Eating + Drinking

24 Reasons Why Midtown’s Dining + Drinking Scene Secretly Slays

Don’t let the bright lights (and endless breadsticks) of Olive Garden and the Hard Rock Cafe scare you away.

Photo courtesy of Empellon

Midtown is a mecca of many things (theater, network television, shopping), but one area where it has historically fallen short is dining and drinking. Fast-casual lines run deep during lunch hour; the food halls have become one and the same; and, come evening, it can seem like big national chains—we’re looking at you, Olive Garden—are your only choice. 

While we won’t pass judgment if you end up at Bubba Gump with a tray of coconut shrimp, we think you can do better. (Especially you, Chris Pratt.) In fact, we have 24 reasons why you shouldn’t settle for anything less than an expert-approved meal and quality cocktails in Manhattan’s heart.

  1. New York’s best Cubano is made inside Margon’s
  2. …and the city’s most reliable Cuban food outside the Caribbean is served at Sophie’s.
  3. The Dear Irving team recently opened a cocktail lounge inside the Aliz Hotel, with cosmopolitan bar bites like rock shrimp tempura and croque monsieur with a truffle-infused béchamel. Have we also mentioned the mesmerizing views from 41 stories above?

    best midtown restaurants
    Photo courtesy of Aliz Hotel Times Square/Facebook
  4. The legendary Blue Ribbon empire has finally landed in the Theater District in the form of an American brasserie concept, complete with an extensive raw bar and spit-roasted meats galore.
  5. You can order both lowbrow and high-end tiki tipples at the subterranean Réunion and the sky-high Polynesian.

    best midtown restaurants
    Photo courtesy of the Polynesian/Facebook
  6. One of the city’s best Mexican spots, Los Tacos No. 1, is a few steps away from the WSWD Times Square office! We swear by its early-morning chorizo breakfast burritos and deep-fried quesadillas. 
  7. All-star chef Alex Stupak now has two cutting-edge concepts in the area: the upscale flagship Empellón and the laid-back Empellón Al Pastor, specializing in small plates and strong margaritas. 
  8. You don’t have to head to Carmine Street for Joe’s Pizza when there’s a location on 40th and Broadway…
  9. …and sublime slices can also be found at the micro-size newbie Upside Pizza, on the corner of 38th Street and Ninth Avenue.  

    best midtown restaurants
    Photo courtesy of Upside Pizza/Facebook
  10. The most underrated chocolate chip cookie in the city is baked inside Culture Espresso.
  11. With the most expensive drink being only $7, Jimmy’s Corner is the gritty, boxing-themed dive bar you’ll want to make your regular watering hole.
  12. Virgil’s train-wreck fries are everything nachos want to be: perfectly layered with cheese, jalapeños, and bacon.

    best midtown restaurants
    Photo courtesy of Virgil’s Real BBQ (New York)/Facebook
  13. Despite its convenient location near both Grand Central and Penn Stations, The Ginger Man isn’t your normal bridge-and-tunnel bar. You’re here strictly for the beers, in which there are 70-plus options on tap alone.
  14. Even though it’s no longer the secret gem it used to be, Le Parker Meridien’s Burger Joint still makes a damn-fine beef patty.
  15. Alidoro’s crafted Italian heroes are some of the city’s best, especially the charcuterie-loaded Pinocchio and a regal take on the Philadelphia cheesesteak that includes rosemary-braised roast beef and truffle cream. 

    best midtown restaurants
    Photo courtesy of Alidoro/Facebook
  16. Unlike most dining destinations in Manhattan, you’ll actually want to splurge on Yamada Chikara’s $180 prix fixe. (You may have missed out on dining at El Bulli, but a meal from an alum is the next best thing.)

    best midtown restaurants
    Photo courtesy of Yamada Chikara NY/Yelp
  17. Killer chicken katsu and prime Bryant Park views both come from inside Cafe Zaiya’s hidden-in-plain-sight location on the second floor of Kinokuniya Bookstore.
  18. Fournos Theophilos’s baklava is king. 
  19. Carmine’s family-style chicken parm can feed you for a week.

    best midtown restaurants
    Photo courtesy of Carmine’s Italian Restaurant (Times Square)/Facebook
  20. Spoiling yourself with matcha Kit Kats and every kind of ramen under the sun is easy when you’ve got Sunrise Mart in the area.
  21. You can save yourself the trip to Flushing if you’re craving Kebab Empire’s cumin lamb skewers.
  22. Alpacas roam freely inside Bibble + Sip, whether it comes to the latte designs, dessert decorations, or illustrated packaging. It also doesn’t hurt that its coffee and sweets taste as good as they look. 

    best midtown restaurants
    Photo courtesy of Bibble + Sip/Facebook
  23. West 46th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues is a low-key foodie mecca. It has Turkish (Akdeniz), ramen (Ippudo), Chinese dry pot (Málà Project), Brazilian (Ipanema and Via Brasil), pita sandwiches (Moshe’s Falafel), and a reliable all-day café (Gotan), not to mention the stretch of food trucks parked outside the Minskoff Pocket Park on the regular. 

    best midtown restaurants
    Photo courtesy of Málà Project/Facebook
  24. If nothing else convinces you, it’s hard to argue with the 30 Michelin stars midtown earned last year. We can personally vouch for Gabriel Kreuther’s namesake sit-down, Thomas Keller’s Per Se, and sophisticated Szechuan staple Café China.

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