In NY, food establishments can only meet two of the following three criteria: cheap, delicious, and comfortable. By "comfortable" I mean a number of things, but mostly chairs or benches rather than barstools, at least a hint of space between you and your neighbor, and no seats where you're perched on a stool, facing the street, during your meal.
Alas, two of my favorite lunch places fail the comfort test so much it's not even funny. Old favorite Taim (Waverly off 7th Ave South) and new obsession Dos Toros (14th Ave and 13th St), selling falafel and burritos, respectively, are both places where everything tastes fresh and delicious, where you'd have to have seconds to reach $10, and where you will end up getting a very messy food all over your face, clothes, and neighbors as passersby look on. By "you," for that last one, I mean "I."
Given that years of experience have not taught me how to eat falafel without a fork, I don't know what I was thinking with my forkless approach to the two soft tacos overflowing with rice, beans, salsa, guacamole, and hot sauce. Other people were picking theirs up just fine, but the same goes for falafel. It's not cheap ethnic foods, it's me. It was only by the second taco that I realized forks were available, but at this point 4th Avenue was strewn with the contents of taco #1. This was unfortunate both because I was sad to lose the contents of so much of my lunch, and because I teach next to Dos Toros, meaning I was fairly convinced my students or colleagues were about to witness the mess I was making. If I read anything on this semester's course evaluations about black beans, I'll know my fears were well-founded.
So what's the answer? Proper restaurant dining? More compact food items? Lunch at home? Abandoning shame?