Let’s face it, the restaurants in Times Square suck. If you are visiting New York City, I would rather you go to almost any other neighborhood for better restaurants. You can read my recommendations for Best Restaurants in Hells’ Kitchen, which is the neighborhood directly west of Times Square.
Times Square is an area that New Yorker’s generally avoid at all costs. Sometimes we have to walk thru it to get to work, but if you randomly stopped ten people and asked where they were from, I bet eight would say they are tourists.
But Times Square is the most popular place for tourists to stay in NYC, as it has the most hotels and is centrally located with many subways. If it’s your first time in New York, this is where I suggest you stay.
This iconic New York neighborhood is known for its dazzling lights, bustling entertainment, and chain restaurants. And the restaurants that aren’t chains, are still overpriced tourist traps with mediocre food.
But there are a few gems. Arguably the best tacos in NYC can be found here and an Italian sandwich shop that expanded from Naples has some of the best sandwiches in the city. The most fun breakfast in the NYC is a kid-friendly restaurant in Times Square with singing waitstaff. Plus, there is a top-notch steakhouse, a hidden speakeasy and underground cocktail bar in a subway station.
These are the best restaurants in Times Square that tourists should visit. And yup, I included some bars as well.
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What Are the Borders of Times Square?
The Times Square Alliance District lies within 40th St up to 53rd St between 6th Ave and 8th Ave. Additionally, W46th St between 8th and 9th Avenues, known as Restaurant Row has been carved out and included as part of Times Square.
You’ll find that many other lists will include restaurants outside this area for the very obvious reason that it’s difficult to create a list of good restaurants in Times Square. But I’m sticking to these defined borders for my list.
Best Tacos in NYC?
Los Tacos No. 1
Los Tacos No. 1 is typically named as having some of the best tacos in New York City. The original counter is in Chelsea Market, but they have now added a location near Times Square.
Founded by three friends from Tijuana who shared a passion for genuine Mexican tacos, this vibrant spot in offers a menu with just four taco options: carne asada (steak), pollo asado (chicken), adobada (pork), and nopal cactus). You can also get these as quesadillas. Make sure to add on a side of guacamole and a refreshing agua fresca.
With its Tijuana street-stall vibe, Los Tacos No. 1 is the perfect place to savor the true taste of Mexico and try the best NYC tacos.
A Sandwich Shop From Italy
In 2021, All’Antico Vinaio, the renowned Italian sandwich shop with locations in Florence, Rome, and Milan, arrived in the Theater District with a bang. This world-class shop offers an exquisite array of sandwiches made with freshly-baked Tuscan schiacciata bread and a delightful selection of cold cuts, cheeses, and imported salamis.
Shiacciata and focaccia are similar. But shiacciata is made with less water and given less time to rise, resulting in a thinner bread that is great for sandwiches.
Watch as one person slices the meat while another assembles the sandwich and adds delicious condiments like truffle cream, artichoke cream, and pistachio cream.
Try the “La Favolosa,” featuring salami, pecorino cream, artichoke, and eggplant. Or I often prefer the more basic La Toscana, made with just salami, Pecorino cheese, and truffle honey.
With its inventive flavors and opulent ingredients, All’Antico Vinaio is a must-visit spot, bringing a taste of modern Florence right to Times Square. The sandwiches are expensive – nearly $20 depending on what you order, but they are large enough to split between two people.
Steakhouse in Times Square
Gallagher’s Steakhouse takes you on a journey back in time, to 1927 when it opened as a speakeasy during Prohibition. It was a place that attracted gamblers, athletes, and Broadway actors. Nearly 100 years later, it remains an iconic New York steakhouse.
As you enter, you will see the famous meat locker where steaks are dry aged in-house. The menu offers a variety of steaks, including porterhouse cuts sizeable enough for two or more, New York sirloin, rib eye, and roast prime rib of beef. All prepared over live hickory coals, these cuts are lent a delicious crusty sear and a hint of smokiness. Amidst the portraits of notable patrons and celebrities, the ambiance exudes old-fashioned charm, complemented by a delightful wait staff.
Gallagher’s Steakhouse offers a truly memorable experience, inviting you to savor classic dishes like the wedge salad, clams casino, and the unbeatable porterhouse for two, all served with the warm nostalgia of Old New York. As the Rat Pack’s greatest hits play softly in the background, let the impeccable service, hearty steaks, and a side of creamed spinach transport you to the golden age of New York City.
Best Pizza in Times Square
Discover a taste of Naples tucked away on 50th Street off Manhattan’s bustling 8th Avenue. The Neapolitan style at Don Antonio is the best pizza near Times Square, and some of the best pizza in NYC. Chef and owner Giorgia Caporuscio, a trailblazing female pizza-maker, brings her passion for pizza to life with 40 delectable options on the menu.
Don Antonio’s signature Montanara steals the spotlight, featuring deep-fried dough topped with smoked mozzarella, tomato sauce, and fresh basil, all perfectly cooked in their oven. Using premium ingredients imported from Italy, such as double 0 flour and fresh yeast, the dough ferments for 24 hours, creating a light and crispy pizza. As the dining room fills with locals and tourists, immerse yourself in the authentic flavors of Naples, and complement your meal with one of their inventive cocktails like The Amalfi Sour. From the warm ambiance to the mouthwatering dishes, a visit to Don Antonio is a guaranteed full and happy experience, leaving you eagerly anticipating your next return.
Alternative: Joe’s pizza is probably the most popular pizza in NYC, especially for late night slices. They have a location on Broadway near 40th St. While not the best pizza in NYC, it’s a quintessential NY style slice. I admit it’s odd, but although Don Antonio might be “better” (very subjective term though), I’d recommend trying Joe’s if it’s your first time in the city.
