New Yorkers have a slightly passive aggressive relationship with Times Square. The title of this post, in fact, might seem like an oxymoron considering most New York locals would avoid eating in Times Square at all costs. Why eat in Times Square where each step is a struggle through thick crowds snapping pictures when you could eat anywhere else in the entire city? Then there’s the cost — thanks to tourist inflation, a hot dog cart will charge double the price. And the food, while not necessarily bad, is made for throngs of people en masse — think pre-set salads and cold bread on the table.
But it doesn’t have to be like this! There are some hidden gems serving up great food in Times Square, and even a few places where locals will happily dine. And after all, while there is so much to see and do in New York City beyond the bright lights, can you really go to NYC and NOT see Times Square?
The city (and the entire NYC UA team) is obsessed with food halls. Bringing smaller mom + pop Brooklyn and other outerborough fare to Manhattan, they provide tons of options in high-traffic areas. City Kitchen is right in Times Square and offers amazing options like ramen, fresh tacos, shaved ice, and donuts. One of our favourites is the burgers from Whitman’s, which we eat while sitting in the window facing Shake Shack, watching all the tourists stand in the long line for their burger…
A creation of two world-renowned Neapolitan pizza chefs, Roberto Caporuscio (of Kesté in the West Village) and Antonio Starita (third-generation owner of one of Naples’s most revered pizzerias), Don Antonio Pizza is Times Square food that will blow your mind. Choose from more than 60 options (including a Nutella pizza dessert… oh, yes), all cooked to perfection in a wood-burning oven. The hip crowd adds to the authentic atmosphere, although it does get crowded with the pre-theatre crowd. And don’t miss out on their great Italian cocktails!
Hagi Saki Bar is a great hidden little spot for cheap bear and a wide range of food options, including dumplings, yakitori, fish, noodles, and much more. The wasabi shumai, yellowfin collar, and anything fried are some of our favourites (also, next door you’ll find some great cheap ramen at Saporro).
Right below Bryant Park, Untamed Sandwiches is a cosy sandwich shop that serves up braised meat sandwiches made with sustainable ingredients (there are great vegetarian and vegan options, too). Grab a local beer and one of their amazing baked goods (made in-house by the chef) for a surprisingly gourmet no-frills meal.
If these aren’t enough to make you rethink the Square, there’s always Restaurant Row (46th St. between 8th and 9th avenues) — provided you don’t mind spending a little more. If you’re up for a walk, Hell’s Kitchen is a foodie’s dream come true with their cafés and restaurants, including Empanada Mama, Totto Ramen (note that there WILL be a wait), Amy’s Bread, and the Ariana Afghan Kebab House.
After all, the magic of Times Square cannot be denied. Even the most jaded New Yorker still “gets it” when they step out of the theatre at night, playbill in-hand, surrounded by the lights, the people, and the excitement. It’s the centre of our city for a reason, after all.
Hungry for NYC? Check out New York’s culinary scene on any of our local food tours.