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A small restaurant with a red awning and a man sitting out front at an orange table.
Cuban mainstay Margon, one of the city’s best restaurants
Robert Sietsema/Eater

11 Inexpensive Times Square Restaurants for Takeout and Outdoor Dining Right Now

Afro-Brazilian specialities, cumin-dusted lamb kebabs, Portuguese custard pies, and more

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Cuban mainstay Margon, one of the city’s best restaurants
| Robert Sietsema/Eater

Times Square has long been known as the Crossroads of the World for the scampering pedestrians traversing its expanse, which runs from 42nd Street to 52nd Street on either side of Seventh Avenue. Even during the pandemic’s darkest days, tourists continued to arrive, along with locals out for a stroll or on the way to work, even though the flow has been reduced to a trickle.

Certainly, the number of good and reasonably priced restaurants has declined during this era, but this process began way before the coronavirus arrived like an unwelcome hotel guest. National franchises, overpriced seafood restaurants, and gastropubs that want $20 or more for a second-rate burger have continued to proliferate.

But don’t abandon hope, all ye who enter here! Inexpensive and delicious eats persist, even though an estimated 80 percent of the area’s restaurants are currently closed, many perhaps forever. Here are 11 great restaurants still open. Some offer little outdoor seating, but Times Square is a pedestrian mall, complete with tables and chairs, so sit down and enjoy dining in what is still one of the city’s most famous and compelling locales.

A number of New York City restaurants have resumed outdoor dining services. However, this should not be taken as endorsement for outdoor dining, as there are still safety concerns: for updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the NYC Health Department’s website. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

For more New York dining recommendations, check out the new hotspots in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, and our guides to brunch spots, coffee shops, food halls, rooftop restaurants and Michelin-starred restaurants offering outdoor dining.

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Kungfu Kitchen

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One of a new wave of fast-casual Chinese cafes that hit town a few years ago, Kungfu Kitchen specializes in bargain steamed dumplings and hand-pulled noodles in stir-fries and soups, plus northern Chinese dishes that one might not expect to find in Times Square. One is the highly recommended bing shown here, described on the menu as “pan fried buns,” and extravagantly stuffed with your choice of duck or egg and chives.

A flattened shell of pastry filled with egg and chives and shown cut open. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Los Tacos No. 1

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You might as well be standing by the Pacific Ocean watching the surfers when you eat one of the tacos at this gussied-up San Diego beach shack. The limited number of fillings include pork adobada from a rotisserie, grilled chicken or steak, and, for vegetarians, cactus paddles. Quesadillas and mulas also available.

An adobada taco in a flour tortilla held up in the foreground with the Los Tacos No. 1 restaurant sign in the background. Ryan Sutton/Eater

Tradisyon NYC

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Tradisyon is the city’s latest take on stylishly presented Philippine comfort food on the bustling Ninth Avenue dining strip. A few outdoor tables are available for a lunch or dinner that might include pungent pork adobo crowned with a boiled egg and served over rice, crisp lumpia egg rolls, pig ear sisig, or the vegetarian taro leaves stewed in coconut milk called liang. Be sure to wash it down with calamansi juice, squeezed from the archipelago’s tiny limes.

Three small metal tables and six chairs in front of the restaurant. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Joe's Pizza

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The neighborhood pizzeria is one of the New York City’s greatest culinary achievements, and the resultant pies prove cheesy, thin-crusted, and especially good when eaten directly out of the oven and not reheated. Originating in Greenwich Village, Joe’s is one of our most fundamental pizza spots, and there’s no better light lunch than a single cheese or pepperoni slice gobbled piping hot. Standing tables and a bench are out front for eating.

A pizzeria storefront with several people sitting on a bench out front. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Ho Ho Té

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What beverage goes best with a stroll across Times Square? Bubble tea and its ilk should be in the running, and this parlor of Taiwanese beverages, including milk teas, matchas, and fruit-based beverages, all can have tapioca pearls that bob up and down in the frothy drinks added at your request. More substantial snacks like popcorn chicken, fried calamari, and sweet potato fries are also available. There are a few tables on the sidewalk.

