If you’re looking for vegetarian food at Grand Central Terminal’s food court, The Manhattan Chili Company’s outpost is a great choice. I know what you’re thinking — how could something so typically meat-heavy be vegetarian friendly? But in fact, it is. There are several vegetarian options available every day, so you know there will be something to choose from, and that is reasonably healthy.
As you can see from the menu, there are actually quite a few vegetarian options available in addition to the chili (salads, a vegetable wrap, various sides). But the chili here is the main attraction:
On this particular visit, I tried Arthur’s “chili con lentil”. The chili is made with lentils, a variety of other basic ingredients (carrots, celery, mushrooms, etc.), and hominy. I’ll wait a moment while you wikipedia it. Hominy is nothing complicated; it’s just maize that’s undergone nixtamalization. Obviously.
I don’t know what that means, but the short of it is that hominy gives the “chili con lentil” a chewy, almost meaty texture. It reminded me of a less structured version of seitan. I actually tasted quite a bit of the hominy — it’s what gives the chili its bulk — but very little in the way of lentils. The chili is advertised as “medium hot”, and that strikes me as about right. I wasn’t running to drink a gallon of water after eating a bit of the stuff, but it did have a little kick.
There is probably some law that says you have to serve chili with cornbread, and here’s MCC’s take. It was fine. A little sweet — not too sweet — but otherwise not particularly noteworthy. I actually got a hot salsa with my chili and thought the cornbread was best dipped in a bit of hot salsa.
MCC has a great selection of sides. There are soft tortillas and corn tortilla chips, as well as rice and fries. What I was particularly impressed by were the ancho-dusted fries. The chile powder is pretty good. (I do think they could have used just a touch more salt to tie the ancho and the fries together.)
So for all that, the total damage was about ten bucks. Not too bad for a filling, hearty meal that really hits the spot on a crappy winter day. Though I stick to the “normal” chili, btw, you can also go a little crazy with it, having it in a burrito, over a baked potato, or on top of mac and cheese (!). You can also get a “guacamole and pinto bean burrito” on Fridays, which I’m curious to check out.
So next time you find yourself in Grand Central terminal, head down to the food court and check out The Manhattan Chili Co.: a place that will satisfy you and your omnivorous friends alike.