Making pre-show plans is complicated. You have to figure out a dinner that won’t take so long you’re late to your show, you have to find a place with a menu that will make everyone in your group happy, and you have to make sure there are enough drink options to save you from needing too many $16 Sam Adams at the venue. And you’re probably looking for someplace relatively cool. Or at least deserving of that jacket you only break out for shows at Music Hall and Bowery Ballroom.
With all that in mind, we’ve put together a guide to the best places to eat before or after a show at nine of NYC’s most popular music venues, from the Beacon Theater to Brooklyn Steel. And if you’re looking for places to eat near MSG or the Barclays Center, check out our full guides to those venues.
Ten Bells is a wine bar with good small plates near Bowery Ballroom that’s a great meeting spot before your show if you’re waiting for your friends to trickle in from their various commutes. Their Happy Hour will also decrease the chance of you emptying your wallet on overpriced beer at the show: they have $15 wine carafes and $1 oysters deals every day until 7pm.
Seamore’s is a good choice if you’re looking for a casual, kind-of-healthy dinner before your show. They serve kale salads and poke bowls, but also fish tacos and skate po boys for people who prefer to enjoy themselves on a Friday night. Seamore’s has enough space for a big group, but gets pretty packed.
Just like Bowery Ballroom, Lovely Day is great if you like semi-obscure things and/or feel comfortable in the $25 range. The kind-of-hidden spot in Nolita serves solid Thai food that is super reasonably priced. Just know that they only take cash or American Express and the space is on the smaller side, if you’re coming here with a group before the Porches concert.
Lil Frankie’s is ideal for almost any pre-show situation: groups where the number of people keeps changing, your friends who are selectively vegetarian, and the guy whose only instruction is “pizza.” The menu is full of reasonably-priced pastas, pizzas, and mains that are easy to share. Just know that this place is cash-only and gets really busy on weekends, so it might be worth making a reservation (usually pretty easy to do, even last-minute) or trying to get a seat at the first-come-first-serve bar.
Work ran late because your boss insisted that everyone present their Myers-Briggs personalities to the group at 6:05pm and you have 20 minutes before Julie Louis Dreyfus’ son goes on at the Mercury Lounge. Souvlaki GR is your move here. It’s quick, close to the venue, and has solid and inexpensive Greek food. Plus, they’re open late if you’d rather eat after the show.
If you need a reliable, crowd-pleasing restaurant that still feels like you’re making a real night out of it, we’d recommend Freemans. They serve upscale American food in a space at the end of a little alley that feels like you’re in a cabin in the Catskills, and most people should be able to find many things on the menu they’ll want (starting with the artichoke dip). If there are just a couple of you and you’re running short on time, they also serve the full menu at the bar.
Casa Mono is one of our all-time favorite Spanish restaurants, and it’s also one of the best restaurants in Gramercy. Carve out some time if you want a full-on dinner (you might have to wait for a table), or just hang at their bar next door with some wine and jamon serrano. This is a great place to start a one-two punch date night before your show.
Across the street from Casa Mono is Yama, a casual neighborhood sushi spot in the basement of a generic-looking Gramercy brick building. They have reasonable prices, beer and wine, and almost-scarily giant pieces of nigiri (we’re telling you now so that you’re not alarmed). The whole place feels a little 90s, but then again, you’re about to see Dave Matthews at Irving Plaza.
If you’re looking for pizza near Irving Plaza and want to actually sit down, try Ribalta. This place is pretty big, puts french fries on pizzas, and usually has a soccer game projected onto the wall.
the Beacon Theatre
Playa Betty’s is a great place for a kind-of-rowdy group dinner before a show at Beacon Theater. The bright, open space has plenty of room for a big crew, the margaritas are strong, and they have cheap buckets of beer. The Mexican food is definitely not the best around, but the portions are big and everything comes out fast. And nobody here will have a problem with you convincing one of your friends to start butchering songs by the band you’re about to go see across the street.
You already spent a fair amount of money on the concert tickets and an Uber to the UWS, so you probably don’t want to spend a ton on dinner too. But still, you want something good. Sushi Yasaka serves high-quality, affordable sushi in a casual atmosphere that works for a date or small group. Plus, there’s a low likelihood you’ll eat enough sushi to wind up in a food coma, so you won’t need to drink a bunch of Red Bull-vodkas at the venue. Unless you just like Red Bull vodkas. We don’t, but we still support you.
You’re probably wearing something cooler than your average Tuesday outfit, plan to have some drinks, and may even rock back and forth unsteadily and call it dancing. If you want to get your night started at one of the trendier spots on the UWS, dinner at Redfarm is a good option. It has more space than the downtown original, but serves the same great pastrami egg rolls and Pac Man dumplings.
Your first thought about finding a place to eat near Terminal 5 might involve jumping into the Hudson river and grabbing the closest buoy to gnaw on. But there are other options that only involve a short walk past all of the car dealerships in Hell’s Kitchen. Bocca Di Bacco is an Italian wine bar with reasonably-priced pastas, salads, and entrees that actually taste good. They take reservations, but this place also works for a last-minute “we have half an hour before the show and I’m hungry” situation.
