It’s not that I’m complaining that Times Square is starting to resemble a shopping mall in a suburb of Indiana because hey, everybody needs some unlimited salad and breadsticks in their life (what’s up, Olive Garden!). But when you’ve got one hour to grab dinner in between work and a play or you need to find a restaurant that can accommodate you, your girlfriend and her extended family in town from Oregon and oh, by the way, her brother’s a vegan, it can get a little dicey. Here are a couple of the best options in the neighborhood to make sure you head off to your Broadway show with a full belly and still enough time to page through the Playbill.
Best for Sit Down Fancy Pizza: Nizza(630 9th Ave between 44th and 45th)
You’re in New York, you’ve got to have some pizza, but you don’t want to eat off a paper plate as grease drips onto your fancy theater-going outfit. Head to 9th avenue and give Nizza a try. The menu is Mediterranean, leaning heavily on the specialties of Southern France – it’s one of the few places in New York you can find socca, a delicious chickpea flour pancake native to Nice. The pizza and pasta are delicious and nothing’s priced to break the bank. A far better bet than balancing a paper plate on your knees in the middle of Times Square.
Best for Health (And Speed): Green Symphony (255 W 43, between 8th and 7th)
This tiny storefront is a favorite among Broadway chorus girls and boys picking up a freshly squeeze juice on their way to the theater. There are smoothies and a make-your-own salad bar, but the best part are the pre-made salad options. If the kale salad isn’t out by the time you get there, make sure you spoon yourself up a helping. And get dessert – all the bars and cookies are made in house with healthy ingredients like yogurt and brown rice syrup, so you can enjoy your Blueberry Almond Bar guilt free. There’s not a ton of seating here, so this is best if you’re eating with just one other person or – even better – a book.
Best for Patient Burger Lovers: Shake Shack (691 8th Ave between 43rd and 44th)
The famous burger joint from Madison Square Park now has a Times Square location and the lines can get pretty long. But if you’re craving a burger and a frozen custard in Times Square, where else are you going to go? TGI Friday’s? There’s plenty of seating too so when you come to the end of that line, you can sit down and savor what is fast becoming a New York institution.
Best for Drinks Sans Tourists and Teeny Umbrellas: Jimmy’s Corner (140 W 44th between 6th and 7th)
This may be one of the only places in the city you can get a drink for under eight dollars, so the fact that it’s in this notoriously tourist-priced part of town is all the more impressive. It’s small and don’t even think about taking a fourtop if you’re a party of two, but the price is right and you can’t beat the genuine feel of old New York that permeates the place.
Best Bargain: Maoz (200 W. 40th between 7th and 8th Ave)
Maoz is a falafel chain and a reliable one at that. You can always count on the falafel being tasty, but the best part is the salad bar. They give you the falafel-filled pita and then off to the salad bar you go to put as many tasty middle eastern salads into your pita as you can fit. It’s a more exciting version of the five dollar footlong. While there’s no seating at Maoz, the food is portable and the pedestrian mall of Times Square is mere steps away with plenty of seating.
Best for Last Minute Groups: Le Pain Quotidien (1271 Ave of the Americas between 50th and 51st)
Le Pain is one of the more reliable chains around the city and for good reason. The sandwiches are delicious and the humongous chocolate chip cookies are perfectly sized to slip into your purse and nosh on during a performance. The reason I suggest this location of all the Le Pains citywide is because it’s the size of an airplane hangar. And not only that, come nightfall, when the offices are all closed, it’s cleared out. So if you suddenly realize you have 8 mouths to feed before “Wicked,” you’re guaranteed a table here.
Best for Vegetarians with a Sweet Tooth: Kyotofu (705 9th Ave between 48th and 49th)
While Kyotofu isn’t a vegetarian restaurant, it’ll probably be hard to get a strict carnivore into a restaurant with “tofu” in the title. Which is a shame because these are the some of the best desserts in town – who knew that putting tofu in a cupcake would make it more moist than butter? The menu is a delicious mixture of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options of the non-sushi Japanese ilk, but save time for those desserts. Where else can you get a soymilk ice cream sundae topped with pocky?