Times Square sits in the heart of New York’s Theater District, where Broadway shows still remain on hiatus as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year. But while shows carry on with their extended pause — and as Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where waiters burst into songs, stays shuttered for now — many local restaurants continue to keep their kitchens open.
One would be forgiven for falling prey to the doughy aromas of a very shiny Krispy Kreme flagship, and out-of-towners still swing by the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., but hidden among all the tourist traps are very good establishments known to folks who work in or live near the area.
What follows are Eater NY’s favorite dining spots on the square and in the vicinity. For more detailed selections in the greater Times Square area, take a look at Eater’s maps for the Theater District and Hell’s Kitchen. All venues listed have at least outdoor or takeout options.
Note: This represents an extensively revised version of a map first published on November 26, 2018.
This a go-to affordable Japanese late-night dining spot of choice in the Theater District. The menu is long, like at any izakaya, but highlights include the namesake rice bowls — try the one with soft eel; chicken katsu curry with a rich, beefy sauce; and sizzling crab omelets drenched in heady seafood jus. Indoor, outdoor, and takeout options available.
Located on the border of Hell’s Kitchen and the Theater District, Vida Verde is a solid late night Mexican spot and cocktail bar. The kitchen slings particularly stretchy chicken quesadillas and generous nacho platters studded with crumbly chorizo. But the real draw is the frozen margarita, served so cold that ice crystals don’t have the chance to form. It is the city’s best version of that icy tipple. Open for indoor and rooftop dining, as well as takeout.
The top reason to visit Don Antonio by Starita is to sample classically excellent Neapolitan pies in a corner of the city that’s arguably more well known for high-end slice joints like Corner Slice or Sullivan Street Bakery. Do try the lightly-fried pizza option if you’re keen on a crust that tastes just a bit like a zeppole. Indoor or takeout options available.
This South Korean chain is expanding its presence throughout the city, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it serves some very good fried chicken. To be fair: sometimes the wings can turn out a bit bland, in which case you’ll need to add a touch of salt or soy. Every night, however, patrons can expect spicy drumsticks with such an impressively crunchy crust they don’t even lose their textural snap during delivery. Be sure to try the yellow snowing fries, which manage to turn fried potatoes into something that tastes like Cheetos with its generous cheese coating. Indoor or takeout options available.
The owners behind the Chinese-Cajun shellfish boil spot shuttered their original East Village location during the pandemic, but the Hell’s Kitchen sequel remains an excellent option for takeout, delivery, and, if you feel comfortable with that sort of thing, fully-enclosed outdoor dining. Expect pretty much everything that made the original great: meat skewers (cumin-y lamb, kidneys, tendon, sausages), and of course, piles of shellfish for face-melting seafood boils. Options for the boils include crawfish, snow crab, whole lobster, and more expensive king crab legs. Open for outdoor, indoor, and takeout.
Now that Ivan Ramen’s Slurp Shop has shuttered at Gotham West Market, E.A.K. Izakaya is your go-to option for good Japanese noodles in the Theater District. The Japanese chain serves excellent iekei ramen, a blend of fatty pork-based tonkotsu and soy-based shoyu ramen, with wonderfully firm noodles. Open for outdoor, indoor, and takeout.
Patzeria Perfect Pizza
Patzeria is situated right across the street from Hamilton, where crowds used to snake along the sidewalk as you selected your slice. The plain Sicilian slice is particularly cheesy, but then there’s the lasagna slice, the three-cheese slice, the fresh-mozzarella grandma slice, and the multi-veggie slice. But don’t neglect the heroes made to order, both cold and hot, and the breakfasts.
Tim Ho Wan
Hong Kong-based chain Tim Ho Wan — which famously attracted hour-plus waits when it debuted in the East Village — now boasts a Hell’s Kitchen location, where the queue is more reasonable. The smart play is a plate of steamed shrimp har gow, filled with delicately cooked crustaceans, and an order of barbecue pork buns, which are crispy on the outside, doughy within, and stuffed with an ample supply of sugary swine. Open for indoor dining or takeout.
