Casellula (401 W 52nd)
Small plates restaurant that has a very extensive cheese selection! Very good cheeses (they’ll pick some for you if you don’t know what you want) and the small plates are seasonal, farm-to-table type items. Good if you’re going to a show since it’s nearby the theater district, but it’s small and doesn’t take reservations so go on the earlier side if you are going to a show later.
Sake Bar Hagi (152 W 49th St)
Similar to Kenka, but not as weird. A funky little Japanese place with very cheap food and beer. Again, mostly a drinking establishment so no sushi or ramen. A lot of fried foods, so it’s also good for post-drinking. Bourdain calls it one of the most authentic ones in the U.S. Sometimes there’s a wait.
La Bonne Soupe (48 W 55th St)
Belgian/French place near Rockefeller Center so also good for pre- or post-shows, though it’s a little further from theaters closer to 9th. Very good food, but definitely try the fondue (both cheese and dessert).
Russian Vodka Room (265 W 52nd St)
We went here on a Buzzfeed scavenger hunt and despite looking exactly like a Soviet lounge from 1985 it turned out to be really good. They have infused vodkas and solid food. Right in the Theater District so good for pre/post-shows. They have a piano player too.
Sushi Yasuda (204 E 43rd St)
Ultimate sushi experience. Yasuda doesn’t work there anymore but it’s still some of the best sushi in the country. You can get individual pieces/rolls but what you should really get is the omakase—the chef’s choice where they just keep bringing you out dishes until you tell them to stop. Because of that you kind of determine your own pricing, but it’s a splurge nonetheless. Must make a reservation.
Ippudo (321 W 51st St)
Very popular ramen place that also has a location in the EV. They actually have pretty good bar snacks for while you’re waiting (they don’t take reservations), particularly the cucumbers. Ramen is good too, the broth is very flavorful. The noodles are very thin like spaghetti, not like the thicker curlier ramen noodles. The “zen” ramen experience is interesting as well.
Bluebell Café (293 3rd Ave)
I’ve only gone for brunch, but what a good brunch spot it is. Southern cooking, so the menu has plenty of biscuits and other such staples. Try the French toast. There can be a wait for brunch sometimes.
Penelope (159 Lexington Ave)
Cute little brunch place by Grand Central, has a pre-fixe option including a cocktail. Beware the long waits–go early when it opens to score a table easily.