We know what you’re thinking—there are good restaurants in Times Square? Yes, it’s not all Olive Garden and Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen—in fact, some of the best Korean restaurants, best burgers and best Japanese food in NYC lies in the much-ridiculed neighborhood. Skip the tourist traps for the best Times Square restaurants in NYC.
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Best Times Square restaurants
This spot from classically trained chef Hooni Kim was born of his frustration at not being able to find real, authentic Korean food. The restaurant's name refers to a small container for ingredients like the doenjang fermented bean paste), gochujang (spicy fermented bean paste) and ganjang (soy sauce) that Kim has shipped to his restaurants directly from Korea four times a year, and it’s what gives the food here a unique depth of flavor.
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).
This buzzy, underground izakaya defies its dowdy location in the heart of Times Square with authentic Japanese flavors that would scare the fanny pack off most tourists. Bring a group, order a few $12 pitchers of Sapporo, and keep the small plates coming: Japanese cucumbers are served with mayonnaise and sweet, funky miso for dipping.Okonomiyaki—a squid-and-cabbage pancake—is topped with a flurry of bonito flakes, while kara-age hunks of fried chicken) are crispy nuggets buried under mild grated daikon and ponzu sauce.
Geoffrey Zakarian’s clubby gem is a throwback to New York’s fine-dining heyday—a place built for conversation and a languid meal. While chefs around town focus on being seasonally nimble, the veteran toque labors hard to create signature dishes, working and reworking until each one’s a keeper. Timeless expense-account fare includes lushly marbled foie gras torchon served with pureed quince and Concord grape jam, and a supple pine-nut–encrusted lamb saddle cooked optimally pink from end to end.
This Mexican eatery from chef Julian Medina (Tacuba, Coppelia) 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.
The London flagship of this luxe Cantonese chain, which includes seven locations worldwide, was the first Chinese restaurant to achieve Michelin-star status. At this 11,000-square-foot outpost, diners can find the original's signature plates, like roasted silver cod with champagne sauce and Chinese honey, and stir-fry black-pepper rib eye with merlot.
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.
The Theater District location of Danny Meyer’s burger stand serves Shack standards, along with a menu of frozen concretes exclusive to this location (the “Great White Way” is a vanilla custard blended with marshmallow sauce and crispy crunchies). Carnivores of all sizes love the burgers made from fresh-ground sirloin and brisket and tucked inside a pillowy potato roll; vegetarians will be more than happy to sink their teeth into a satisfying portobello cap stuffed with cheese and onions.
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.
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.