A box of fried chicken tidbits with an orange beverage. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Star Lite Deli

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While most Manhattan neighborhoods still boast examples of the classic New York corner deli, Times Square has only one: Star Lite. With a few tables out front, Star Lite makes all the usual sandwiches, wraps, and burritos, and also mounts a steam table displaying hot Latin and Italian dishes. The pastrami sandwich is perfectly acceptable, and a bargain, too. For big groups on the run, there’s a six-foot hero.

A pastrami sandwich, cut in half, sits on wax paper Robert Sietsema/Eater

Playwright Tavern

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This four-story bar located in a neon-lit townhouse represents an ungainly combination of literary pub and sports bar, and now has a picturesque outdoor seating area at the northern end of Times Square. Go literary with the James Joyce burger (Irish bacon and Irish cheddar) or sportsy with the Irish nachos (nachos made with french fries instead of tortilla chips). The limited menu and limited beer selection were for me an asset, and yes, they have Guinness.

Bacon cheeseburger in the foreground with seated diners seen in silhouette behind. Robert Sietsema/Eater

If you want a glimpse of the old Times Square — gritty, commercial, and night clubby — walk into Margon and order a plate of chicken fricassee or roast pork, accompanied by white rice and black beans and a wad of sweet fried plantain. Founded in 1970, this amazing Cuban lunch counter has soldiered onward though thick and thin, and now boasts a handful of tables in the street in a curbside enclosure. For those who appreciate its sturdy, garlicky fare, Margon is simply one of the best restaurants in town.

One plate of rice and black beans and another of stewed chicken on an orange cafeteria tray. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Via Brasil

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The block of Midtown on which this elegant restaurant sits has long been known as Little Brazil, and is still the site of a festival every year at the start of September. The restaurant now has some very nice tented tables right on the street, with the same white-coated waiter service and specials that run to the national dish of black-bean feijoada, all sorts of stuffed fritters, and Afro-Brazilian specialties like shrimp-laden vatapa.

Taam Tov

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The long-running, second-story Uzbekistani cafe in the Diamond District just east of Times Square is where many of us took our first bite of the Central Asian pilaf called plov or cumin-dusted lamb kebabs, cooked over charcoal in the restaurant’s kitchen. Israeli salads and bread dips, and Eastern European standards, round out the menu of this classic kosher spot. Takeout and delivery only.

A second floor kosher restaurant with a blue sign. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Joey Bats Cafe

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This branch of a maverick Lower East Side bakery and coffee shop offers Portuguese pastries (both savory and sweet), espresso beverages, juices, and pasteis de nata (shown), the small custard pies for which Lisbon is famous. It’s a sweet little spot, with only a chair or two on the sidewalk, but maybe plan on taking your purchases to Times Square or nearby Bryant Park to eat them. 

Two little custard pies side by side on a white paper plate. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Kungfu Kitchen

One of a new wave of fast-casual Chinese cafes that hit town a few years ago, Kungfu Kitchen specializes in bargain steamed dumplings and hand-pulled noodles in stir-fries and soups, plus northern Chinese dishes that one might not expect to find in Times Square. One is the highly recommended bing shown here, described on the menu as “pan fried buns,” and extravagantly stuffed with your choice of duck or egg and chives.

A flattened shell of pastry filled with egg and chives and shown cut open. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Los Tacos No. 1

You might as well be standing by the Pacific Ocean watching the surfers when you eat one of the tacos at this gussied-up San Diego beach shack. The limited number of fillings include pork adobada from a rotisserie, grilled chicken or steak, and, for vegetarians, cactus paddles. Quesadillas and mulas also available.

An adobada taco in a flour tortilla held up in the foreground with the Los Tacos No. 1 restaurant sign in the background. Ryan Sutton/Eater

Tradisyon NYC

Tradisyon is the city’s latest take on stylishly presented Philippine comfort food on the bustling Ninth Avenue dining strip. A few outdoor tables are available for a lunch or dinner that might include pungent pork adobo crowned with a boiled egg and served over rice, crisp lumpia egg rolls, pig ear sisig, or the vegetarian taro leaves stewed in coconut milk called liang. Be sure to wash it down with calamansi juice, squeezed from the archipelago’s tiny limes.

