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Best theater bars and cafés

Want a drink or bite before the show? Here are your tastiest options.

By David Cote

We’ve all faced the dilemma: You have tickets for a show at 8pm but you’re 45 minutes early. You rushed so as not to be late; now you’re too early—and you skipped dinner. Not to worry. Many of New York’s best theaters offer pre-show drinks or bites that give you proper fuel (or buzz) to get your through the show. Whether you're catching a Broadway show, something Off-Off or out in Brooklyn, you can find someplace to grab a table and unwind before the curtain goes up. Our handy guide is even more useful if you’re not catching a show around Times Square, where tourist-trap eateries abound.

Ars Nova

Theater Off Broadway Hell's Kitchen

The program changes constantly at this snug Midtown West venue—theater, comedy, music, what have you—but the full-service bar remains constant. Grab a microbrew or something a bit stronger and enjoy whatever emerging talent you've selected for the night.

Photograph: David Kressler


Things to do Literary events Fort Greene

Jolly, chic and laid-back, this wide-open restaurant bar on the second floor of the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House is the perfect place for a pre-show nosh or splash of wine. The menu includes simple pasta dishes and salad, as well as artisanal cheese. On off nights, you may be able to catch a musical performance.


BAM Harvey Theater

Theater Off Broadway Fort Greene

After trekking out to Fort Greene for some European theatrical event, you may crave a refreshing coffee or wine in the airy café. Be warned, though: The Harvey lobby fills up fast, so you may want to get there early. And if the seats are all taken, you can always stroll with your snack and check out what books or DVDs are on sale.

Claire Tow Theater

Theater Experimental Upper West Side

Lincoln Center Theater's newest space is a 131-seat venue that showcases new plays by rising talent under the LCT3 umbrella. The Tow is also the centerpiece of a 23,000-square-foot rooftop complex, designed by noted architect Hugh Hardy. The bar opens a couple of hours before the show—and serves afterward, as well. So grab a drink or soda and check out the view from the outside terrace.


Classic Stage Company

Theater East Village

East 10th Street Coffee, an excellent purveyor of first-class beans, keeps the patrons caffeinated for the classics. There aren't a lot of tables in Classic Stage Company's somewhat cramped lobby, so you may have to enjoy your cup of joe standing. Watch out for the scrumptious rich brownies—they're classics of a different sort.

The Lounge at Dixon Place
Photograph: Mike Griffiths

Dixon Place

Theater Off-Off Broadway Lower East Side

The Lounge at Dixon Place has a funky, scrappy, old-East-Village vibe that is sometimes hard to find in that ultra-gentrified student/hipster zone. As the site says, “you can even take your drinks into the theater, or stay put and catch free readings or live music while enjoying hand-crafted cocktails.” It’s open Monday through Saturday starting at 6pm—and best of all, your booze money for a tasty “Humping Dog” or “Dixon Drop” goes to support the artists and the space. 



Theater Upper East Side

This sleek multivenue complex is a little bit lonely in Midtown East; there aren't a lot of other theaters in the immediate vicinity. But that's part of what makes a trip to 59E59 such a refreshing treat. The second-floor bar is a great place to sip a wine or a few fingers of whiskey from the impressive single-malt selection.


Theater Off Broadway West Village

For 20 years this downtown institution has been presenting genre-defying new work that blends music, puppetry, dance and other disciplines. But you can't survive on experimental theater alone. Wine, salads, panini and coffee: Here’s all the pre- or postshow noshing you need. Can’t enjoy avant-garde stagecraft on an empty stomach!


The Library at the Public Theater

Restaurants American Greenwich Village

In the landmarked building that houses the Public Theater, white-hot chef Andrew Carmellini stages his third, much-anticipated act: a preshow lounge. The Café Boulud alum—whose holdings include the Dutch and Locanda Verde—will return to his classical culinary roots with a French-inflected menu. Artists and audience can mingle there as late as 2am.

New World Stages

Theater Off Broadway Hell's Kitchen

Formerly a movie multiplex, this inviting theater center offers plenty of light tourist fare and party-friendly entertainment. It's also a perfect after-work rendezvous spot for cocktails and canoodling. The bar is low-key and the lights are low.

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