Times Square Refusenik

Decades ago, mercantile Manhattan was littered with Cuban luncheonettes that operated only during the day and served a constituency of Spanish-speaking laborers. As the Cubans migrated out of town, these places were taken over by first Puerto Rican, then Dominican proprietors. With the decline in industrial jobs and the upscaling of restaurant properties, the luncheonettes all but disappeared. Only a few remain.

We could use lots more of these places. Witness old-timer Margon, just east of Times Square, mobbed morning and afternoon with enthusiastic diners of every social stripe, fidgeting in anticipation of cheap and tasty eats. The long room is bizarrely narrow, so that you bump up against other customers as you scramble for one of the prized orange tables opposite the lunch counter, behind which eight or nine acrobatic employees stretch to fill the orders. Here flies over the counter an amazing octopus salad ($8)—vinegary, oily, oniony, olivey, and heaped so generously in the bowl that it cascades over the sides. There goes a steaming plate of chocolate-colored oxtails ($7), sided with such large servings of yellow rice, black beans, and sweet plantain that an additional plate is required.

The menu rotates by weekday, but always available are staples like paprika-roasted chicken, fried kingfish, and the signature Cuban sandwich ($4)—seductively concocted by a full-time wrangler posing in the front window, spreading the sandwiches thickly with marge and flattening them on a trio of foil-wrapped sandwich presses. Tuesday through Friday, the Dominican favorite chicharron de pollo is featured, with the twice-fried green plantain medallions called tostones, and if you don't go away from that particular meal picking your teeth with pleasure, the café con leche is on me.


BITES

Cheap chow is available all day at Margon, and Times Square regulars know it.
photo: Hiroyuki Ito
Cheap chow is available all day at Margon, and Times Square regulars know it.

Location Info

Map

Yoshinoya

255 W. 42nd St.
New York, NY 10036

Category: Restaurant > Fusion

Region: West 40s

Details

Margon
136 West 46th Street,
354-5013.
Open Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Major credit cards.
Difficult wheelchair access.

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