Taboon is one of our favorite restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen and it’ll be a good choice if you’re prepared to spend some money on your meal. They serve Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, and have both a full bar and a pre- and post-theater special during the week where you get three courses for $46 between 5-6pm and 9:45-11pm.
If you’re in the mood for Middle Eastern and Mediterranean but don’t feel like spending as much money as you would at Taboon, Kashkaval is another solid option in the area. It’s only a few blocks from Terminal 5, and much of their menu involves cheese (fondue, grilled Haloumi, feta and gruyere flatbreads - you get the point). Most of the crowd eating here will be neighborhood people on dates.
After eating fried chicken or a bacon cheeseburger, you’d probably prefer a couch or a gurney than a packed, standing-room-only venue with thousands of other people for three hours. The Balinese food at Selamat Pagi is relatively light, but won’t leave you needing chicken tenders halfway through the show. You can’t go wrong with the pumpkin curry or spicy beef rendang, and the soju cocktails with hibiscus and passionfruit are a nice base before big plastic cups of beer at the venue.
If barely being able to hear each other is your ideal level of date-night intimacy, then getting hot pretzels and beers at the venue is your move. But if you want to have a conversation beyond screaming, “these guys are great!” during the concert, then go to Pheasant. The small space has some shareable Mediterranean food, and the atmosphere is relaxed. They don’t take reservations, so keep that in mind if you’re in a time crunch before the show.
Little Dokebi is about a 10-minute walk from Brooklyn Steel, and is great for a fun group dinner. The space is small, but the Korean-ish menu at this cash-only spot is long. Share a bunch of Korean tacos and fried chicken, or grill some BBQ on the table in front of you.
Music Hall of williamsburg
If each person in your group got to suggest where you’d all be eating before the show, things could devolve quickly. Instead of spending two hours texting things like “Eggs aren’t meat!” and “You knew she was gluten-intolerant,” you should just bring your group to Cafe Mogador, the Moroccan place with something for everyone. Your friend who wants “a good vibe” will appreciate that Mogador has a partytime feel, and your friend who suggested that you all cook at her townhouse in Clinton Hill will love the back dining room that looks like a greenhouse.
Hotel Delmano should be your go-to date spot before a show at Music Hall. It feels like an old-timey members-only drinking club (in a cool, not annoying way), and both the drinks and food (small plates and raw bar) are very good. Just know it’s seating-only (no standing at the bar), and that it tends to get packed later in the night - so you might have to wait to get in if you don’t show up on the early side.
You’re about to go into a dark, hot space packed with people. Rather than pre-gaming at a similarly cramped spot where you’ll spill the first quarter of your drink just trying to step away from the bar, hang out at the picnic tables in Pearl’s big backyard. The Caribbean sandwiches are all good, the large plates are ideal for sharing, and a pitcher of the Rude Boy cocktail is never a bad idea, even if you’re about to see someone way less cool than Rihanna.
The Farm on Adderley is about a 15-minute walk from King’s Theater, but it’s worth the commute for the seasonal American food and backyard. Start with the kale salad or share the cheese plate, and then get the burger, which comes with some fantastic fries. If you don’t really feel like walking to the theater after a few of the very good cocktails here, you could always take a car. Let’s face it - you’re probably going to take a car regardless.
Purple Yam is a great little spot that serves traditional Filipino dishes, along with Korean and Chinese-inspired ones, like scallion and shrimp pancakes and pork spare rib adobo. The booths inside (and the backyard) are good for groups, so bring some friends who will be excited to try hard-to-find-around-NYC dishes like eggplant with burnt coconut cream.
Parkside is a good date option before a show at King’s Theatre. The dimly-lit space has plenty of bar seating, along with cocktails and affordable wines, and wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas. They’re also open until 2am, so keep it in mind for a post-show spot to edit those videos for Instagram, or to talk about how much you were vibing with the bassist.
Prospect park bandshell
If your company got a bunch of VIP tickets (you get to stand in an awkward area with a bad view of the stage) and you need a pre-show dinner spot for a big group, then the booths and long tables at Hugo & Sons are a good option. The menu is a mix of simple American and Italian dishes, like personal pizzas, a burger, and brick chicken. It also happens to be a family-friendly spot, so keep it in mind if you need to feed your kids before they fall asleep during the first Sufjan Stevens song. Well, you’ll probably fall asleep during the first Sufjan Stevens song too.
Drink enough margaritas, and when you see the opening band, you’ll be shocked they aren’t famous yet. If you want to share some solid Mexican food and drink a lot of margaritas (they have eight types), check out Fonda. Get some spicy guacamole and the enchiladas covered in black mole, and sit in the backyard if it’s nice out. Your only regret will be the nine minutes you waste listening to the opener again tomorrow morning.
If you need a date spot before a show at the Bandshell, Camperdown Elm serves some interesting food that will provide decent conversation material once you run out of things to say about the band’s newest album. Share the octopus over blood sausage and beef with roasted pumpkin. Camperdown Elm’s patio seating is great too.