One way to tell someone hasn’t spent much time in New York City is when they ask a Big Apple resident, “Do you go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve?”
New Yorkers have long avoided Times Square, on New Year’s Eve and the other 364 days of the year. First when it was a seedy, crime-filled swath of town where strip clubs hugged up against sex shops and drug dealers lingered on corners in the 1970s and ‘80s. And since the late 1990s due to the Disney-iffication of the area, where there’s now, well, a Disney store next to Hershey’s Chocolate World, next to some other multi-national chain shop.
If you’re standing in the center of Times Square and your stomach rumbles, the nearest restaurants are typical American restaurant chains. But if you’re visiting New York, you might want to try a local eatery. And support a small local business along the way.
After all, the Times Square area isn’t the dining desert that people assume it is. You just have to know where to look—or just read this guide below. For the sake of boundaries, the below restaurants are all between Sixth and Eighth Avenues, east to west, and 40th Street and 50th Street, south to north.
Best Steakhouses In Times Square
The “NYY” in question stands for New York Yankees, the baseball team the rest of the country loves to hate. You need not be a Yankees fan to love this place, though it might add extra enjoyment. Regardless, the steak is top-notch. You might even call it the MVP (Most Valuable Provision). The thick juicy porterhouse is a home run on the palate and the 56-ounce long bone steak for two is a worthy splurge. Other non-steak standouts include Kobe tartar and roasted bone marrow.
When is a steakhouse not a steakhouse? When it’s Brooklyn Chophouse, which, yes, happens to be one of the best steakhouses in the city. It also has an extensive menu of Asian-inspired delights too, including chicken satay, and Thai peanut noodles. We also love their fun cross-cultural mashups like Reuben dumplings, Philly cheesesteak dumplings, and pastrami dumplings.
Best Italian Restaurants In Times Square
The Lambs Club
Accomplished chef Michael White is the man behind this dimly lit, ambient eatery that is another one of the best restaurants in Times Square. Since chef White has cooked in and owned several Italian restaurants, it’s no surprise that the Lambs Club skews toward Italy. Spring vegetable risotto and orecchiette with scallops and lobster in a tomato sauce are excellent dishes here. So is the tender, plus-sized veal chop. The weekend brunch menu has a great version of fluffy lemon ricotta pancakes.
Perhaps because of its location in Hell’s Kitchen (and a block away from Times Square), Don Antonio doesn’t get as much love as it deserves. The restaurant was founded in 2012 by famed pizzaiolo Antonio Starita who runs Starita a Materdei, one of the best (and oldest) pizzerias in that pizza mecca, Naples. The menu includes all the traditional Neapolitan pizzas, some creative takes, and also the deep-fried Montanara pizza, which one doesn’t see outside of Naples very often. If you want to sample some of the best pizza in New York, point yourself here.
Best Mexican Restaurants In Times Square
Los Tacos No. 1
The name is certainly not false advertising. The original location in the Chelsea Market still has lunchtime lines snaking through the building every day. The Times Square outlet has less-intimidating lines, fortunately. But there’s a general consensus that Los Tacos No. 1 really is numero uno for tacos in New York. At least for the tacos de adobada (which is just a different name for the taco al pastor). The one taco first-timers (or twenty-first-timers) should order it.
A longtime Mexican favorite, Toloache (West 50th Street and Eighth Avenue) is another one of the best restaurants in Times Square. The menu swirls around all regions of Mexico and the kitchen does a nice job of serving up solid south-of-the-border fare in a colorful, three-story dining room. The lechón (suckling pig) tacos are a standout.
Best Spanish Food In Times Square
Named after the famed Barcelona food market, the Times Square outlet of Boqueria is part of a New York City minichain with locations in SoHo, Flatiron, and the Upper East Side. No matter which location you happen upon, the Spanish fare here is always solid. Stick to classic tapas here and you can’t go wrong. Crispy patatas bravas, garlicky gambas al ajillo, and creamy croquetas are all winners. For a slight splurge—$65 per person—your table can get the “Boqueria Experience,” a multi-plate extravaganza of the restaurant’s greatest hits.
Best Fusion Restaurants In Times Square
Despite the name, this elegant-yet-casual eatery with floor-to-ceiling windows is not necessarily a French restaurant. Instead, L’Addresse serves a little bit of everything and they do it quite well. You can find everything from a perfectly cooked ribeye steak to flavor-popping artichoke risotto. There’s also Korean-accented salmon, gochujang fried rice, and a delicious truffle-spiked burger. If you feel like boozing between 3 and 5 pm, the “social hour” at L’Addresse is a good one as wine and cocktail prices are slashed nearly in half.
One of the most underrated Cuban restaurants in New York is also one of the best places to eat near Times Square. Margon is a casual Cuban spot that makes a fantastic porklicious Cuban sandwich, as well as hearty oxtail stew and crispy fried kingfish. The more adventurous might want to put their spoon into the tripe stew with pigs’ feet. Margon also does breakfast that leans toward American-style dishes.
David Farley is a West Village-based food and travel writer whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC, and Food & Wine, among other publications. He’s the author of three books, including “An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town,” which was made into a documentary by the National Geographic Channel. You can find Farley’s online homes here and here.