Best restaurants near Times Square

Avoid the overpriced, undercooked tourist traps and have a great meal with our guide to the best restaurants near Times Square in New York.

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Benares

Benares

Just a short stroll north of Times Square, the subdued dining room at Benares offers a respite from midtown madness, as well as a taste of the ’hood’s most ambitious Indian cooking. Virtuoso chef Peter Beck (Tamarind) oversees the region-hopping bill of fare, which includes a robust selection of seafood and vegetarian dishes (the restaurant takes its name from a city in the northeastern state of Uttar Pradesh, an area known for its veggie-based specialties). Of the latter, we loved the lauki ka kofta—hearty green-squash dumplings smothered in cumin-laced paneer and a buttery, tomato-based makhani sauce. While carnivores can find classics like lamb rogan josh and chicken vindaloo, you might opt for less familiar specialties, like kozhi varutha, a South Indian–inspired chicken curry thickened with coconut milk and spiced with roasted chilies, garlic and ginger.

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Midtown West

Danji

With butcher-block tables, inventive Korean-inspired small plates and a Michelin star to boot, this diminutive eatery is of the rare breed that would likely be just as packed downtown as it is on West 52nd Street. Chef Hooni Kim (Daniel, Masa) brings his haute French training to bear on the food of his homeland, splitting the menu between traditional dishes and modernist riffs. His flavors are bright and fresh, with a great balance of sweet, spicy and funky elements. The classics seem, for the most part, like upgrades on their source material—scallion pancakes are exceptionally fat and crispy, while chili-slicked buckwheat noodles are paired with a beer-friendly salad of spicy vegetables and chewy, briny whelks. The updated stuff is equally appealing. Sliders may be passé, but you won’t want to miss Kim’s addictive bulgogi beef variety, served on pillowy grilled buns with spicy pickles and scallion salsa.

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Hell's Kitchen

Don Antonio by Starita

While tourists bumble into Sbarro looking for a New York slice, pizza aficionados have been busy colonizing this pedigreed newcomer—a collaboration between Kesté’s talented Roberto Caporuscio and his decorated Naples mentor, Antonio Starita. Start with tasty bites like the frittatine (a deep-fried spaghetti cake oozing prosciutto cotto and béchamel sauce), before digging into the stellar wood-fired pies, which range from standards such as the Margherita to more creative constructions like the Rachetta, a racket-shaped pizza with a “handle” made of ricotta-stuffed dough. The main event, however, should be the habit-forming Montanara Starita, which gets a quick dip in the deep fryer before hitting the oven to develop its puffy, golden crust. Topped with tomato sauce, basil and intensely smoky buffalo mozzarella, it’s a worthy new addition to the pantheon of classic New York pies.

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Hell's Kitchen

Esca

Critics' pick

Esca is the area’s slickest and most creative choice. Part of the Mario Batali–Joe Bastianich empire, the menu takes a whirl through Southern Italian seaside cooking (spaghetti with lobster). Start with the signature raw antipasti, called crudi, then move on to excellent, shareable pastas such as superfresh grilled fish, lavish Sicilian-style seafood stew, or succulent square-cut maccheroni alla chitarra with sea urchin and crab.

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Hell's Kitchen

Gazala

Chef-owner Gazala Halabi (Gazala Place) opens her second venture dedicated to the cuisine of the Israeli Druze (a religious group with ties to early Islam). Her menu includes various kinds of hummus, along with smaller bites at a meze bar.

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Upper West Side

Hakkasan New York

Animated by a luxurious array of ambient sounds, scents and lighting, Hakkasan New York is a stunning evolution of the London original that is acclaimed for its Michelin-starred modern Chinese cuisine.The 11,000 square foot restaurant features a signature "cage" carved out of dark English oak and Carrera marble and an elegant 50-foot bar that features an innovative selection of skillfully crafted cocktails made with fresh pressed juices, purees, foams and other fresh ingredients. At the heart of the restaurant is the kitchen with highly skilled wok chefs at center stage.Choreographed by Master Chef Ho Chee Boon, the menu includes Hakkasan classics such as Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and Chinese Honey, Stir Fry Black Pepper Ribeye Beef with Merlot and an assortment of refined Dim Sum offerings.

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Kashkaval

Critics' pick

Warm woods and soft lighting evoke a turn-of-the-century general store at this midtown eatery and gourmet emporium. The restaurant, tucked behind the retail shop, suffers from sluggish service, but all is forgiven when tangy Mediterranean spreads—vinegary artichoke dip, hot-pink beet skordalia—hit the table. Resist the urge to make a meal of Kashkaval’s impressive roster of charcuterie; entrées, like heaping plates of savory elephant beans piled over orzo and deep pots of fondue, are not to be missed.

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Hell's Kitchen

Sushi Zen

Critics' pick

Opt for a seat at the 10-stool sushi counter to witness the respect with which the masters at this peaceful den approach their work: every step, from the preparation of the dishes to the storing of their ingredients is done with a precision and deliberateness akin to artistry. While traditional and original rolls are available (such as the shrimp and flying fish roe “Jamaica”), this is the place for ordering omakase—chef’s choice. Depending on the season (and your budget), this could include such exquisite bites as custardy uni, three cuts of tuna, including the prized o-toro, or chunks of delicius unagi—all of which are meticulously described by the courteous and attentive waitstaff. The same attention to detail is seen in sides like pickled Daikon radish, pearlescent rice, and a graceful tower of green-tea mousse rolled in chocolate.

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Midtown West

Toloache

Critics' pick

This Mexican eatery from chef Julian Medina (Maya, Zocalo) suits its Theater District locale: The dynamic, richly appointed duplex is adorned with beautiful tiles and murals of Mexican scenes. Buzzed-about concoctions include a crunchy grasshopper taco, but flashes of brilliance show up in more familiar fare: An excellent shrimp entrée features garlicky crustaceans atop a mélange of autumnal beans and squash. In lieu of a sweet finale, try one of Toloache’s 100 tequilas.

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Midtown West
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