By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — New food kiosks outside the Municipal Building are spicing up the area's otherwise drab lunch scene.
Five mini-restaurants serving everything from artisanal grilled cheese to Hawaiian shaved ice have launched over the past few months on the plaza between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Centre Street court buildings. A Korean barbecue joint will open in the final available space next week.
Aegina Angeliades built the kiosks 12 years ago under an agreement with the city and decided this spring that they needed an overhaul. She brought in young chefs and fledgling restaurants to try out new concepts, and so far they've been rewarded by crowds of local workers and tourists every day at lunchtime.
"It's really exciting down there," said Angeliades, 38, a Long Island City resident. "I'm glad we brought in new energy. On my own, there was only so much I could do with them."
So far, the longest lines can be found at Nixtamalito Taqueria, an offshoot of a popular Corona restaurant that is bringing its fresh, authentic Mexican cuisine to Manhattan for the first time.
"It's great — now I don't have to go to Queens," said Andy Burmeister, 42, who works for the city and often stops by for a spicy chipotle tamale. "One of us [from his office] is here at least every day."
Also popular is Woolys shaved ice stand, which just debuted on Monday. Danny Che, 25, started the business with his two cousins after they sampled the silky shaved ice in Hawaii and Thailand and were surprised they couldn't find anything like it in New York.
Woolys flavors the blocks of ice with a bit of milk or green tea and then shaves paper-thin layers, creating fluffy snow-like mounds. Toppings include fresh mangos and strawberries, chunks of brownies and Fruity Pebbles cereal.
"This is my second one of the day," confessed N. Anthony Clauden Jr., 33, who works at the nearby Murray Bergtraum High School and said the shaved ice was perfect for the sweltering weather. "Number 1, it's light. Number 2, it's not too sweet."
Other kiosks include Centre Melts, which allows patrons to make melted sandwiches by picking their bread, cheese and toppings like caramelized leeks and sautéed mushrooms, and Snack-a-Meal, which offers whole grain pizza, gluten-free quiche and sweet and savory crepes.
Angeliades also brought back her long-running, diner-inspired Plaza Food Court, which offers a little bit of everything, including a popular breakfast special with a waffle and a pancake topped with bacon, eggs and cheese.
The final kiosk, opening next week, is called Koki & Vegi and will feature Korean barbecue.
Nixtamalito Taqueria is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Koki & Vegi will have the same schedule starting Monday. Both are just south of 1 Centre St. Plaza Food Court, Centre Melts, Snack-a-Meal and Woolys are north of 1 Centre St. and are open Monday to Friday, from early morning to 8 p.m.