Three small metal tables and six chairs in front of the restaurant. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Joe's Pizza

The neighborhood pizzeria is one of the New York City’s greatest culinary achievements, and the resultant pies prove cheesy, thin-crusted, and especially good when eaten directly out of the oven and not reheated. Originating in Greenwich Village, Joe’s is one of our most fundamental pizza spots, and there’s no better light lunch than a single cheese or pepperoni slice gobbled piping hot. Standing tables and a bench are out front for eating.

A pizzeria storefront with several people sitting on a bench out front. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Ho Ho Té

What beverage goes best with a stroll across Times Square? Bubble tea and its ilk should be in the running, and this parlor of Taiwanese beverages, including milk teas, matchas, and fruit-based beverages, all can have tapioca pearls that bob up and down in the frothy drinks added at your request. More substantial snacks like popcorn chicken, fried calamari, and sweet potato fries are also available. There are a few tables on the sidewalk.

A box of fried chicken tidbits with an orange beverage. Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Star Lite Deli

While most Manhattan neighborhoods still boast examples of the classic New York corner deli, Times Square has only one: Star Lite. With a few tables out front, Star Lite makes all the usual sandwiches, wraps, and burritos, and also mounts a steam table displaying hot Latin and Italian dishes. The pastrami sandwich is perfectly acceptable, and a bargain, too. For big groups on the run, there’s a six-foot hero.

A pastrami sandwich, cut in half, sits on wax paper Robert Sietsema/Eater

Playwright Tavern

This four-story bar located in a neon-lit townhouse represents an ungainly combination of literary pub and sports bar, and now has a picturesque outdoor seating area at the northern end of Times Square. Go literary with the James Joyce burger (Irish bacon and Irish cheddar) or sportsy with the Irish nachos (nachos made with french fries instead of tortilla chips). The limited menu and limited beer selection were for me an asset, and yes, they have Guinness.

Bacon cheeseburger in the foreground with seated diners seen in silhouette behind. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Margon

If you want a glimpse of the old Times Square — gritty, commercial, and night clubby — walk into Margon and order a plate of chicken fricassee or roast pork, accompanied by white rice and black beans and a wad of sweet fried plantain. Founded in 1970, this amazing Cuban lunch counter has soldiered onward though thick and thin, and now boasts a handful of tables in the street in a curbside enclosure. For those who appreciate its sturdy, garlicky fare, Margon is simply one of the best restaurants in town.

One plate of rice and black beans and another of stewed chicken on an orange cafeteria tray. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Via Brasil

The block of Midtown on which this elegant restaurant sits has long been known as Little Brazil, and is still the site of a festival every year at the start of September. The restaurant now has some very nice tented tables right on the street, with the same white-coated waiter service and specials that run to the national dish of black-bean feijoada, all sorts of stuffed fritters, and Afro-Brazilian specialties like shrimp-laden vatapa.

Taam Tov

The long-running, second-story Uzbekistani cafe in the Diamond District just east of Times Square is where many of us took our first bite of the Central Asian pilaf called plov or cumin-dusted lamb kebabs, cooked over charcoal in the restaurant’s kitchen. Israeli salads and bread dips, and Eastern European standards, round out the menu of this classic kosher spot. Takeout and delivery only.

A second floor kosher restaurant with a blue sign. Robert Sietsema/Eater

Joey Bats Cafe

This branch of a maverick Lower East Side bakery and coffee shop offers Portuguese pastries (both savory and sweet), espresso beverages, juices, and pasteis de nata (shown), the small custard pies for which Lisbon is famous. It’s a sweet little spot, with only a chair or two on the sidewalk, but maybe plan on taking your purchases to Times Square or nearby Bryant Park to eat them. 

Two little custard pies side by side on a white paper plate. Robert Sietsema/Eater

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