Go check out the new Tropical Smoothie in the refurbished downtown YMCA building at 324 Broadway. Forget the smoothies — go just to check out the building. A co-worker and I trekked the eight blocks or so for lunch today (special on flatbread sandwiches, at $2.99, and $0.99 Mango Magic smoothies), and we found the place bumping with banners, balloons and radio folk. Don't worry, that line goes quickly!
The food was decent, but the buzz is the location. If you're veg, forgo a veggie take on a flatbread (the Caribbean Luau, minus the chicken, was piles of lettuce and a generous dose of spicy brown Jamaican jerk sauce folded into a soft pita) and shell out for the hummus veggie sandwich. My co-worker gave her Honey Ham and Swiss flatbread rave reviews, and it did look good — thin slices of deli ham, fresh greens and a milky honey sauce. Added bonus, these flatbreads are only $3.99 not on sale, and they're the perfect amount for a light lunch. The Mango Magic smoothie was a bit watery for my tastes — more a slushy than a smoothie, really — but I'm willing to give the smoothies another go on a less busy day.
That's because I plan to return, again and again — and frankly, that decision has little to do with the food. The interior of the old YMCA building, at least the part occupied by Tropical Smoothie, is gorgeous. It's very European, this idea of fast food served up in an archaic, artistically crumbling structure. And I'm a huge fan of that shabby-chic, patchy-paint aesthetic — particularly when it's paired with 82-year-old Corinthian columns and fabulous Spanish tilework. The enclosed courtyard (which closes at 5 p.m., an hour before the cafe closes) is breezy and comfortable, with umbrella-covered tables, one of those spitting lion wall fountains, and an overhead U of Spanish tile roof, framing a view of the towering Metropolitan Bank. Don't trust our sad little cell-phone images...this first glimpse of what we can expect from the Y building is worth seeing for yourself.