About three months ago, I started an awesome new job at The New Victory Theater. It's a pretty neat gig, and I get to learn all about the restoration of 42nd Street's historic theaters as part of my job. While I, too, enjoyed Just Kids and am nostalgic for the days when Bruce Springsteen was in his 20's so we could date, I'm glad that this part of the city got cleaned up, and that beautiful buildings are being taken care of. It's pretty magical to step into the New Vic, where you can sense the history that's taken place inside the theater's walls, a fate not afforded to demolished gems like the Roxy, the Paramount, or the original Met. On the other hand, many folks complain that Times Square is "practically Disney World" nowadays, especially when they're talking about the pre-theater food options. I generally appreciate that I can get mall food somewhere in this town amidst the overpriced coffee and the artisanal bagel holes. Sometimes a gal just wants a Cinnabon, but you can only eat a hot-dog-wrapped-in-a-pretzel from Auntie Anne's for so many lunches in a row. So I put together a little list of some places to try if you're too precious for Cheddar Bay Biscuits. These are food spots I've come to rely on now that I'm lunching daily in Times Square!
Green Symphony I didn't know about this one until my New Vic co-workers showed me the light. A rarity in the area, this spot, on 43rd Street between Broadway and 8th, is a tiny health food haven. With tons of vegan options, a not-lame salad bar, a buffet selection of Indian dishes and cold salads, and a smoothie station, it's the quick fix for one of those "I've had burgers and pizza all week... HOW DO I SOLVE THIS!?" situations - and any New Yorker knows what a unicorn this kind of Brooklyny health food place is north of 14th Street!
Schnipper's If you're an out-of-towner with theater tickets and an hour to kill before curtain, Schnipper's is where you want to go. It will satisfy your junk food cravings without any obligation of ordering a gigantic neon blue razzmatazz margarita. Sloppy Joes are their signature, but the burger is one of my favorites in the city, as is the intense and beautiful BLT. Really, you can't go wrong, and you'll feel reassured by all of the "locals" (New York Times employees work in the skyscraper above the joint) you'll spot!
Gotham West Market This one's probably more for locals or adventurous tourists since we're talking Eleventh Avenue, which is kind of unheard of. But this brand new food court boasts some serious chef names from Seamus Mullen to Ivan Orkin. You're guaranteed an amazing meal, whether you go for a burger at Genuine Roadside or "Clean Slate" sandwich at Little Chef. If this destination wasn't quite so far out of reach, I'd guess it would be Eataly-style packed, and it might well get there regardless (Hey, people go to Brooklyn for this kind of thing, don't they?).
Piccolo Cafe I've talked about my love for this tiny Italian eatery before, but discovering this additional location near my new office was especially exciting. Cafe Piccolo on 41st Street (as well as the location on Madison, it seems) offers a frequent buyer punch card for coffee drinks and-- get this -- meals. Buy 6 lunches, get one free? Fuhgeddaboutit. I'm there ALL THE TIME. Plus, since the restaurant sees way more of a coffee/lunch crowd, they have a nightly special where, if you order after 7PM on a weekday, you can get any two entrees for $15. I cannot stress to you what a good deal this is, seeing as I'd easily pay twice that much for their perfect, classic, freshly made gnocchi tossed in marinara and topped fresh bufala mozzarella.
Cafe Edison This is one of those old timey theater hold-outs that seems a little dingy at first, but is really a gem. Not everything is great here, but part of the charm is that you're transported to another time, when a lunch counter and a middle aged waitress that calls you honey-pie was par for the course. Plus, it's cool to know that things like Tony Award Committee meetings happen here - the theater community likes their traditions! Go for the meal that feels straight out of 1955: an amazing fish soup, cheese blintzes, chopped liver served with Saltines, and other Polish delicacies (though no pierogis, much to my dismay) all hit the spot. Cash only.
My Belly's Playlist When this eatery first appeared on my list of Seamless options at work, I got excited because the address implied that it was just a few steps away. Maybe I'll actually leave the office today, I lazily pondered. But upon further inspection, I realized that My Belly's Playlist (agreed, the name is meh) was only available via delivery. I have theories on how they make this work, but that's not important. What's important is that you can get an amazing salad, grilled cheese, soup and more for a really reasonable price and every order comes with a free chocolate chip cookie - I'M NOT JOKING. I'm a little obsessed, both with the food and with the fact that it feels so shrouded in mystery... like Batman.
Anyway, those are just a few of my favorites. Stay tuned for part two which may or may not include a nod to the Chipotle on 52nd street.