It would be helpful to know what what cuisines you prefer and what your budget is. That said, here are some options:
A Voce is on 26th, just east of Madison. Chef Andrew Carmellini's Italian cuisine is excellent. My main gripe is the high noise level.
Urena is on 28th, b/t Madison & Park Av. S. Chef/owner Alex Urena's is serving superb, inventive cuisine in a space that has attractive decor and very comfortable seating.
Park Bistro is on Park Av. S., b/t 28th & 29th. Excellent modern French bistro cuisine and stylish Paris bistro-like atmospherics.
Cafe at Country is in the Carlton Hotel, on the corner of 29th & Madison. Very good food and handsome surroundings.
Artisanal is on the corner of Park Av. & 32nd. I've yet to have a satisfying meal there, but lots of Hounds are fans.
Keens is on 36th, b/t 5th & 6th. Delicious food and unmatchable old NY ambiance. The cozy Pub Room is a great lunch spot.
Seven is on 7th, b/t 29th & 30th. I haven't been, but Hounds who have say the food's good.
thanks for the responses. my friend is buying (or i should say her employer is), so it doesn't need to be cheap but it can't be super expensive either. all cuisines are good, but i don't eat meat (fish is fine), so korean (responding to 1st poster) isn't necessarily the best for me. a voce and urena are going to be too pricey. Cafe at Country sounds intriguing. How expensive is it? And can you make reservations for the cafe?
Yes, Cafe at Country accepts reservations. However, if you think A Voce and Urena are too expensive, the Cafe will probably not work for you either. Although it is not as upscale as its more formal counterpart, Country (which does not serve lunch), it is far from inexpensive. Here's the link to the menu with prices:
Now that I think about it, even though it isn't listed on their website, I'm pretty certain Urena offers a 3-course lunch prix-fixe for $30. Worth a call to check and, if so, to make sure it includes some items you can eat.
I know for sure that Park Bistro has one for $25. It always includes at least one fish (salmon?).
One more option... La Petite Auberge, the charming little French bistro, is on Lex, b/t 27th & 28th. Solidly-prepared, delicious classics and excellent service. They have a lunch prix-fixe for $19.95.
32nd and 5th is the entrance to the heart of Korea Town. If you're looking for cheap and chaotic try Woorijip on the south side of the street, I just had an excellent lunch there a couple of days ago. I spent less than $10 on lots of goodies from the warm buffet, and an order from the noodle bar in the back.
Kunjip on the north side of the street is more upscale, and my co-worker just recommended it to me as the place to go if you want the best Korean BBQ in Manhattan.
I've always been fond of Kum Gang San (my co-worker says it's too western for her taste) on the north side of the street closer to 6th Ave.