- Midtown Manhattan is bouncing back. Foot traffic is up, tourists have returned, and restaurants shuttered due to COVID-19 have reopened while new dining spots are popping up.
- The authentic ramen at Ichiran Ramen Times Square transports me to Tokyo.
- For French food in a vivacious setting, I frequent La Grande Boucherie.
- I get a blast from my past at Peachy Keen.
- I get my fill of elegance at the Lambs Club.
- For fried chicken with a spicy twist, I wait on line at Dave’s Hot Chicken.
- Benjamin Steakhouse is my go-to for an old-school New York steakhouse experience.
- When I want to drink and dine with movers and shakers, Pebble Bar is perfection.
- Sicily Osteria is my spot for pre-theater pasta.
- When I crave luxury, nothing beats Le Pavillon.
- I never get tired of the pizza at John’s of Times Square.
- Virgil’s Real BBQ is a mecca for barbecue fans like myself.
- To balance my budget, Adel’s Famous Halal Food cart is a jackpot.
- I’m a lifelong New Yorker, food writer, and avid theater-goer.
- Finding a good restaurant in close proximity to Broadway theaters can be stressful, even for me.
- From a food cart to gourmet dining, these 12 spots offer delicious eats in the Theater District.
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Midtown Manhattan is bouncing back. Foot traffic is up, tourists have returned, and restaurants shuttered due to COVID-19 have reopened while new dining spots are popping up.
Broadway theater is woven into the cultural fiber of New York City, and as a local, seeing plays is a lifelong hobby of mine. I grew up in New York City, raised by an actress mother who started taking me to shows when I was very young. The pandemic dimmed its lights, but Broadway has reopened and its comeback has played a critical part in the neighborhood’s reboot.
While eateries are plentiful for show-goers, this area around Times Square is notorious for tourist traps that offer a pedestrian culinary experience, ranging from simply inauthentic to wildly overpriced.
For those looking to pair a Broadway show with a worthy dining experience, I’ve curated a list of 12 great places to eat around the theater district at a variety of price points and based on my decades of experience as a New Yorker and a food writer. From authentic ramen to a classic steakhouse, these dining spots are all walking distance from Broadway theaters, so you’ll be in your seat before the curtain rises.
The authentic ramen at Ichiran Ramen Times Square transports me to Tokyo.
When I miss the soothing steaminess of my Nana’s chicken soup, a bowl of ramen at Ichiran fills the void. What started as a tiny stall in Japan can now be slurped just steps from Times Square.
The exotic, bare bones setting reminds me of Tokyo Vice. When I enter, I’m escorted to an individual booth that’s as cozy as a kindergarten cubby. Ramen is the only thing to eat; thin noodles floating in an aromatic Tonkotsu broth that’s made from pork bones slow-cooked in filtered water. Collagen-rich pork parts, such as trotters and neck bones, give the broth a silky texture and velvety consistency.
It’s a customized experience. You’re given an order sheet to circle your preferred level of dashi (saltiness) and richness, your choice of noodle texture from extra soft to extra firm, and the precise amount of minced garlic, scallion, pork, and spicy sauce you desire. I typically order the recommended topping set that includes dried seaweed and a soft-boiled egg. They don’t accept reservations, so this spot is convenient for visitors looking for a last-minute walk-in.
Must try: Classic Tonkotsu Ramen.
Price: Inexpensive-moderate, with no tipping allowed.
Find out more about Ichiran Ramen Times Square here.
For French food in a vivacious setting, I frequent La Grande Boucherie.
A restaurant brave enough to open in Midtown Manhattan during the height of the pandemic has my vote before I’ve even tasted a morsel. When La Grande Boucherie opened in November 2020 with room for over 500 diners, it made a statement that NYC would be back.
It’s tucked away in a pedestrian gallery that has the energy of a Parisian public plaza. The French doors are always open, and there’s a mix of indoor and outdoor seating.
Soaring glass ceilings, subway tiles, mix-and-match artwork, Art Nouveau-style balconies, and the traditional pewter bar scream Belle Époque grandeur. The vibe is boisterous and overflowing, and the food is as impressive as anything I’ve eaten in the most refined brasserie in France. Boucherie means butcher shop in French, so the meat here, including house-made charcuterie and beef sourced from single-family farms, is high quality. The steak frites is mouthwatering, and the striped bass on a bed of fennel with an accent of piquant olives is equally tantalizing. The show-stopping raw bar overflows with wild oysters, periwinkles, clams, and langoustines.
Their Francophile desserts have an Asian kick, with yuzu and lychee adding unexpected citrus notes to pastries like Paris-Brest and raspberry tart.
While the space is large and bustling, I’ve had a personalized experience each time I’ve dined here, and always find the staff to be especially attentive.
Must try: Raspberry tart with pistachio cream and lychee coulis.
Find out more about La Grande Boucherie here.
I get a blast from my past at Peachy Keen.
