middle eastern food
For me, Manhattan Middle Eastern is all about falafel and other pita stuffers, i.e. babaganouj, humous... And the best falafel I've had is from the Sam's Falafel food cart at One Liberty Plaza between Broadway and Church near the World Trade Center. It is by far the most popular vendor I've encountered and when people in the fast-paced financial district are willing to wait upwards of fifteen minutes on line for a 2 dollar falafel on their lunch break, there's a reason. Emad Ahmed quickly stuffs your pita (sometimes too much)with the works and always with a smile. The original Sam's is in the West Village, off Washington Square Park, on either Thompson or Sullivan Street.
If you're willing to take a short ride to Astoria, the Kebab Cafe on Steinway Street in "Little Egypt" is a great eating experience. Just let the owner entertain you with his choice of the day.
i dont think theres ANY good middle eastern food in manhattan. but if you are willing to travel to bayridge, brooklyn you can go to karam, which has unbelievably delicious shawarma sandwiches and perfectly acceptable baba ganouj, tabbouleh, hummus etc. (they also serve spine, which i regretfully haven't had the gumption to eat).
and then theres kervan, just across the gw bridge in fort lee. (by happy coincidence, karam and kervan are almost exactly equidistant from me - i live on the upper east side). supreme baba, even better egglant salad, hummus, unbelievable labneh, incredible iskendar kebab. quite possibly the best middle eastern restaurant in the metropolitan area but it IS in new jersey :)
theres many more details in jim's book (which is where i learnt about them). incidentally, if you are too lazy to leave manhattan, bon apetit catering is a reasonably good caterer on atlantic avenue in brooklyn that will deliver lebanese food to your house for an additional $15. the lady who runs it is called hayat, and i used to use her a lot till i was shown kervan and karam.