Time is critical when you’re Broadway bound. But who wants a growling stomach during the show? NYC Restaurant Week has tasty suggestions for pre-theater nourishment, from Italian to Asian to other global fancies. The people at these eateries are pros, which means you’ll have no jitters about missing the curtain. And the settings are theatrical in themselves. Wandering the neighborhood and pondering menus is a time-waster. Pinpoint the theater and book a table nearby in case Grandma can’t sprint like she used to. If you’re headed to Wicked or Jersey Boys, the boldly designed China Grill is conveniently located. Before Billy Elliot The Musical or Hair, the eclectic Southern-style favorites at B. Smith’s Restaurant will get you in a celebratory mood. Got tickets for Next to Normal? Think about serious seafood at Blue Fin or the Italian specialties and steaks at Bond 45. Discriminating theatergoers seeking something that will be a hit with everybody need look no further than these nine picks.
Introduction by Julie Besonen
Paris, 1930. Walk through the doors of Chez Josephine and you are transported to another country, another time. Named after the incomparable singer Josephine Baker, this romantic, red-velvet dining room is ideal for pre-theater (or late-night) dining with its lively scene and reinterpretations of bistro benchmarks. The Jazz Age spirit of the place imbues every aspect of the experience.
With made-to-order guacamole, brick oven–roasted seafood and an eager and knowledgeable waitstaff, the cozy Toloache is a charming little slice of Mexico off Times Square. Mexican-born chef Julian Medina (formerly of Pampano and Zocalo) also cooks more than just traditional Mexican food—where else would you find a Passover menu complete with matzo tortillas?
This large and lively Italian steak house provides fine dining for the masses. Booths of dark, shellacked wood combine with the antique-esque lighting to not only make your meal feel intimate, but also to pay homage to the original tenants (a high-end suit shop from the 1950s called Bond 45). The menu has everything you need to appease a pre-theater appetite: tagliata steak with Gorgonzola, herb-crusted salmon, delightful thin-crust pizza (which was deemed the “best pizza in NY” by a major publication) and lots of pastas. It’s all tasty.
B. Smith’s Restaurant
Media mogul B. Smith commands attention—and so does her namesake restaurant in the Theatre District, with its global-ethnic menu (curried deep-fried oysters with coconut-wasabi dip share the menu with Southern cornmeal–crusted catfish) and energetic decor. The happy hour is usually packed with a fun, eclectic crowd of media types and theater fans. There’s free live jazz on Friday and Saturday nights and during Sunday brunch.
Set in Times Square—a neighborhood better known for trinkets and fast-food chains—Blue Fin is an outlier and a standout. Located on the ground floor of the W New York – Times Square, it shares the same sleek design aesthetic, with modish appointments and a glitzy glass staircase. Meanwhile, the food is ambitious, but not outlandish: salmon is dressed with bluefoot mushrooms, smoked bacon and Pommery mustard; the bigeye tuna wears a sesame crust and is served with ginger-soy vinaigrette. In addition, there’s a raw bar, serving East and West Coast oysters, assorted clams and caviar, and sushi, to boot.
Inakaya New York
Tokyo’s famous robatayaka now has a New York outpost in The New York Times Building. Inakaya is a fun, boisterous grill restaurant, where the food is excellent but the real draw is watching it prepared. Sit at the counter and point out your selections from giant ice displays piled high with whole fish, lobster, crab, veggies and more. Then, sit back and watch the chefs slice, dice, flip and screech out orders from behind the open grill. It’s a hectic experience, but always engaging.
Can’t decide what kind of Asian food you’re in the mood for? Have your dim sum and eat your sushi (and pad thai and Peking duck) too. This cavernous Pan-Asian restaurant in the heart of Times Square is a great pick for large groups who want to share and sample a wide selection of dishes. The restaurant also caters to kids and the pre-theater set.
Superstar chef Mario Batali devotes his Southern Italian–inspired establishment to pescatory delights and other fresh-from-the-sea fare. Soak up the sun in the pastoral outdoor patio with a plate of pristine crudo, the Italian version of sashimi, or park yourself at one of the indoor tables in the butter-hued space for whole Mediterranean sea bass cooked in sea salt. Rustic treats like buckwheat crepes with pumpkin and orange-crusted pecans go swimmingly well with the ocean-centric menu.
The anchor of the CBS Building—also known as Black Rock—China Grill is a symbol of the media power scene and a progenitor of haute Asian fusion in New York. To get through the soaring, black granite–lined room, you’ll have to make your way past the masters of the universe deep in their big deals. The food widely explores the Asian continent: Shanghai lobster, tempura sashimi and Korean kalbi rib eye co-exist harmoniously.