NEW YORK (AP) — Times Square is a lot of things — a sensory-overload, horribly crowded, eye-popping and deeply exciting. One thing it has never seemed to be is a place to go for food.
But look harder and there's likely something here for everyone, like the offerings on Broadway itself. Aside from the gaudy chains and tourist traps, there's plenty of good sushi and juicy burgers and funny cocktails. After all, the neighborhood just to the west is called Hell's Kitchen.
Eating near Broadway is a dining experience that no city can match: On the way to a restaurant, you may be asked to dodge a Naked Cowboy or a guy in an Elmo suit, skip away from a fuming mad taxi driver, decline a half-dozen street promoters, surf the crowd and push past tourists who seem never to have seen an electronic billboard, much less a million of them.
While it may be tempting to eat elsewhere and rush to Times Square afterward, many restaurants in the theater district intimately know the rhythms of shows, so the staff understands when, say, you only have 40 minutes to eat before the curtain rises on "Kinky Boots."
And, in this neighborhood, take note of your servers and tip well. There's a good chance one of these moonlighting actors might one day be the very star you have returned to Times Square to see.
SMALL JEWEL: The Hourglass Tavern packs in savvy theatergoers in its cozy three-story building with a pre-theater prix fixe dinner anchored by pork chops or pasta for $22.95 and an intriguing post-meal cocktail called "curtain call chai-tini," which mixes chai tea, vodka and Irish cream.
SUCKING CONCRETE: Shake Shack's upscale fast food theater district outpost offers burgers, hot dogs, fries and shakes courtesy of restaurateur Danny Meyer. The lines are long and seats never free, but if you pick a concrete — dense frozen custard ice cream in a cup with a straw — an express line can get you in and out in time for the theater curtain.
PIZZA HEAVEN: John's Pizza offers thin crust pizzas cooked in coal-fired brick ovens, with a traditional, eight-slice pie costing $16.50. There's also pasta and salads, all housed in a former cathedral. One warning: Only pies are sold. Don't embarrass yourself by asking for slices.
FOR SUSHI'S SAKE: The Japanese restaurant Kodama, serving sushi, tempura and sashimi platters is across the street from the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Modest prices and fast service will have you overlooking the threadbare decor. A good deal is the dinner Broadway Box, which for $16 includes tempura shrimp, chicken teriyaki, a shrimp shumai, a California roll, soup and salad.
SMALL SPACE, BIG CHOICES: The dining room for Island Burgers and Shakes may be the size of a typical suburban closet, but it offers more than 40 options of burgers or grilled chicken sandwiches, from blackened to ones smothered in Boursin cheese, ranging from $9.95 to $14.75. Milk shakes, salads and baked potatoes round out the menu.