Where to eat and drink like a local in Times Square

Jenny Adams

Ask 20 New Yorkers what the best neighborhood to visit for food is, and you will get 20 different answers. Ask them what the worst neighborhood is, and it will be a simple, curt response of “Times Square.”

Oh, Times Square. Vestige of neon so garish and flashy, epilepsy feels imminent. It’s a neighborhood where you can’t catch a cab, but you can wait in lines longer than those that stretch out from the gates of Heaven on Judgment Day - only to further endure a meal at an Olive Garden or a Red Lobster. Or worse. There are plenty of overpriced, post-theater delis with questionable health ratings.

Yes, Times Square is enough to weaken the knees of the happiest tourist or the sturdiest Big Apple dweller. The truth is, however, there are some amazing culinary options if you know where to look. Yahoo Travel sought the guidance of several men and women working in New York’s food and beverage scene, from chefs to bartenders to food journalists. Here’s their advice on how to eat and drink like a local in Times Square.

Jimmy’s Corner
140 W 44th St. (between Broadway & 7th Ave)

“It isn’t even on a corner, and I’d hate to call it a dive. But … yeah … it is a dive. The place has a lot of character, let’s put it that way. Jimmy was a boxer, and the walls are filled with photos of big, household name fighters. The bartenders are gregarious, warm and friendly, and they make one of the best Gin & Tonics anywhere. Even though there’s no food here besides chips, the local advertising execs and bankers all head in for ‘lunch.’ It’s definitely a bartender’s bar, and it’s always comfortable inside. That’s one of the coolest things about it. It’s always just very comforting to drink at Jimmy’s.”
- Jason Littrell, Head Bartender and Partner at Analogue, opening this fall in Greenwich Village

The Lamb’s Club
(Inside The Chatwal Hotel, 132 W 44th St.)

“I'm a big fan of an old world vibe. I like to imagine what it would have been like to dine out in the ‘40s and when a spot like the Lamb's Club came along, it’s the closest thing we have. Also, I'm a sucker for any restaurant with deep red banquets. You feel like a boss when sitting in them. Lamb’s Club has a nice list of custom cocktails (and great food), but I usually kick back with a Manhattan, which they do very well. The place just has a masculine elegance about it. When you wander in, you forget the huge pile of metal and neon that was just around the corner. It’s totally transporting, walking into that place and being swept away into another time. I will sometimes meet up with a friend if I’m in the area for a photo shoot, and try my luck to get a table in the main bar upstairs. You can get a reservation in advance. so that’s obviously preferable.”
- Daniel Krieger, award-winning New York food, restaurant and portrait photographer, frequently contributing to the New York Times

BXL Belgian Café
125 W. 43rd St (between Avenue Of The Americas & Broadway)

“I went there for the first time in 2009, on a group lunch outing when I worked at MTV. It’s a small bar, with dark wood and tiny tables towards the back. There’s always some sort of international sport playing on the TVs, and at first glance, it seems like your basic NYC bar. That is … until you look at the menu. They have this crazy Belgian beer selection. One of the best in the city, I’d say. And then there’s a bistro menu with the most amazing Moules Frites options. I always order the Marinières, which has a white wine and shallot broth. BXL remains one of my go-to spots for lunch in the city.”
– Annie Shustrin, Project Manager for BRAVO TV and Top Chef

Sake Bar Hagi
152 W 49th St (between 7th Ave & Avenue Of The Americas)

“Hagi is this great, tiny Japanese sake den. You’d actually never even notice it was there. It’s a dark door about 30 feet from Times Square. You walk down into a dim basement room with lots of Asian accents. They serve Osaka-style Japanese bar food. Things like okonomiyaki, which are small, fried pancakes, and there’s a dried, broiled skate that’s really good. If you are in Times Square, this place is absolutely worth going to, especially late night. You can get massive, cheap pitchers of Sapporo, and there’s this fun Japanese Jazz playing and televisions with hilarious karaoke videos.”
- Will Horowitz, Chef and Co-Owner of Duck’s Eatery in the East Village

Café Edison
228 W 47th St. (between Broadway & 8th Ave)

“The Edison Cafe, a.k.a the “Polish Tea Room,” is a noshing haven for both struggling actors and moneybags producers. The quasi-grandiose space (it used to be a ballroom) looks like coffee shop casting central, and the cuisine is classic New York Jewish deli. The matzo ball soup, overflowing with both balls and noodles, is one of the best examples in the city of this soul-salving delicacy. The servers are salty, but the service is swift. If you've got a curtain to make, you can get in and out in under 15 minutes - and for under $20.”
- Robert Simonson, spirits and cocktail journalist for The New York Times

136 W 46th St. (Between 6th & 7th Ave)

“It’s a sliver of a Cuban restaurant on a side street. The room is very narrow and a little weathered. There’s nothing fancy about it, but their black beans and rice are some of the best I've ever had, and they come with addictive sweet plantains. You grab a tray when you walk in, and order down the line, cafeteria style. Make sure to ask about the daily specials, but you can't go wrong with their Cuban sandwich, octopus salad or oxtail. You would never guess in a million years you are in Times Square once you walk inside.”
- Laren Spirer, freelance food writer, contributor to Time Out New York, Gothamist and Serious Eats