The lunch rush in Midtown is back.
On a sweltering summer’s day in midtown Manhattan, where no one is supposed to be working anymore, a fashionable crowd lined the sidewalk in front of Cava’s fast Mediterranean restaurant.
The Greek-inspired series’ Broadway and 38th Street location was jokingly hailed as “the toughest club to get into in the whole of Manhattan,” in the now-viral TikTok published by Big Apple influencer HannahSueWilson.
Remember the epidemic? Remember when Midtown restaurants were on their last legs? Say that to the modern lunch attendants who wait up to 90 minutes in a stand outside the door for them Lemon chicken dishes.
“I stood in line for an hour and a half to get food here. Kathleen Meszkiewicz, 25, told The Post, sweating in the bright sun.
Cava was first launched in 2010 in Rockville, Maryland, and the brand is now popular in the Washington, DC area. Lately, however, newly opened branches in Manhattan have become something of Chipotle’s post-pandemic answer, or their various $20 chopped salad joints.
In the TikTok clip, which has garnered more than 1.1 million views, a crowd of sustenance seekers are seen sacrificing their hour-long lunch breaks while waiting to receive $13 of veggies, protein, and a grain blend.
DIY Cava dishes are so popular, with options like falafel, spicy lamb meatballs, and grilled vegetables, as well as an array of delicious dips, that those hoping to grab lunch from the non-fast food chain often try to beat the pre-order rush. Via the Cava app or website. Miszkiewicz, who was ordered to proceed with her colleagues, found these efforts thwarted.
“We pre-ordered our food [online] 11:30 a.m. for 12 p.m. pickup is now 12:30, and we still have to wait,” the business consultant said. “It’s annoying, but the food is worth it.”
The restaurant’s bewildering popularity makes a strong case for the return of the lunch hour in the city, which saw a sharp decline in 2020 and 2021 while most of the workforce worked (and ate) at home.
But Broadway Cava’s general manager, Yasmere Mercedes, said her store has seen a sponsorship boom as more job owners were asked to return to their offices, many on a hybrid schedule, earlier this year.
“It’s really great to see how the business has grown since the pandemic,” the 21-year-old Mercedes told The Post as customers rushed through the door. “We’re actually making more money now than we did before the pandemic.”
Other locations, such as Cava at 42nd Street near Bryant Park and the one at Madison Avenue at 40th Street, drive crowds of midday patrons as well.
As children from the age of nine to five continue to adjust to their working lives, many use every minute of the afternoon to eat, drink, and perhaps even make love.
“I wish,” Emily Seitz and Jill Folger, both 26, said when asked if they had ever flirted with a fellow company hottie on their nightclub-like kava line.
Best of business friends, who pre-ordered their orders, waited 15 minutes as part of the pick-up crowd.
However, most of them seem content to just get in and score some good afternoon points.
“The line is always too long,” Mane, 35, who works in construction and asked that her last name not be published, told The Post. In the past, she’d wait over 45 minutes for her usual bowl of habanero chicken, only having 15 minutes left to feed.
In such cases, Manny said with a laugh, “I’m back in my office and eating fast food.”
Similarly, software professional David Carmichael, 29, told The Post that he usually doesn’t mind letting the minutes tick while he waits for a bowl of falafel and feta.
But even it has its limits. “Whenever I see the queue outside the door, I walk away,” he said.
Such was the case for Lauren Vass, 33, and her co-workers, who took one look at their extensive kava line and immediately opted to eat elsewhere.
“It’s a long time, and we have to go back [to work]Fez groaned, working as a wholesaler for the women living downtown.
Others were similarly deterred by the Cava mobs.
“I’m not someone in line,” said Megan Neville, 37, who stopped by with fellow model Margaret Derby, 30.
“It’s good food,” Derby said. But TikTok nightclub [aspect] not mine. ”