Best Kid Friendly Restaurant
Ellen’s Stardust Diner might be the most fun restaurant in New York City as well as the best restaurant for kids in Times Square.
Even if you’ve never been to NYC, you might know it as the diner with singing waitstaff. In between taking orders and delivering the food, the staff takes turns taking the microphone and singing to the entire restaurant. And this isn’t like karaoke with your friends, these are professionally trained singers who often go on to find gigs in Broadway musicals. Sometimes they are people who have performed on or off Broadway and are in between gigs.
There’s a reason Ellen’s Stardust is one of the most famous restaurants in NYC. I’ll be honest, the food isn’t the draw here as it’s nothing great. I prefer it for breakfast because, well… it’s a diner. But I consider it a “must go” in NYC.
Tip: There is often a line during the busy months, but it moves fast so don’t worry!
Alternative: Friedman’s has some of the best breakfast in Times Square. There are several locations around Manhattan, but the one on 47th St in the Edison Hotel becomes Gayle’s Broadway Rose for Wednesday-Saturday dinner service. Much like Ellen’s Stardust, the servers are also aspiring Broadway performers. Reservations are strongly encouraged. They also have great milkshakes.
Best Italian Restaurant
Becco is one of the most popular and best Italian restaurants near Times Square. It is owned by celebrity chef, television host, and restauranteur, Lidia Bastianich and her son Joe. Lidia was owner of Del Posto in NYC (formerly one of the best and high-end Italian Restaurants in NYC) and is also a partner in the Eataly empire.
It sits on West 46th St, known as Restaurant Row, right on the outskirts of the theater district in Manhattan. And it’s one of the best restaurants for dinner before a Broadway show. So, if you don’t have a reservation, I recommend waiting until after 7pm when people leave for the Broadway shows.
Becco is also known for their unlimited table side service of the three daily pasta selections of the day for $29.95. These rotating selections are the only pasta on the menu. And honestly, they can be hit or miss. But their meatballs with freshly grated Grana Padano are among the best in New York City.
Other Restaurants on W46th: This street is lined with restaurants and bars. While I don’t consider any of the others “must-go” spots, that doesn’t mean I don’t like any of them. The French Onion Soup burger at Le Rivage is unique and fantastic. Barbetta is the oldest restaurant in New York that is still owned by the same family that found it, as well as one of the oldest Italian restaurants in the city. The interior is stunning, as is the outdoor garden, which is a sought-after location for weddings and private parties. And then there is Sushi of Gari, who’s original location on the Upper East Side brought Japanese cuisine into the spotlight and held a Michelin Star for many years, has now become more ordinary.
Casual Cuban Restaurant
Margon is many a local’s go-to spot for a fantastic and affordable meal. This unassuming diner offers a tantalizing array of Cuban delights, including its Cuban Sandwich filled with roast pork, ham, and salami, alongside oxtail stew, ribs, and whole fried fish. All specials come with a generous plate of yellow rice, beans, and plantains, satisfying both your appetite and wallet with affordable prices. The welcoming atmosphere and traditional flavors make it a cherished spot. So, escape the tourist traps and treat yourself to a taste of Cuba that is a popular lunchtime spot for people working in the neighborhood. It’s a more authentic option than the more touristy Havana Central right across the street, which has a good happy hour.
What About Carmine's, Virgil's, and Junior's?
If you join Facebook groups or read Google reviews, you will hear a lot of recommendations for places that I didn’t include above. These include places like Carmine’s, Virgil’s, Junior’s, and some others. Guess what? All those recommendations likely come from tourists. Locals will rarely go to any of them and consider these tourist traps with mediocre food. But each of them has its place, and I’m totally on board with you going to them. Here are my honest comments about these popular tourist restaurants.
If someone says Carmine’s is the “Best Italian Restaurant Ever” then you immediately know they are a tourist. Although the parent company has sold off many of their other brands, Carmine’s has locations at casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, at Atlantis in the Bahamas, and another in Washington DC. It’s essentially a corporate owned chain restaurant. HOWEVER, Carmine’s is a great option for large family gatherings. This is because the meals are served family style, so they are large, meant to be shared, and are actually priced quite reasonably. Carmine’s is better than the Olive Garden, but I’d rather you walk up to 56th Street to Patsy’s Italian Restaurant for old school Italian, walk just one block west into Hell’s Kitchen for Becco or a bit further for dell’anima, or head down to the West Village where you can find some of NYC’s best Italian at I Sodi, Via Carota, or L’Artusi instead. 200 W 44th St
Another popular family style Italian restaurant in Times Square is Tony’s Di Napoli. But similarly, this is run by a family with a long history of restaurants ownership in NYC and also owns the Dallas BBQ chain (please don’t go to these). My comments are almost exactly the same with for Carmine’s.
Virgil's Real BBQ
Virgil’s is owned by the same corporation that owns Carmine’s. There are also locations in the Bahamas and Las Vegas. If you are a true BBQ lover and been to places like Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX), Joe’s Kansas City (Kansas City, KS), or Lexington BBQ (Lexington, NC), then you will be sorely disappointed. HOWEVER, Virgil’s has a great bar with a good beer selection, and I really like the jumbo wings. But go for the atmosphere and convenience, not the BBQ. 152 W 44th St
Junior’s is famous for their New York Style cheesecake. It is a NYC institution that has been making it the same way for over 70 years. This NY style cheesecake is made with plenty of cream cheese, fresh heavy cream, eggs, and a touch of vanilla. It’s dense with a graham cracker crust, and available in several flavors and varieties.
Junior’s truly makes a fantastic authentic NY style cheesecake. But the rest of the food is meh. It’s basically a glorified diner. Come for the cheesecake and casual setting good for kids, not the food. 1515 Broadway