Get off the train at Penn Station, and you’ll find a bunch of tourists and commuters who don’t like being surrounded by tourists. And if you walk 10 blocks north, you’ll wind up in Times Square: land of billboards, large crowds, and aggressive people in off-brand Disney costumes. But in between, there’s the Garment District. This neighborhood has fewer tourists and upset commuters, plus there are a bunch of restaurants in the area where you actually want to eat - like an Ecuadorian lunch counter, an underground izakaya, and a huge Italian spot where you can bring your boss when it’s your job to choose a restaurant and you don’t want to get fired. For all the best options, just look at this guide.
A good hotel restaurant is like a friend with a car. If you can find one, it’ll make your life easier. Hotel restaurants tend to be open all day, and they almost always have menus that’ll appeal to anyone, due to the fact that hotel guests can be demanding and hotel-guest-like. And if you live or work around the Garment District, Parker & Quinn should should be your go-to hotel option. It’s a good-looking space (sort of like a big gastropub) in the bottom of the Refinery Hotel, and they have a salad, a burger, and roughly 30 other things.
Tonchin is a ramen chain from Japan, and their first US location is on 36th Street. This is a great place to know about if you work in the area and occasionally need a weeknight place to eat with friends. It’s a long, narrow space with sleek, minimalist design, and the ramen is some of the best you’ll find north of Union Square. Grab a booth along the wall, or sit at the bar up front and watch the bartenders fastidiously make cocktails while you eat a bowl of noodles.
Casa Nonna is the sort of place where you can plan a last-minute dinner for your boss or some clients when you need something nice in the Garment District and you don’t want to get fired. The food is Italian, and while it isn’t the best you’ll find in NYC, the pastas are solid, there are plenty of options, and they have a eggplant parm side that’s one of the better ways to get a serving of vegetables. The space is also huge, with a bunch of big round tables and leather booths, and at any given time there will probably be at least three boat owners here.
If someone wants a steak in or around the Garment District, your best option is Keen’s. This is a classic NYC restaurant (open since 1885), and anyone who likes beef and history should have this place on their bucket list. The old-school dining room with white tablecloths and paintings of horses on the walls will make you temporarily feel like a robber baron, and there also happens to be a very large collection of pipes hanging from the ceilings. Have a mutton chop, or if you’re with someone who can eat, get a big porterhouse.
Maybe you had a day at work that made you want to sell all your possessions and become a drifter, or maybe you just had to chaperone a few tourists to the top of the Empire State Building. A beer and some wings will make you feel better, and you should get them at Bonchon. This is a Korean chain with locations around the country, and, while they have some things like pork buns and bibimbap, the reason you come here is for the double-fried wings and drumsticks. Get them spicy, and hang out for a few minutes.
In every neighborhood, you should know a place where you can sit with a group, and share a few small plates while you have a medium-to-large amount of drinks. Near the Garment District, one such spot is Izakaya Mew, and it will help you out in numerous scenarios. This place is an izakaya in a basement with brick walls and light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, and you can stop by after a game at MSG or come for a team bonding thing with coworkers. You’ll find plenty of ramen and sushi here, and they also serve frozen beer that has the texture of a slurpy.
For a sandwich or some matzoh ball soup in the Garment District, go to Ben’s. This is actually a mini-chain with a few locations in the tristate area, and they serve all your deli classics like pastrami, chopped liver, and potato pancakes. There’s also a larger menu of stuff like burgers, steaks, and salads, and everything here is, unsurprisingly, kosher.
When the sun comes out and you accidentally start thinking about the beach while you’re actually in Midtown, pick up some lunch at Luke’s Lobster. There are a few of locations around the city, and they’re all good for a quick meal or a snack that will make you feel like you’re in Montauk.
What would happen if all the fish in the world were suddenly raptured into fish heaven? For starters, every sushi spot would probably become a lot more like Beyond Sushi. This is a counter-service place that’s perfect for a quick lunch, and they specialize in sushi rolls that don’t actually have any fish. Instead, they use stuff like mango, avocado, and burdock root, and the results are actually very good. They also do some wraps and salads, and pretty much everything here will make you feel reasonably healthy.
Tabata has been around for a few years, and there isn’t anything fancy about it. It’s just one room with a handful of tables, a bar, and some pictures of their food on the wall (which is something more restaurants should do). What sets this place apart is the fact that the owner is Burmese, and their signature ramen comes with coconut milk and red onions. It’s worth trying at least once, although we actually like the spicy miso-soy version best. Get the deep fried tofu to start as well, and keep this place in mind for any weeknights when you need a bowl of soup before heading home.
If there were an award for Best Restaurant Within Two Block Of The Lincoln Tunnel, Mercato would definitely be in the running. It’s a little Italian spot on 39th Street, and it’s perfect for when you’re seeing Guys and Dolls with your parents, and you need to get some food before the show starts. Or stop by with a date when you don’t want to spend a crazy amount of money. The space is filled with little wooden tables, various antiques, and vintage Italian posters, and you won’t be upset with a basket of free bread and a bowl of orecchiette here.
Venisalvi is the sort of place that you stop into when it’s raining outside and you happen to be passing by. You’ll have a snack and a glass of wine while you wait out the rain, and you’ll probably think to yourself, “Hey, this place is pretty nice.” This is a tiny wine/bar cafe on a stretch of 38th Street that doesn’t have many neighborhood spots like it, and it’s good for a drink or a casual date night.
There are some places you will most likely never know about unless you happen to work in the area. El Sabroso is one such spot, and you’ll find it behind a freight entrance on the ground-floor of a large building on 37th Street. It’s open from 7am to 5pm, and it’s there to serve a good, affordable lunch when you need something better than whatever brown-paper-bag thing you were planning on eating at your desk. The food is Ecuadorian, and your meal will most likely consist of some kind of protein (pork, oxtail, goat, etc.) over rice with a side of beans. There are also a few seats if you need to eat your roast pork away from your workplace.
If you want Korean barbecue, you’re in the right area. K-Town is just a few blocks south of the Garment District, although you’ll find a few good options in this neighborhood as well. We like Madangsui. It’s reasonably priced, there’s room for big groups, and there’s also big non-BBQ menu if you don’t feel like cooking meat in the middle of your table. That’s half of the fun of eating here, however, so you should probably just order a meat combo, then add a seafood pancake and some bibimbap.