinese pork fried rice, sided with some very good wonton soup, in an old-school rendition.

338 9th Ave
New York, NY 10001

2. Salumeria Biellese

378 8th Ave, New York, NY 10001
A hero sandwich divided into two parts, with a white filling tumbling out the sides onto reddish brown butcher paper. Robert Sietsema/Eater

This venerable Italian salumeria now manufactures its pork products elsewhere, but this is still a great place to pick up a salami and other charcuterie and cheese for an impromptu railway picnic. But why not go for a prepared pasta like lasagna, or one of its famous heroes? The one I like best is piled high with ghostly white chicken Valdostana — breaded, broken-up chicken cutlets in a thick sauce of fontina cheese and white wine.

378 8th Ave
New York, NY 10001

3. NY Pizza Suprema

413 8th Ave, New York, NY 10001
A wedge shaped slice of pizza with wads of green spinach on a white cheese background, with no tomato sauce. Robert Sietsema/Eater

With its red italic sign, Suprema has been a prominent culinary landmark at the southwest corner of Penn Station since 1964. Dash inside and see a multitude of enticing slices and whole pies displayed under glass, thick of crust and immensely cheesy. It’s just the thing to grab on the way to the train, but pick a pie or slice that’s not too messy, such as the garlicky spinach slice shown here.

413 8th Ave
New York, NY 10001

4. Purple Rice

263 W 30th St, New York, NY 10001
A recyclable brown bowl with a sunny side up egg, heap of shredded beef, and dark red sauce in a little plastic up placed on top of the dish. Robert Sietsema/Eater

In researching this map, I stumbled on this steam table joint in what used to be the Fur District, and was impressed with its pristine fixins and efficiency in assembling its dishes. Bento boxes are available, incorporating Korean and Japanese elements, perfect for train rides due to the compartmentalization. But what I picked was a classic bibimbap, with julienned vegetables, a gooey fried egg, and heap of sweetish bulgogi. The gochujang was spicier than most. It wasn’t very Instagrammable, but the taste was delectable.

263 W 30th St
New York, NY 10001

5. Just Pho

252 W 31st St, New York, NY 10001
A bowl of soup with herbs and sliced beef pink at the edges, as a pair of chopsticks lifts up some translucent white noodles. Robert Sietsema/Eater

This place was a real surprise when it hit town across the street from Penn Station last year, a pho parlor that specialized in the beef soup as it’s eaten in Hanoi, where it was originally sold by street vendors. This is a fundamental version, with superior rice noodles, and few of the herbs and add-in sauces favored by the Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) version of the soup. If soup seems too messy for your train ride, get the Hanoi style fried rice or crab spring rolls instead.

252 W 31st St
New York, NY 10001

6. Penn Sushi

2 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10121
Three boxes of sushi package for carryout including a dragon roll with eel and avocado and dribble with dark syrup in the foreground. Robert Sietsema/Eater

In Japan, sushi bars are often located in train and subway stations and other transportation hubs. The reasons go way back to when sushi was simply a boxed lunch of preserved fish for rail travel, but convenience plays an important role. Sushi can be eaten easily on a jouncing train on the way to somewhere else. Accordingly, Penn Sushi feels like it belongs in Penn Station, on the Amtrak level of the terminal entered via 9th Avenue. Rolls and nigiri sushi are made moments before purchase; I’m very fond of the eel-bearing dragon roll.

2 Pennsylvania Plaza
New York, NY 10121

7. Krispy Kreme

Amtrak Level, 2 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY 10121
Two doughnuts held on the palms of two intersecting hands, one with chocolate frosting, one simply glazed. Robert Sietsema/Eater

No, they don’t make the Krispy Kremes in this small doughnut concession on the Amtrak level, but ultimately does it matter? Especially since you intend to carry them onto the train, and then eat one every 10 miles or so.

Amtrak Level, 2 Pennsylvania Plaza
New York, NY 10121

8. Stick To My Pot

224 W 35th St, New York, NY 10001
Four oblong ridged dumplings with browned bottoms and two dipping sauces, soy and chile oil. Robert Sietsema/Eater

This narrow Taiwanese snack shop just west of Macy’s with a name that sounds like a reggae song turns out some pretty good dumplings, fried to order and sometimes even assembled right before cooking. Three varieties are available, all very thin-skinned: pork, shrimp, and chive; chicken; and a vegan model filled with pumpkin and edamame. The brief menu fills out with scallion pancakes and spring rolls, but don’t neglect the larger meal-size specials scrawled on paper slips around the room.

224 W 35th St
New York, NY 10001

9. Ess-a-Bagel

108 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001
A sesame seed bagel split and slathered with cream cheese. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Founded across the street from Stuyvesant Town by a family of Austrian bakers in 1976, this homegrown mini-chain now has several branches, though the original is long closed. The 13 bagels are notably bigger than usual, so big that some bagel fans complain. Dozens of cream cheeses and faux cream cheeses are available, and spread with a liberal hand.

108 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001

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