Many Midtown locations might seem difficult for grabbing a quick but interesting lunch and staying away from the chains, but the city thankfully does afford opportunities of discovery for those looking a little more closely. Take this block of West 18th Street and its immediate surroundings for example, littered with fast food pizza, chopping block delis, and unfresh sandwich shops. Inside one of these pizza joints however lives Taste of Persia NYC, basically a permanent popup in one front corner of the store.
The counter has limited space and for this reason a very limited menu that rotates daily, so check the board before getting to the front of the line. Some selections are crossed out as they run out, but there were four "stews" and two soups on this chilly Thursday when I went back. I noticed nearby office workers tended to favor the soups and vegetarian options, but for tasting a couple dishes they do offer a combo for $12 that offers two stews with rice.
The rice is given a squirt of saffron water and makes up a bulk of the final portion, possibly too much as I ended gobbling up the stews with rice to spare. The top portion in the photo below is gheymeh, a stew of beef and yellow split peas that relies heavily on sauteed onions and turmeric. Also watch out for the chunks of lemon skin, not to be eaten.
I wanted to try the karafs as well, a stew named for celery that also contains beef and the sourness of a lot of artichoke. The two dishes could not have been much different, and offered a very pleasant combination. The sights and sounds (and smells) of a pizza parlor only make the experience that much more unique if you decide to dine in. You would not expect to be eating Persian "fast food" in the first place, so why not do it here?