Times Square is a popular destination for visitors to New York City, but the area is home to many mediocre chain restaurants. Most tourists will find themselves in Times Square at some point during their visit—whether they want to go see a Broadway show or just take in the bright lights and energy of the neighborhood—and the good news is that it’s easy to skip the tourist traps and have a great meal at one of many great local favorites instead.
From the celebrity-owned Becco Restaurant’s all-you-can-eat pasta special to the Sichuan cuisine at Wu Liang Ye, these restaurants offer an escape from chains like Olive Garden and McDonald’s on your trip to this bustling tourist epicenter of the city.
Becco Restaurant (355 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036, USA)
People flock to this Italian restaurant mostly because co-owner Lidia Bastianich (of PBS) prepares antipasto or salad and three kinds of pasta nightly. Although you’re unlikely to spot Lidia, you won’t leave hungry. However, it’s highly recommended that you make a reservation here if you want to be sure to dine without a long wait, as it’s definitely a popular choice. Their all-day pasta special is $29.95, and you can enjoy a couple of glasses of wine without breaking the bank thanks to their $35-per-bottle wine list.
Carmine’s Restaurant (200 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036, USA)
Since 1992, Carmine’s second location has been serving up delicious Italian-American cuisine in large family-style portions. It’s a great choice for groups visiting Times Square for the first time because the food is both familiar and delicious, and it’s also a solid choice for holiday gatherings as it offers large group reservations when booking far enough in advance. Dishes made for sharing are $28 or more each.
Churrascaria Platforma (316 W 49th St, New York, NY 10019-7391, USA)
Brazilian rodizio at Churrascaria Platforma is a great choice for those with big appetites and large groups who are seeking a celebratory atmosphere. The prix-fixe meal ($45 a person on weekdays, $49 on weekends) includes endless grilled meats and the extensive salad bar but not dessert. Diners use a double-sided green/red chip to indicate when they want more meat served.
John’s Pizzeria (260 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036, USA)
Housed in a deconsecrated church, John’s Pizzeria is renowned for its coal oven pizza. The Times Square outpost of the famed Greenwich Village original serves up the best pizza in the neighborhood as well as solid Italian sandwiches and entrées. Pizza is served in whole pies only (small and large), with whole-wheat and gluten-free options available.
Shake Shack (691 8th Ave, New York, NY 10036, USA)
Shake Shack’s original location may be in Madison Square Park, but that’s no reason to miss their Theater District location. In addition to the Shake Shack staples of Shack Burgers, fries, and flat-grilled Chicago grilled hot dogs, they offer signature dishes at this location. Meanwhile, floor-to-ceiling windows give diners a great view of the action and plenty of opportunities for people-watching. It’s definitely a popular spot, and since it’s quick service, there are no reservations; be prepared to wait in line to order and to have to prowl for an available table during peak times.
Sushi of Gari (347 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036, USA)
Sushi connoisseurs will appreciate the sophisticated preparations at Sushi of Gari’s Theater District Outpost—the original location is nestled in a residential neighborhood on the Upper East Side. Gari is best known for high-quality fish and special sauces that dress the nigiri, so don’t make the mistake of dousing your sushi in soy sauce or you’ll miss out on what makes this restaurant special.
Virgil’s (152 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036, USA)
Surprisingly, Virgil’s offers some of New York City’s best barbecue, including Memphis ribs and Carolina pulled pork. Portions are generous and they have a full bar with signature drinks. Reservations are recommended, and you should allow plenty of time if you’re going to a show afterward as service can be slow.
Wu Liang Ye (36 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036, USA)
Wu Liang Ye is regarded as one of Manhattan’s best Sichuan restaurants, offering Sichuan dumplings, Kung Pao chicken, and cold sesame noodles as some of the most popular dishes. Be warned, though, that Sichuan dishes tend to be hot—if you prefer your food less spicy, be sure to let the waiter know.
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment (13 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003, USA)
Harkening back to one of the great gin palaces of Northern Ireland and England, Lillie’s Victorian Establishment is furnished in antique décor imported from Northern Ireland—including the marble bar, which originally lived in a Victorian mansion in Belfast. Named after a 19th-century British socialite and actress, Lillie’s offers a selection of small, medium, and large plates, including wild, pan-seared salmon, shepherd’s pie, and parmesan truffle fries. The drink menu includes more than 50 domestic and imported beers, plus whiskey, scotch, wine, and specialty cocktails. They also have a location in Union Square.
R Lounge at Two Times Square (714 7th Ave, New York, NY 10036, USA)
Located inside the Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel, the R Lounge restaurant offers gourmet cuisine and stunning views over the bustling Times Square streets. The menu may be a little pricey, but it offers bar bites like sweet potato flatbread and artisanal cheese boards, plus seasonal cocktails including a red sangria crafted with blackberry liqueur.
Toloache (251 W 50th St, New York, NY 10019-6701, USA)
Chef and owner Julian Medina brings a taste of Mexico City and the best in Latin cuisine to the heart of Times Square in the traditional Mexican restaurant known as Toloache. Here, diners can enjoy unique dishes like bacalao Trufado (miso tequila-glazed black cod, corn, and hon shimeji mushrooms in chipotle-black truffle butter) or classic dishes like carne asada (grilled skirt steak with potato gratin, guacamole, and a mole-cheese enchilada).
Osteria al Doge (142 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036, USA)
This upscale Italian restaurant offers homemade pasta, thin-crusted pizza, and meat and pesci (fish) entrées at relatively reasonable prices, especially for Times Square. Try dishes like the risotto Milanese, made with saffron and sweet Italian sausage ragú, and the pan-roasted branzino, served with sautéed string beans and manila clans. Note that Osteria al Doge requires a reservation as seats often fill up during the busy tourist season.
DB Bistro Moderne (55 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036, USA)
Named after chef and owner Daniel Boulud, DB Bistro offers modern French bistro cuisine with an updated American spin. Boulud claims to have launched the gourmet hamburger craze of 2001 with the release of the DB Burger, which is still served stuffed with red wine-braised short ribs and foie gras.