Time Square has developed a reputation of a forbidden zone for New York foodies, who routinely assail the area with invective for its "corporate" and "generic" big-box hellholes. And they aren't wrong. But that doesn't mean there isn't anyplace good to eat there.
If you like meat -- I mean, really, really like it -- you will love this ridizio. Like all such places, it features an army of waiters bringing a succession of grilled marinated meats on skewers. You'll get drunk, full, and may even experience palate fatigue that lasts for hours, owing to all the salt. But you will have, for once, had your fill of animal flesh.
Although not as widely known, or loved, as some of the city's big-name sushi restaurants, Toshio Suzuki's Sushi Zen is a true purist's palace, as its nearly all-Japanese clientele will testify. You won't get dragon rolls, and you won't get away cheap, but what you will get is great sushi.
Steakhouses have become somewhat formalistic affairs, with standardized menus, service, and even decor. Frankie & Johnnies precedes the whole trend, though, and never got the menu. It's old, eclectic, unselfconscious and manly in an unforced way. The steak is good, not great, but that's true of the new-breed places too.
Daniel Boulud's theater-district outpost got famous for its ridiculous gourmet burger, but the restaurant is actually a superb French bistro, with spot-on classic dishes like skate with brown butter, beef tartare, and the like.
If you made a list of every first-rate Turkish restaurant in Manhattan, you would likely find Orhan Yegen involved somewhere along the way. Dervish is no exception, and its exceptionally fine food reflect the values and practices of its eccentric, OCD chef. Look for the usual Yegen strengths: vegetable mezes, hummus, lamb of any kind, and of course almond pudding to finish up with.
Smiths is by no means a temple of gastronomy. But neither is a soulless, generic vacuumn, like so many of Times Square's big-box restaurants. It is in fact one of the last remnants of the area's gritty past -- and a great place to have a hamburger and a bottle of Schafers.
The question of whether Schnipper's is as good as Shake Shack is a moot one: the two are a block apart and cook almost identical salty, crusty, flattened patties of Pat LaFrieda beef. You can't lose either way; but Schnippers rarely has a big line, so there is that.
I like this restaurant so much that there my praise is plastered in big letters across its facade, in the manner of theater blurbs. And why? Because the hamburgers are exactly the way I like them: juicy, brown, salty, crusty, and served on unadorned white squishy buns. The shakes rock as well.
It's sophisticated and urbane, with a teriffic cocktail program and very good food by Geoffrey Zakarian. So why doesn't The Lamb's Club get more love? Some people may find the room a little sterile, but more, I think, just can't believe that a hotel restaurant near Times Square can really be good. But it is.