Peachy Keen is a high-concept restaurant straight out of my 70s childhood. The look is 100% groovy, with comfortable booths in vivid shades of acid orange, hot pink, and aqua, stenciled art work on brick walls, bold wallpaper, and Soul Train videos playing on multiple screens. The freewheeling crowd is here to have fun and the mood is contagious, so I’ll admit I’ve been persuaded to do the hustle between bites.
The look may be retro but the dishes are inventive, like corn ribs, which are shaved spears of corn on the cob that have been playfully whittled into the shape of a rib, served on a bed of string beans with a few lima beans tossed in for good measure. You can’t go wrong with comfort food like crispy fried chicken with gravy or pork chops with peach glaze. If you like your cocktails on the spirited side, go for the bubbly Rhinestone Cowgirl which is made with Pop Rocks candy. Finish the party with an over-the-top milkshake.
Must try: Corn ribs.
Find out more about Peachy Keen here.
I get my fill of elegance at the Lambs Club.
The Lambs Club started in the 19th century as a private establishment where famous thespians could dine without being hounded for autographs. Today, it’s a discrete oasis that continues to channel Old New York while staying current.
The dining room is exceedingly elegant, with splashes of color courtesy of red leather banquettes and fabulous floral arrangements, anchored by a limestone fireplace. A soundtrack of jazz adds tranquility, and almost makes me forget that I’m just steps from the cosmopolitan chaos of Times Square.
The polished setting demands a cocktail and the bartender’s take on a gin & tonic, made with fresh grapefruit juice, is zesty. The menu of American cuisine is approachable — appetizers range from raw Wellfleet oysters to a composed plate of Montauk fluke, also served raw with Fresno chili, fresh basil leaves, and thinly-sliced kumquats. The romaine salad with a peppy anchovy vinaigrette and steak tartare served with cornichon, capers, and crème fraiche, are also luscious.
For the main course, the Wagyu flank steak packs a flavor punch, while sautéed summer squash with black truffles, pistachio, and miso is the definition of umami.
Must try: The Montauk fluke crudo appetizer.
Find out more about the Lambs Club here.
For fried chicken with a spicy twist, I wait on line at Dave’s Hot Chicken.
Dave’s Hot Chicken is the latest fast food craze to hit the neighborhood, serving up specialty Nashville-style fried chicken with a kick thanks to a robust blend of spices and seasonings.
The menu is limited as this restaurant is a chain, with a focus on juicy chicken sliders and chicken tenders. Tenders are served open-faced on a slice of white bread with pickle chips and a side of Dave’s tangy special sauce. Sliders are served on a sturdy hamburger bun slathered in sauce and piled with pickles. I go for the combo, which comes with one of each. You choose from seven heat levels, from “no spice” for the meek all the way to “reaper” for the daring. For a tolerable burn, I stick with medium or hot if I’m feeling courageous.
Solid sides include crunchy kale slaw, creamy mac and cheese, and crinkle-cut French fries. And don’t let the crowds deter you; the line moves efficiently.
Must try: Slider and tender combo.
Find out more about Dave’s Hot Chicken here.
Benjamin Steakhouse is my go-to for an old-school New York steakhouse experience.
When my carnivore itch needs scratching, Benjamin Steakhouse does the trick. First opened in 2006, the restaurant quickly made a name for itself, and now the walls are covered with autographed pictures of celebrity diners from Bill Clinton to Trevor Noah.
I prime my palate with tried-and-true appetizers like the jumbo shrimp cocktail served with tangy cocktail sauce or clams on the half shell. There are fish and chicken options, but the standouts are prized cuts like New York strip steak, porterhouse, and filet mignon. The beef is dry-aged for 28 days and trimmed to just the right ratio of lean-to-fat, with a buttery center and lightly charred exterior. It’s always cooked to my specifications, so when I order medium-rare I get medium-rare.
Standard steak house sides include light-as-a-cloud creamed spinach, fluffy mashed potatoes, and a wedge salad loaded with bacon, cherry tomatoes, and blue cheese.
Must try: The porterhouse steak, a composite cut that includes both the filet and the loin.
Find out more about Benjamin Steakhouse here.
When I want to drink and dine with movers and shakers, Pebble Bar is perfection.
When I’m able to snag a reservation, I stroll over to Pebble Bar for a swanky late supper after a show. Located in a 4-story brownstone nestled among skyscrapers, the third-floor dining room feels clubby, with moody lighting, dark paneled-walls, curved banquettes, and vintage black-and-white photos of New York City. With several celebrity investors, including Pete Davidson and Mark Ronson, and NBC next door, the crowd is A-list. The restaurant opened in February 2022, and while the vibe is trendy, the food veers towards traditional. I’m never disappointed with their light bites like sourdough bread served with Vermont cultured butter and raw East Coast oysters. Retro bar snacks like marinated olives and chips and dip, and the seafood-centric fare like crab-stuffed peppers and a lobster roll, are some of my favorite items to order.
If I only want to drink, be it a straight-forward margarita or a clever house cocktail, the second-floor bar is walk-in only and serves beverages but not food. I’m a tequila lover and usually stick with the potent Stampede, made with tequila, mezcal, pineapple, lime, and agave.
