With so many great local and family-owned restaurants in Times Square and the Theater District, NYCOTC remains amazed by visitors who opt for national chains more at home in any suburban shopping mall anywhere in the USA.
Enjoy the great tastes of the Times Square and Theater District area at these standout homegrown choices, where you always eat better, and usually for less money, than at a national chain.
Avoid the tourist traps and get native NYC vibe and flavor, along with value for your restaurant dollar, at these top local choices recommended by native New Yorker and NYC on the Cheap Editor Evelyn Kanter.
This is always my top recommendation to out-of-town visitors who want to eat in Times Square or the Theater District it overlaps.
Get thin crust pizzas cooked in coal-fired brick ovens, with a traditional, eight-slice pie serving up to four people costing $16.50.
There’s also pasta and salads, all housed in a former church with original stained glass windows, so I like to joke that eating here is a religious experience.
One warning: Only pies are sold. Do not embarrass yourself by asking for slices.
My go-to menu item is always the calamari – the appetizer portion is enough for a meal, and bigger eaters can add a salad. My son is a fan of the hearty and traditional spaghetti with meat sauce.
John’s is also unique because it is in a decommissioned church, so you are eating surrounded by stained glass windows an impressive architecture
There are also John’s outposts on Arthur Avenue in The Bronx, and in Jersey City.
- , 260 W. 44th Street, (212) 391-7560
- If all you want is a slice and a soda, these 99 cent pizza slice joints in midtown are fast and filling, and most are open to midnight or later.
Nearly all the recommendations on this page are included in my new NYC guidebook, 100 Things to Do in New York City Before You Die, available now in bookstores and online.
Shake Shack made its name with upscale burgers, hot dogs, fries and shakes courtesy of NYC restaurateur icon Danny Meyer, one of the smartest businessmen and nicest guys in the food business, top reasons his restaurants are so successful.
The lines are long and it’s hard to find seats unless you stop in well before or well after normal lunch and dinner hours, especially before the theater curtain.
NY Insider tip:
Order a concrete – a dense frozen custard ice cream in a cup with a straw — to sustain you during a show.
Yes, Shake Shack is now an international chain, but its NYC’s own international chain, started here in an outpost in Madison Square Park, in Flatiron, that’s still there.
SEE ALSO Where to eat in Flatiron
- Shake Shack, 691 8th Avenue, (646) 435-0135
Junior’s has been serving the best cheesecake on the planet since 1950 at its original outpost in downtown Brooklyn, and now also in additional locations, including in Times Square, and mini-outposts in the downstairs food halls in Grand Central Terminal and DeKalb Market in Brooklyn.
True to its Brooklyn roots, the decor in Times Square features images of the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers and Ebbets Field, where they played before breaking the hearts of all New Yorkers and moving to Los Angeles.
There’s lots more on the menu here than cheesecake, including burgers, salads and Jewish deli classics.
With the demise of the famous Carnegie Deli and the Stage Deli, Junior’s is the best place in midtown for a traditional overstuffed pastrami or corned beef on rye.
Junior’s is also open early for breakfast and late for after-theater.
- Juniors, 1515 Broadway at 45th St. (212) 302-2000
Sardi’s has been a Theater District landmark for a couple of generations, more celebrated for its walls papered with hundreds of framed caricatures of famous Broadway show people and other celebrities than for its food.
NY Insider tip:
The dining room menu tends to be over-priced and under-flavored. Opt instead for a drink at the bar.
You’ll still get to enjoy the museum-like artwork by legendary illustrator Al Hirschfield.
- Sardis 234 W. 44th St., (212) 222-8440