One balmy afternoon, my coworkers and I stepped out of the office in search of lunch. Ah, the quest for lunch at 1 in the afternoon like every other New Yorker. We headed to the Flatiron District and Madison Square Park with the idea of grabbing something at Madison Square Eats, but things were a little too crazed and a little too packed since it had just reopened for the season.
As a plan B, my friend suggested we eat at ilili Box. Maybe due to the crowd noise around us, or the fact that it has such an unusual name, or because I was so hungry I wasn’t really listening to her, I didn’t process what she was saying. I nodded my head, trucked along after her, and asked where it was. “Right here!” she said. Oh. I thought she was suggesting we go to a new restaurant I hadn’t heard of before, but she was actually referring to the little outdoor “box” that serves take-out food, right in the middle of the triangle across from the Flatiron building–you know, the one you probably always pass and never recognize? That’s the one.
ilili Box is of course related to the Mediterranean restaurant ilili. Turns out this little kiosk came as a result of a competition organized by the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District and the Department of Transportation. Who knew! They made the kiosk as a way to better the public plaza area and to mark the restaurant venturing into the casual food market.
In regards to the menu, there are main “sandwiches” that can be ordered in a pita or served over greens in a box. So essentially, they’re different flavor options in pita or salad form. There’s pressed chicken, duck shawarma, lamb shoulder shawarma, falafel beiruti, falafel Korean, manoushe special, and manoushe bil jibne, each with their own sauces and accompaniments. There is also a true salad option, the kale fattoush, and sides being the Phoenician fries, Brussels sprouts, and hummus.
I ordered the duck shawarma in a box, which comes with duck, chicken, fig garlic whip, lettuce, and scallion. My friend and I also split an order of the Phoenician fries, which are served with sumac salt (a reddish-purple spice that adds a lemony taste) and aleppo garlic whip (aleppo pepper is similar to ancho chile but slightly saltier).
My total came out to around $15, which is little more than I would like to spend on weekday lunch, but then again, I did order the most expensive sandwich option (Dangit Cindy! Here you go again!). And while it was take-out, it did feel a little more special than what I normally eat for lunch. I mean this isn’t just shawarma, it’s DUCK shawarma. These aren’t just fries, they’re PHOENICAN fries. Mmmmmm.
Still pretty amazing that I’ve been working in the area for almost two years and never gave a second glance at ilili Box until now. Here’s to discovering places that have been around you all along!
Duck shawarma box, Phoenician fries
24th and Broadway
New York, NY 10010