Even with the smattering of tourist traps and rolling carts hawking questionable hotdogs, there are still plenty of destination-worthy restaurants in Times Square.
One of New York City’s biggest tourist attractions, Times Square is home to flashing billboards, Broadway shows and the oft-crowded M&M store. An estimated 100 million snap-happy tourists make a pilgrimage there every year, seeking perfect shots of the glimmering lights and dancing street performers. This hang-out of human-size Muppets itching to pose for photographs is also home to restaurants that aren’t merely expensive tourist traps and offshoots of Red Lobster. So if you want to avoid overpriced theater specials and limp french fries, hit any one of these worthwhile restaurants before you make your way back uptown or downtown.
At Pure Thai Cookhouse, regional Thai food from the country’s northern, central and southern areas comes together under one roof. The snug space is more akin to a hallway than a restaurant, but that’s okay because you’re here for the hand-made ribbons of noodles, slick with oil, morsels of crab, pucks of beef, and verdant snow peas. Order a couple of noodle dishes for the table – they come sautéed or swimming in bowls of soup – along with vegetable dumplings swollen with tofu and spinach, and the very spicy green papaya salad tossed with dried shrimp, tomato, peanuts, long beans, thai chili and lime.
The festive two-story space at Toloache flaunts three kinds of guacamole, a wood-burning oven and a laundry list of tequilas, which should find its way onto your table in the form of the house margarita. Split the rojo guacamole – a fiery mash of avocado and chipotle – and the hamachi ceviche, plus a sampling of the tacos: hunks of pig carnitas, dried grasshoppers, garlic-chipotle shrimp and spicy lobster, all atop taco shells.
Blending creative Korean dishes with a dash of French technique, Danji crafts plates packed with authentic flavors and textures enhanced by organic and sustainable ingredients. The menu is divided into three sections (small, medium and large) and loaded with things such as spicy cod roe and quail egg over rice, kimchi poutine, and soy-poached black cod with spicy daikon. Pair food with a beverage like soju – a colorless, distilled Korean drink – or sake.
Becco is a charming slice of Italy plopped on New York City’s famed Restaurant Row in the theater district. Local people and theater-goers come running for chef Lidia Bastianich’s all-you-can-eat pasta deal: for $25.95 during dinner, feast on a rotating selection of three types of pasta – made daily – such as semolina gnocchi alla romana and orecchiette with braised escarole and crumbled sausage. Other signature dishes include osso bucco (braised veal shank with farro risotto) and zuppa di pesce misto (seafood folded into soft polenta).
The darling of NYC’s burger chains has a location on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 44th Street. The griddled burgers hugged by potato buns, crinkle-cut fries, and churned concretes are just as tempting and coma-inducingly good as their Madison Square Park counterparts – and you don’t have to wait in a painfully long line. Plus, you’ll usually be able to find a seat.
Sake Bar Hagi – down a narrow staircase on West 46th Street – is a buzzy establishment housing people clutching cups of sake and nibbling Japanese bar food. Unsurprisingly, the extensive sake list is peppered with a slew of Japanese labels, but there’s also a choice of beers and shochu (Japanese vodka). As you drink, line your stomach with yakitori skewers, seared salmon carpaccio and spicy cod fried rice.
Tucked into the Chatwal Hotel, The Lambs Club exudes luxury, from the clubby red-leather banquettes to the black-and-white photos of Hollywood royalty. At the helm of the Art Deco-style restaurant is Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, who crafts fancy fare: bone-marrow gratin, whole-roasted dover sole, and Amish chicken with mushroom duxelles and bok choy. Just one level above the restaurant is The Lambs Club Bar, which boasts an extensive wine list and meticulously crafted cocktails.
The crowds are a little less intense at Ippudo Westside than at the original East Village location of this beloved Japanese chain. But noodle slurpers are still dedicated enough to take down a bowl of ramen here, one replete with slabs of pork, thin noodles and mushrooms swimming in pork broth. Like the downtown ramen shop, this one also offers pork, chicken and eggplant tucked into soft buns and rounds of cucumber doused in sesame oil.
The world’s cheapest Michelin-star restaurant now has two NYC locations, the newer of which is smack in the middle of the theater district. Expect sugar-coated buns swollen with barbecued pork, translucent pink shrimp dumplings, silky rice rolls, and chicken feet at this low-key dim sum establishment. As at its other locations, prices hover around $5 a plate, so it’s no wonder you’ll be joined by crowds of people waiting to get in.
This intimate, brick-walled restaurant and bar on a quiet strip of West 43rd Street flaunts unfussy American fare and creative cocktails. Choose from dishes such as house ricotta smeared on toasted bread, grilled lamb chops and a burger crowned with smoked gouda and hugged by an English muffin. The dimly lit space serves as a perfect spot to catch up over a glass of wine, or for a quick pre-theater dinner.
Everything at this health-conscious restaurant is gluten-free, with selections that are dairy-free, soy-free and nut-free. You can customize your own bowl (or choose from a host of pre-crafted ones) by selecting grains and greens, a rotating selection of sides (think golden cauliflower and herby white beans), a protein (beet falafel, salmon, braised pork), a sauce and a garnish. If you stop by for breakfast, you can snag a parfait or an egg sandwich to go.
At Añejo, it’s in your best interest to start with the guacamole trio, replete with two riffs on the classic version (bacon and habanero, and spicy pineapple) along with the traditional one. Plunge chips into the bright mash as you sip drinks swirled with tequilas, mezcals and agave spirits, then move on to tacos, melty cheeseburger fundido and blistered shishito peppers. Don’t leave without tasting the octopus, flush with pan negro, squash confit, chorizo cream and a showering of cilantro.
This sunken ramen shop near Hell’s Kitchen has welcomed crowds and lines since it first opened in 2010 and began dishing out ramen rife with curly and straight noodles, hunks of chicken, medium-boiled eggs, bean sprouts and scallions. There’s a vegetarian ramen as well as versions that come with chicken broth instead of pork, plus each ramen can be customized with additions such as fried garlic and wakame seaweed. Though most customers come for the ramen, you can start the meal with a couple of appetizers, such as seaweed salad and barbecued pork between pillowy buns.
This white tablecloth-clad fine-dining trattoria is all about showcasing seafood. There’s a lengthy list of crudo. Pasta is often swirled with briny clams and sea urchin or infused with squid ink, and entrées run the gamut from a whole Mediterranean sea bass for two to fritto misto (a tangle of crisped-up, fried seafood). When the weather’s warm, guests spill out onto the outdoor patio to twirl threads of spaghetti and indulge in house-made gelato.
What began as an unassuming Mexican stand in Chelsea Market has since emerged as a serious taco destination. The Times Square location is the beloved spot’s first stand-alone restaurant, and it comes with the same things you’d find at Chelsea Market: corn tortillas crowned with carne asada and grilled cactus slipped onto paper plates, quesadillas teeming with grilled chicken and steak, and an array of colorful salsas and aguas frescas.