The Great Bite Way: Post-Theater Dining

Julie Besonen

Leading up to the American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards on June 9, Broadway does boffo business. Pre-theater dining options are wall-to-wall on the streets fanning out from Times Square, but supping afterward is more of a conundrum. Most restaurants in the area don't stay open late, presenting a problem if you're seeing a longish show and don't want the night to be over. We've got a few solutions where the curtain's still up and you'll see locals and theater folk alike. Read through our slideshow for details.

Courtesy, Bettibar

373 W. 46th St., 2nd fl., 212-265-2060, Midtown West, Manhattan
This snug bordello-red hideaway is one level up from Theatre District standby Hourglass Tavern. Though hourglasses are part of the decor, the liquor pours are so generous it's easy to lose track of time in the wee hours. The super-friendly barman serves until 4am; the kitchen closes a few hours earlier (usually at midnight) depending on the night. Post-show "snacklettes" include a heap of chicken meatballs drenched in tomato sauce and roasted garlic polenta topped with fresh mozzarella and basil. The Mediterranean bent continues with several salads and savory puff pastries stuffed with spinach and feta. It's inexpensive and casual, attracting Hell's Kitchen locals and a fair share of stagehands, chorines and chorus boys. Just in case your show lets out early, happy hour lasts until 10pm every night, with well drinks for only $5.

Gypsy cocktail. Photo: Jason Woodruff

Joe Allen
326 W. 46th St., 212-581-6464, Midtown West, Manhattan
Since 1965, industry types and big-name stars have frequented Joe Allen, one of those places that must be sprinkled with pixie dust to still be so animated. All around you is a murmur of show talk by show people. The brick-walled space is famously adorned with posters of flops like High Fidelity and Moose Murders, making for great instant-conversation fodder. Crowds flood in when the theaters let out, but it's fairly easy to secure a bar stool or table. Still, make a reservation just to be safe; the staff knows the running time of everything on Broadway, so they'll be able to tell you when you should expect to arrive for dinner. Once you're seated, no one will make a fuss if you just want a cocktail and sides of sautéed spinach and french fries or perhaps chocolate pudding cake saturated with hot fudge. The American menu is straightforward and a good value—it's filled with classics like a fat burger and an old-fashioned omelet with spinach and cheddar.

Courtesy, Sardi's

234 W. 44th St., 212-221-8440, Times Square, Manhattan
Make a beeline for the upstairs saloon after a show. A wall of windows overlooks the Broadhurst Theatre, and, if you time it right, you can see Tom Hanks signing autographs after tearing up the stage in Lucky Guy. Sardi's has a sea of big tables, and it's not uncommon for an entire cast to be gathered around one, telling tales and clinking glasses. Yes, tourists predominate, but locals have a soft spot for it, too, perhaps because the classic cocktails are strong and not badly priced. Sadly, the signature cheese spread and crackers are no longer free, but you don't have to shell out a lot for a late-night supper. Split the giant chicken club sandwich and french fries or get an appetizer portion of the creamy cannelloni au gratin. There's such a convivial vibe here that strangers often strike up conversations with one another—and, of course, it's always amusing to behold the caricatures of showbiz folk deluging the walls.

Courtesy, Toloache

251 W. 50th St., 212-581-1818, Times Square, Manhattan
If you love fine tequila, Toloache (pronounced toe-lo-AH-chay) has by far the best selection in the Theatre District. Roughly 100 bottles of the distilled beverage glitter at the tiled bar, an excellent place to sip it straight or in a tart margarita along with some chips and thick guacamole. The bi-level bistro is splashed with vibrant Mexican art and lit by lovely multicolored hanging lamps. Julian Medina, of Mexico City, is the chef/owner, preparing elevated yet approachable dishes like suckling pig tacos, avocado fries, lobster ceviche and quesadillas with sea scallops and bacon–Mexican chocolate pico de gallo. The kitchen serves until 10pm Sunday and Monday, 11pm Tuesday through Thursday and until midnight on weekends, but you can linger over drinks for as long as you like.

Courtesy, Zuni

598 Ninth Ave., 212-765-7626, Midtown West, Manhattan
Not a lot has changed at Zuni since it opened in 1992. It's cozy and rarely crowded, and the prices have stayed low. Finding a glass of wine for $7 and a well drink for $6 is akin to time travel. The bar food, tasty and satisfying, also harks back: chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks with tomato dipping sauce, a plate of nachos fired up with jalapeños and canopied with cheese. Another reason to sit at the bar is to talk theater with Scott the bartender, who's a playwright and sees several shows each season. The full menu, including a burger with barbecued frizzled onions on an English muffin and pan-roasted skate with lemon, caper and toasted almond sauce, is served until midnight every night. No glitz, no glamour here—just a place to relax, refuel and chat before bedtime.