The pandemic ended Ustav’s famed all-you-can-eat buffet program; the restaurant now serves a sprawling menu of Indo-Chinese fare, including chile paneer, gobi Manchurian, and chicken hakka noodles. Open for indoor, outdoor, or takeout.
New York, NY 10036
It’s a miracle Margon still exists. This old time Cuban lunch counter — deep, narrow, and well-lit — was founded in 1970, when Cuban-themed nightclubs like the Copacabana still drew crowds to the neighborhood. The food has always been top notch: The menu rotates daily on a predictable weekly cycle, and you can’t go wrong with oxtails, octopus salad, fricasseed chicken, or the Cuban sandwich. Open for indoor, outdoor, and takeout.
Nestled on the third floor of a Diamond Street building, the kosher-Uzbek Taam Tov continues to rank among the city’s top hidden gems. This is where you go for succulent grilled shashlik (kebabs), especially chewy, fatty lamb ribs. Also don’t miss the excellent plov with sweet carrots and saffron. Open for dine-in, takeout, and delivery.
Los Tacos No. 1
This Chelsea Market favorite established an outpost right in Times Square in the old New York Times building, with the same slender roster of tacos and other tortilla-based dishes. A favorite is the adobada mula, with spit-roasted pork sandwiched between a pair of soft flour tortillas filled with gooey cheese. Spoon on salsa and a fiery chile or two. Outdoor or takeout only.
Star Lite Deli
This very modest spot is good for a sandwich on the run, or a selection from a steam table that offers pastas, stews, chicken cutlets, and other hot dishes, most in a Latin or Italian vein. Perhaps its most notable accomplishment, apart from looking like it persists from a bygone era, is an $8 hot pastrami sandwich. Yes, the meat is often sliced first and heated on the griddle, but it’s still good, the pastrami salty and smoky.
Amelie Kang’s midtown restaurant remains a fantastic spot to enjoy the wonders of Sichuan dry pots. Patrons build their own bowls filled with fiery blends of any number of ingredients, including (but not limited to) beef tenderloin, tripe, tendon, tongue, squid, crab stick, tofu skin, rice cake, enoki mushrooms, and spam. Also consider the wonderfully slippery liangfen mung bean noodles to start off with. Open for indoor, takeout, and delivery.
This pan-Central Asian spot is one of the best places to eat grilled meat on the West Side of Manhattan. Owner Farida Gabbassova-Ricciardelli and chef Umitjon Kamolov serve serious charcoal-grilled shashlik; the chicken thigh skewers balance crisp skin with fatty juiciness and tender flesh. Be sure to sample the Uzbek national dish that is plov, rice pilaf made sweet from aromatic carrots and funky with tender chunks of heady lamb. Open for takeout, delivery, and fully enclosed outdoor dining.
Empanada Mama - Times Square
This is where you go for some of Manhattan’s top Colombian fare. Highlights include sancocho de cola (nourishing oxtail soup with corn, yucca, and cilantro); empanadas filled with beef, shredded chicken, or fragrant shrimp and crab sticks; and juicy grilled skirt steaks with red beans and rice.
Open for takeout and delivery. Also, try the larger nearby location in Hell’s Kitchen with a more substantial menu. Takeout only.
The concentration of Sichuan restaurants in the blocks south of Times Square is nothing short of amazing, especially since these places tend not to stint on Sichuan peppercorns. One of the finest is Best Sichuan, which also digs deep for recipes not often found in NYC. Such standards as dan dan noodles, tea smoked duck, and braised fish with soybean paste anchor a menu that also makes forays into Hunan, Hong Kong, and northern Chinese-style dishes. The semi-plush interior features high ceilings and a dining balcony at the rear. Open for indoor, outdoor, and takeout.
Adjacent to Times Square, the Diamond District once held many small Kosher establishments, of which few (like Taam Tov) remain. But seek out Colbeh on 39th Street just east of Sixth Avenue for a Kosher Persian meal. The elegant room twinkles with chandeliers; tables have tablecloths; and forests of tree branches decorate the walls. The Persian-leaning fare runs to shish kebabs of lamb and marinated chicken and stews featuring fresh green herbs and split peas, plus all the usual bread dips. Open for indoor, outdoor and takeout.