It’s hard to find a great meal in Midtown. If you don’t know that already, congratulations - you’re either a pigeon or you’ve never had to find a meal in Midtown.
Unfortunately for the people who appreciate sailor costumes and a good Cole Porter number, this is exactly where the Theater District is. The thing is, you can find good food here - it’s just tougher to locate. Here are 30 places to get an actually-good meal before you see Wicked for the 10th time.
Utsav serves classic Indian food with the speed and ferocity of someone who’s as stressed about making curtain call as you are. This 46th Street spot is ideal if you want something warm, spicy, and delicious but you don’t want to worry about waiting for a table - the space is giant. We like the dal makhani and butter chicken, but you can’t really go wrong.
It’s rare to find a fun and affordable group spot near Times Square, but Donburiya meets the criteria. Almost everything on the menu at this Japanese izakaya costs less than $15, including their specialty donburi bowls, massive onigiri, and $9 carafes of hot sake. Just know that Donburiya feels more like a bar where someone might stand on a table than it does a calm sit-down restaurant, but that’s part of the fun.
Kashkaval is a dimly-lit Mediterranean restaurant where you should bring a date, a parent, or really anyone you feel comfortable sharing a plate of fondue with (they serve five different types here). Things stay relatively quiet, which will be necessary before you wade through crowds of people standing outside screaming for Matthew Broderick’s autograph.
Maybe you have a few clients to impress or you don’t see Broadway shows that often, and you want to have a memorable dinner at a place with more gold accents than the cover photo for Drake’s sophomore album. Go to Quality Bistro, the massive French restaurant from the people behind Quality Eats and Don Angie. There are several different loud, dark rooms to choose from, and the French-leaning menu has everything from bone marrow and several preparations of filet mignon to a tarte flambee that tastes like a Detroit-style pizza.
As with any NYC neighborhood where tourists outnumber actual New Yorkers two to one, the Theater District has plenty of places to eat pizza. But if you’re looking for a spot that’ll appeal to people who aren’t currently on vacation, go to B-Side. It’s a dark restaurant/bar with the blonde wood and leather stools of a ’70s rec room, and it’s where you can get a great Neapolitan pie absolutely buried in soppressata, chili oil, and hot honey.
If B Side is busy, and you don’t necessarily need a place that qualifies as “cool,” go to Capizzi. It’s more of a straightforward neighborhood Italian spot decorated with wine bottles and vintage knick-knacks, and the pizzas here are thin, slightly crunchy, and similar in spirit to the ones at Lucali. Is this place as good as Lucali? Of course not. But this is still a nice, calm spot to eat a pie or two with a nephew who wants to see the Frozen musical.
You’re probably going to see someone famous at Bar Centrale. In other words, you probably won’t get a seat at Bar Centrale. But that’s why the internet was invented: make a reservation online. Book a week in advance, and you’re good to go. Walk up the steps of the non-descript townhouse and enjoy a cocktail and some small plates in the dark, discreet space before or after a show. And don’t stare at celebrities. Take a picture. That’s why phones were invented.
It’s possible you rushed to the show straight from a meeting and forgot that your body needs calories to function. As soon as you leave the theater, go to Los Tacos on 43rd Street. This place makes some of our favorite food in the neighborhood, but it’s extremely casual and there are technically not even any chairs. Order some excellent tacos and lean against a counter while you recap your thoughts on the inconsistent lighting design in whatever show you just paid hundreds of dollars to see.
Pomona is across the street from the Plaza Hotel and underneath the Paris Theater, and while there is a $19 shrimp cocktail and a royal caviar eclair on the menu, this place feels cooler than some of the other, stuffier spots nearby. There’s a casual bar area, seating mostly made up of orange leather booths, and music like Christine and the Queens on the speakers. Just keep in mind that the food is on the heavy side - they serve goose fat tater tots and a duck confit burger with duck skin mayo and duck jus. Come here when you want an upscale but fun dinner, and are OK with $40 entrees.
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
You aren’t sure when you’ll be able to get out of work, so rather than risking angry texts from your friends about the host only seating complete parties, have everyone meet at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. It’s from the people who run Le Bernardin, but it’s much more casual, with couch seating that looks like it belongs in a nice hotel lobby, plus some tables and a bar. People can order small plates, like foie gras lollipops or duck confit lettuce wraps, at their own pace, and try options from the extensive and surprisingly affordable wine list.
You like the idea of going to a rooftop bar, but you’re not quite looking for fishbowls full of neon blue cocktails or “snack” menus with $32 steak tartare. Check out The Polynesian, a big tiki-themed spot from the people behind Carbone and The Grill. It has a lot of tables inside, and a wraparound outdoor patio overlooking Midtown. The cocktails come in skull and treasure chest-shaped mugs, and they’re excellent, as is the upscale bar food - get the shrimp dumplings over sambal sauce and the mini bacon BBQ burgers.
Pure Thai Cookhouse serves some of The Best Thai Food In NYC, and it’s the ideal spot to sit on a stool at a plain wooden table and eat a few curry puffs and a bowl of noodles topped with crab and pork. The only catch is, the narrow space is only about the size of your average subway car, they don’t take reservations, and you’ll most likely encounter a wait. But if you have 30 minutes to kill, we encourage you to put your name in, walk around the block a few times, and come back for some springy noodles.
Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ
Dinner and an activity before your show doesn’t have to consist of a street hot dog and a walk through the Swatch store in Times Square. At Gyu-Kaku, you can grill your own Japanese BBQ and try a ton of different things for around $25-30 per person. We’d recommend making a reservation, because it gets packed with groups and families - especially during the daily Happy Hour, when all the food is discounted and there’s a giant two-person set meal option for $55. Also - your clothes might smell like meat after you leave, so emotionally prepare for that or plan to eat after your show.
