New Yorkers trash talk Times Square a lot, and between the crushing crowds and frisky Elmos, can you blame us? But for those willing to navigate their way past the hoards, there are quite a few bars, stores and restaurants that aren't named Olive Garden that are totally worth visiting.
The Rum House, Edison Hotel
Grab an expertly poured cocktail at this vintage piano bar, where you can enjoy live jazz and beautifully crafted wood and copper decor. You might feel so transported by the high-quality music and service that you’ll easily forget there are tens of thousands of hectic visitors beyond the candle-lit walls.
An honest-to-god dive right on 44th street, this humble, boxing-themed bar keeps the spirit of a bygone era with reasonably priced booze and a jukebox to boot. There’s no flashy lights or cartoonish New York-themed decorations; instead, study the myriad of pictures on the walls as you nurse your drink.
Named after a New York gangster from the early 20th century who ran a social club with the Cotton Club’s Owney Madden, this cocktail lounge brings the prohibition-era trend to the neighborhood without the layer or cheese that plague most themed-joints in Times Square.
The Drama Bookshop
The Great White Way is one of the best reasons to schlep to this corner of midtown, so it’s no surprise that one of the greatest bookstores dedicated to theater-related tomes would be housed adjacent to Broadway’s famed houses. For nearly a century this shop has been selling plays, acting and directing manuals and memoirs by prominent thespians while serving as a resource to the theater-producing (and theater-loving) community.
It’d be easy to walk past Margon and not realize that you're in the presence of greatness. With just a simple, long lunch counter and no fancy accoutrements, this Cuban diner’s true appeal is the tastiness of its food. Drop by for a hearty breakfast or enjoy a roast pork Sandwich Cubano for lunch.
The Red Caboose
When you mention toy cars and trains in Times Square, many folks will automatically break into a cold sweat as they remember the time they gave into their niece and nephew’s plea to visit Toys R’ Us, but this basement hobby shop has been selling model vehicles to collectors and children since 1946 and has a truly impressive assortment of goods.
Sake Bar Hagi
While not exactly a secret—this place is always packed—it's a great spot to get authentic Japanese grub and a decently priced pitcher of beer. Slightly hidden away below street level, this establishment is mostly off tourists’ radar, which means that if you’re waiting for a table, you can at least feel smug about your New Yorkness.
R Lounge, Renaissance Hotel
This hotel's upscale cocktail bar is far from the cheapest on this list, but it's a true gem for anyone who wants to experience Times Square without standing in the thick of it. With 270 degree panoramic views through its huge windows on the hotel’s second story, you can watch the people and stare at the neon lights in comfort.