Cafe Zaiya

Working in midtown I make frequent visits to Midtown Lunch to see if there’s anything new on the lunch front (lunch is my favorite part of the work day). Having worked in midtown for over 2 years now, it often feels like I’ve been to every place on Midtown Lunch that’s of interest to me, until I read about Cafe Zaiya on 41st between 5th and Madison. I don’t know how long it’s been around, but I’m glad I found it because it’s become my new lunch place.

Now I’m not going to waste your time describing to you in detail what Cafe Zaiya is seeing how Zach at Midtown Lunch has already done that (it’s a Japanese lunch spot), so I’m just going to jump to the chase: the food.
When you enter Cafe Zaiya there are numerous stations. To the left is the Beard Papa cream puff station featuring, uh, cream puffs, in the back is the hot food station which had fish, noodles, etc, to the right is the bakery (more on that in a sec), and in the middle is the ready-to-eat stuff, like sandwiches, bento boxes, and noodle bowls. On my first visit I picked up a curry chicken sandwich from the middle rack and a potato and ham “pizza” from the bakery, costing me about $6. The curry chicken sandwich was awesome as it was breaded chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, some Japanese curry sauce, and a hard boiled egg on a soft roll. Simple removal of the tomato (I dont like raw tomato) and it was on. That alone would’ve been fine but I felt the need to try more than one thing so I got the “pizza” and boy was I happy I did. Now the bakery offered lots and lots of stuff, from a variety of “pizzas” including chicken and scallion and berkshire pork, to traditional Japanese sweet pastries, to croquettes and pork buns. I went with a pizza. Ham and semi-mashed potatoes on a crust sort of pastry that reminded me of a big flat croissant all covered in cheese, how could you go wrong. I turned to my coworker more than once while eating it to tell him that this was where it was at. At only $2.50 this thing is a steal as it fills you up and tastes like a dream come true.
My second visit I went straight to the bakery picking up yet another ham and potato pizza as well as a spicy tuna puff roll thing. It was a ball of golden brown dough filled with a spicy tuna salad of some sort and that didn’t disappoint either. The tuna had a nice kick to it but it wasn’t overwhelming, nor did it seem to be too heavy as the tuna still seemed to be the major component to the filling. I would definitely get it again.
I guess that’s the bottom line. Cafe Zaiya is awesome and I’ve only had 3 things there. It’s worth going to just for the bakery alone and the prices are reasonable if not, dare I say, almost cheap. And while I’m a fan of Japanese food, I think anybody could go in there and find something they like, as they even sell stuff like BLT’s and ham sandwiches.
Ok, that’s it. If you’re in midtown, hell, even if you’re not, go to Cafe Zaiya. You will not be disappointed.
Look for beard papa.



  1. I agree that tomatoes in their raw form are far inferior to cooked ones. it is something i am trying to get over. I really feel like the texture is what is putting me off. That being said i also have a problem with sashimi for the same reason. WEIRD TEXTURE.

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