Must try: Maine lobster roll served on a potato bun.
Find out more about Pebble Bar here.
Sicily Osteria is my spot for pre-theater pasta.
When I spent a decade living in Italy, I learned how unique each region’s cuisine is. Sicily’s culinary hallmarks include the assertive flavors of capers and olives, fish so fresh you can taste the sea, and island-grown fennel, tomatoes, and eggplants.
So when I’m in the mood for a quick plate of pasta before a show, I head to Sicily Osteria on historic Restaurant Row. It has a farmhouse feel, with vintage green walls, exposed brick, tiled floors, and an enclosed patio.
The bright flavors of Sicily are found throughout the menu. Paccheri alla Norma is tubular pasta with a sauce of eggplant, tomato, and ricotta, and Busiate alla Trapanese is twisted pasta with sweet roasted tomatoes and almond pesto. All of the pasta is made in-house and served al dente, just like in Sicily.
Oenophiles like myself will be drawn to the Sicilian wine selection, which features several young reds and whites to pair with your pasta, swordfish, or lamb.
Must try: Bucatini ai ricci di mare, long strands of pasta with a sauce of sea urchins.
Find out more about Osteria Sicily here.
When I crave luxury, nothing beats Le Pavillon.
With a canopy of live trees, leafy foliage, and pretty plants, I think Le Pavillon looks like a greenhouse. Soaring ceilings and generous windows add space and luminosity, a rarity in Manhattan. It’s romantic enough for a pre-theater date but serious enough that I often choose it for a business lunch.
The kitchen blends traditional French technique with New World culinary energy. The cuisine is seafood and vegetable-driven, with meat taking a supporting role. Fish is market fresh, with halibut, sea bass, arctic char, and sea scallops making regular appearances. Earthy dishes include pasta with chanterelle mushrooms, and light-handed garnishes like fennel pollen and lemon verbena add delicate hints of flavor. Presentation is as exciting as the taste, with every plate arriving at the table looking gorgeous.
The pastry chef might as well be named Willy Wonka — I love the whimsical chocolate noisette pastry that blends chocolate with accents of nougatine, praline, and ethereal Chantilly cream.
Must try: Dover sole with chanterelle mushrooms.
Find out more about Le Pavillon here.
I never get tired of the pizza at John’s of Times Square.
Once the site of the Gospel Tabernacle Church, the still-intact stained-glass windows are a hint that the pies at John’s of Times Square are classic and heavenly.
I start my carb-feast with garlic rolls stuffed with gooey mozzarella cheese before making room for the thin-crust pizza. Don’t think about asking for a slice, as John’s pizza is only available in a 6-or 8-slice pie, with a 10-inch personal pie in the gluten-free variety. The tomato sauce and cheese are very high quality, and you mix and match with the usual toppings, from meatballs to anchovies. Four coal-fired brick ovens are set at a blistering 800 degrees, so the pizza is ready in a jiffy.
They make excellent calzone too, pizza dough stuffed with mozzarella and ricotta cheese, folded into half-moon shape, and baked in the pizza oven to crisp-chewy perfection.
Must try: Pizza topped with Italian pork sausage.
Find out more about John’s of Times Square here.
Virgil’s Real BBQ is a mecca for barbecue fans like myself.
Virgil’s was one of the first restaurants in Manhattan to offer Southern barbecue. I’m a regular here for the diverse barbecue styles from Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, the Carolinas, and Missouri, all available under one roof.
Memphis pork ribs, Carolina pulled pork, and Texas beef brisket are smoked on twin Southern Pride Smokers, which I learned from my waiter are run 24 hours a day to meet customer demand. The meat is cooked low and slow over a mix of hickory, oak, and fruit woods to impart deep and varied flavors. The time-consuming process pays off with moist, smoky barbecue every time.
Cheddar cheese grits, collard greens with ham hock, and warm buttermilk biscuits are some of the yummy sides.
Must try: The Pig Out Platter includes a bounty of pork, beef, and chicken cooked in Memphis, Texas, and Carolina styles, with your choice of two sides.
Find out more about Virgil’s Real BBQ here.
To balance my budget, Adel’s Famous Halal Food cart is a jackpot.
Halal food carts are one of my favorite ways to fill up cheaply, and Midtown is chock-a-block with these scrappy carts. For my money, you can’t do better than Adel’s Famous Halal Food, parked on 49th Street and Avenue of the Americas. What it lacks in ambiance it makes up for with ambitious cooking. Their combo platter is a steal at $9, with succulent sliced lamb or moist chicken served over mouth-watering spicy or yellow rice, and white or red sauce to taste. Falafel and gyro sandwiches round-out the offerings.
The cart opens at 6 p.m. on weekdays and is open all day on weekends, serving until the wee hours of the morning. Customers are very loyal, so count on a half-hour wait to get your meal.
Must try: Lamb and spicy rice combo.
Find out more Adel’s Famous Halal here.