You have about 90 minutes until curtains. Rather than sitting down somewhere and asking for all three courses to be brought out at the same time, try Casellula. This airy wine bar serves a bunch of shareable small plates and a few larger options, like the “pig’s ass sandwich” with two types of pork and melted cheese. It’s also open until 1am every day, so keep it in mind for after the show, when you should sit at the bar and ask your server to bring you flights of cheeses (they have over 30 different types) and wines to go with them.
Briciola calls itself a wine bar, but it’s really more of a full-on restaurant. There are a bunch of small plates and about 15 different pastas, all of which cost $14 or less. And the food is pretty solid. It might not blow your mind, but it’s good for the price - especially the lasagna. The only real catch is that this place is tiny, they don’t take reservations, and all of the seating is communal. On the plus side, it’s open until midnight, so you can stop by post-show if you spent all of Act II dreaming about carbs.
Natsumi is as casual as sushi on West 50th Street can be - which is to say, slightly fancier than what you’ll find in most neighborhoods. But regular rolls here are almost all under $10. The fish is high-quality, and they also have a bunch of different sushi sets. It sort of feels like a hotel lounge from the early 2000s where people talk business and tourists speak French, but it’s pleasant enough if you want to get some reasonably affordable sushi before or after a show (especially during their early and late-night Happy Hour).
Come here before your show and you run the risk of falling asleep before Simba even realizes he’s a king and doesn’t have to slum it with warthogs anymore. Quality Meats is a little bit New York and a little bit Vegas, and you should plan your meal accordingly. Get a big crab cake and an even bigger steak (with some creamed vegetables on the side, for health).
If the Theater District were a high school, Nizza would be the prom queen. But let’s be clear: the Theater District would not be a very cool high school. We’re talking maybe 75 students, and no one’s heard of The Clash. Still, Nizza’s got a lot going for it: good atmosphere, above-average Italian food, and even some outdoor seating. If you’re looking for a downtown restaurant in Midtown, this is the place for you.
Technically this is in Hell’s Kitchen, but it’s still walking distance from most theaters. Come here for rustic American cooking (meatloaf, roasted rainbow carrots) with rustic American decor (exposed brick, framed newspaper clippings). If you only eat at restaurants where everything is cooked in a wood-burning oven and most things are locally sourced, this is the place for you.
It’s 9:40pm, you’re on West 55th street, and your stomach spent the last two hours grumbling like it was a chorus member in the show. What you really want is Los Tacos No. 1 on 43rd Street, but that’s ten blocks away and are you really in a position to be choosy about the quality of tacos you put into your mouth? Certainly not. The carnitas at La Esquina will be exactly what you need.
Sake Bar Hagi doesn’t really look like much from the outside, but walk inside and you’ll find a long room with hanging light bulbs and records on the walls. It’s a great place for a casual meal with a couple of friends before a show, and the menu is surprisingly huge - you can get everything from sashimi and yakitori to french fries and ramen. Plus (as the name suggests), there’s a wide variety of sake to choose from.
44 & X
44&X was built for pre-theater dinners, and not just because they have a full list of cocktails with Broadway-pun names. It’s especially perfect for people who are easily annoyed by crowds and loud noises (a.k.a. Times Square). There’s a giant dining room and a long bar, and it stays pretty quiet since it’s on 10th Avenue. Come with family or friends who are interested in eating some steak or a nicely-cooked piece of salmon.
You probably don’t want to come here before a show (if you actually want to catch that show). Sure, the waits are long, but Ippudo is open late, and the food is worth it. If you need ramen before midnight on a Friday (as most of us do), hit them up. Your theater partner will be impressed with your neighborhood know-how, and you’ll want them to stop talking to you so you can eat more ramen.
This whole guide’s about silver linings, so consider it a blessing that the food at this modern wine bar doesn’t quite live up to the wine. Everyone knows that if you drink enough on the first date, you step through a magical time warp, past all the awkward small talk about college hobbies and how old you were when you got your first hamster. So get a reasonably priced glass of wine or two after a show, and try to find out what your date’s aura looks like. Hint: it’s fuzzy and nice.
Sushi of Gari 46
There are four Garis in the city, we’ve reviewed three of them, and they’re all excellent. The one on the UES is our favorite, but this is a close second. You’re going to want to get the omakase (and some tempura as well), so bring a wealthy friend and have them foot the bill. The fish here is high-quality, and the pieces of sushi are enhanced with things like quail eggs, broiled tomato, and jalapeno. Make this your pre-theater stop when you want to spend a little money (or you know someone who does).
Aria Wine Bar
The original Aria Wine Bar is in the West Village, and this Hell’s Kitchen location is essentially a clone. The ceilings are a little higher, and the space is less cramped - but they serve the same menu, and, just like the other location, there are little wooden tables and exposed brick walls covered in wine bottles. Plus, the pastas here are only $14. Just be sure to make a reservation if you’re stopping by before a show, because there tends to be a wait, and you don’t want to miss the first half of Pretty Woman: The Musical.
If you’re seeing a show by yourself, come here and eat some ramen at the bar. Get your ramen spicy and skip the pork buns. Also, remember to bring cash (they’re cash only). This is definitely a more casual pre-theater move, and you’ll want to give yourself some time to deal with a potential wait. It’s also open until 11pm, in case you want to come back later for a snack.
ViceVersa is on the pricier side, but they do have a good Happy Hour. It also isn’t over-the-top and cheesy in the way so many restaurants in Midtown tend to be. Come here for some upscale Italian or a quiet daytime martini at the bar. Grab some pasta in the backyard, and you might even consider making a repeat visit when you’re not already in the area to see a show. Seeing as it’s in Midtown, you probably won’t do this. But it was a nice thing to say.