By Jill Colvin
MIDTOWN SOUTH — A massive new food emporium is giving Midtown lunchers a block's worth of options under one roof.
The new "Café R" International Food Court, which made its grand debut Monday, offers Herald Square workers and Penn Station commuters everything from traditional sandwiches and made-to-order salads to Korean BBQ, dumplings and West Indian cuisine.
"Every lunch, every meal, you can try a different thing," said manager Keith Jon, 46, of his concept, which spans 10,000 square-feet between Sixth and Seventh avenues, all the way from West 31st Street to West 32nd Street, with entrances on either side.
"Everything has to be big these days. Mom and pops don't survive anymore," he said of his business plan, adding that he hopes the new eatery, which also delivers and will remain open 24-hours-a-day beginning next week, will be a hit
And so far, so good. "Oh my goodness! We were busy!" said Donald Correa, 31, who works as a griller at the burger counter, after the first day lunch rush.
The burger counter is one of 24 different stations that line the space, and serves up options including the $6.95 classic patty-and-bun and the "Korean Bul-Go-Gi" served with grilled pineapple, green onions and garlic mayo for two dollars more.
Other offerings at Café R include a sushi spot, Teriyaki and dumpling counters and a noodle bar with 13 varieties of noodle dishes as well as a build-your-own U-don option.
A "Crab Shack" serves fresh seafood including lobster, shrimp and crabs' legs, while "The Liberty House" serves numerous takes on the Philly Cheese Steak, which starts at $4.75 for a small.
Other varieties include the "Buffalo Cheese Steak" and a Caribbean version served with jalapenos, olives, grilled onions and peppers. There are also nine different takes on the baked potato to complete the meal.
"That's really a lot of options," said Margaret Watkins, 27, who works nearby at the Hotel Eventi, and gave the new eatery high marks.
"It's huge!" agreed her co-worker, Carmen Li, 20, who noted that, despite its size, the eatery can be difficult to find.
Jon had originally planned to open "Café R" last year, but suffered from months of "extreme" delays, he said. Nonetheless, the bad economy proved to be a blessing. With so many restaurants shutting their doors, he said he had his choice of talented cooks, many of whom had once worked as fine dining chefs.
Brooklyn's James Long, 45, who works in the building next door and stopped by for a late lunch, said he'd been waiting in anticipation for Café R to open and had already heard stellar reviews from his co-workers who have long missed the old food court at the Manhattan Mall that was closed when J.C. Penny moved in.
"It looks great," he said before leaving to dig into his West Indian feast.