New York City’s restaurant scene in the Theater District has exploded in the past few years, with new dining spots springing up left and right. It can be difficult to find a great pre-theater meal around Times Square and the Theater District because prices tend to be high. But this is a sizeable neighborhood and if you look off the beaten path, you’ll find plenty of bargains and a variety of top-notch restaurants from contemporary to classic. An array of tasty cuisine can be found in the New York City Theater District, and combining a Broadway show with a great place to eat near the event will make your entire evening enjoyable.
Use my guide to where to eat before a Broadway show:
One of the more reasonably priced American-cuisine restaurants right in the heart of the Theater District, Joe Allen has been serving great food to Broadway performers, theatergoers and tourists for 50 years. This lovely restaurant at 326 West 46th St just two blocks from Times Square is a great place to get a good well-rounded meal when you’re short on time. Joe Allen has a comfortable atmosphere with nothing too fancy, pricey or pretentious.
This isn’t a glitzy restaurant and the menu is not very large or exotic, but there is something for everyone. Try the marinated grilled chicken with mashed potatoes. It’s outstanding! While you enjoy the food, you can ogle the old Broadway posters on the walls. The restaurant is known for its “Posters of Broadway Bombs.” This Theater District hot spot is an ideal option for dining without worrying about missing your show. Just let the staff know and they’ll be sure to time things appropriately so you get to the theater in time for the opening number.
Joe Allen is also a treat after the theater, for lounging amid the posters of first-night flops. While there, you may get to see some of your favorite Broadway stars hanging out after their performances. Reservations are necessary.
If you’re in the mood for one of the best pizzas in New York City, stop at Don Antonio’s. It’s as good as it gets! Opened in 2012, the restaurant at 309 W. 50th St. offers a classic, creative Neapolitan-style pizza. The cheese and sauce on their pies are fresh, and the crusts of their Pizza Fritta, which is filled with cherry tomatoes, homemade mozzarella, fresh ricotta and salami, are slightly fried until lightly crisped and puffy.
The menu ranges from classics like the margherita to slightly odd – but delicious – pies including the Racchetta, a tennis racquet-shaped pizza with the head topped in cheeses and vegetables and the handle a crisp-chewy crust. Vegetarian options are also available. On the weekends, the restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. straight through dinner; on weekdays, it’s closed for an hour between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. You don’t need reservations, but show up with a little time to spare.
Mexican fare is taking off these days, and this popular restaurant at 251 W.50th Street, off Eighth Avenue is one of the best in the city. A contemporary Mexican Bistro, Toloache opened in 2007 in the Theater District offering a wide selection of Mexican food, plus an extensive vegetarian menu. The appetizers and entrees feature ceviches, tacos, oyster shooters and ribs. Three versions of the guacamole are offered. There is plain, a fairly traditional mixture of roughly mashed avocado with some onion and Serrano chilies, a small dice of tomatoes and a sprinkling of cilantro lives. A fierier recipe offers chipotle and more tomatoes, a hint of queso fresco, and some red onions. It’s all delicious! Toloache isn’t a fancy restaurant, but the fact that its always packed should tell you something. The food, great service and colorful, vibrant atmosphere with hand painted plates and tiles on the walls to wrought iron lighting make this a great place to dine before a show. Early reservations are a must. Settle in and enjoy inventive guacamoles – including one with mango and pomegranate, and another with chipotle. Top off your meal with a tangy margarita just in time to hit your Broadway show. The restaurant closes at 10 p.m. on Sundays and Mondays, 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 12:00 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Head south of West 42nd Street for a restaurant away from the chaos of Times Square. Situated on a stretch of 9th Avenue overcrowded with Thai restaurants, Larb Ubol stands out from the rest. This cheerful sit-down restaurant, decorated in bright colors, specializes in Thai food from the Isan region of Thailand – known as the country’s best. Whether you go for the green papaya som tumsalad, the rich and spicy Pad Ped Moo Krob (slices of crispy pork with fresh red curry sauce and Thai eggplant) or the ground-meat larbsalads – the restaurant’s namesake – everything is likely to have a perfect balance of flavors. For the kids or those who want something a little more traditional, a simple dish of grilled children, beautifully prepared with flavorful sauces is very good. If you’re stopping by before a matinee, the lunch specials are an excellent deal, starting at just $8.
This historical landmark restaurant at 321 W. 46th St. is more than a century old – in fact, its one of the oldest restaurants in the city that’s still run by its founding family. When you step into the dining room, you’ll feel like royalty. The history is evident throughout decorated with antique candle holders to ornate chandeliers from a palazzo in Torino. The back garden is surrounded by lush greenery, has a gurgling fountain, wrought-iron tables and elegant lighting. Barbetta specializes in the Italian-style cuisine of Piemonte. The pre-theater dinner gets you Parmigiano biscotti, a starter, a main such as roast rabbit or swordfish with lentisl, salad, dessert and coffee for $58. or you can opt to order a la carte for a simpler Italian meal.
DB Bistro Moderne
Just east of the Theater District at 55 W. 44th St. between the Avenue of the Americas and 5th Ave. Midtown West, this stylish French-American eatery is a quick stroll from any theater below West 50th Street and it gets you away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square. Their pre-theater meal, served Tuesday to Saturday from 5 to 6:30 p.m., offers three courses for $48, and includes such favorites as gnocchi with roasted corn and poussin with baby leeks, and a wide selection of salads. This classic New York City diner offers a calm, modern ambience. The brunch menu is wonderful and dinner a la carte brings even more options. Try the famed D/B burger with short ribs, foie gras and a black truffle-parmesan bun. It’s a legendary local favorite.
Now that you know where to eat before a Broadway show, you’re all set for a great night in NYC.