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Ask Casey: Dining in the Theatre District

wine glass, stemware

Sweet baby Jesus, is there anywhere in New York’s theatre district where I can get good food without a crushing crowd of tourists and ripoff prices?

Starting with the places that will hurt your wallet the least, Five Guys and Menchanko Tei are right next to each other at 43 W 55th St. between 5th & 6th Avenues. One serves to-die-for burgers and fries, oh so many fries, and the other is some tasty ramen that you don’t have to fight the hipster hordes downtown to sample.

Casellula (401 W 52nd St at 9th Ave) was founded on the phrase, “We like cheese. We really like cheese. A lot.” Amazingly, this neatly summarizes my philosophy on life as well. Apart from that ringing recommendation, you’ll not only get inspired cheese plates and wine pairings here but also some filling and incredibly elegant sandwiches, salads, and small plates like a rabbit and chanterelle mushroom pie.

Marseille (630 9th Ave at 44th St) has a big, shiny zinc bar that’s ideal for pre-theater cocktails, a menu with reliable French bistro standards, and a room that’s fairly noisy but that I’ve never found to be overcrowded-verging-on-Balthazar levels, which in and of itself is a relief in the area. Entrees climb into the mid to upper $20s, but you can still find a good steak frites for $22.50 or do a salad and app for under $20.

Finally, it’s not a ripoff by any means, but if you are ready spend good money, I can recommend nothing higher than Insieme (777 7th Ave at 51st St). Yes, I know Le Bernardin, The Modern, and other major tables are also within walking distance, but a) you’re probably not looking for the usual if you’re reading this and b) I cannot resist giving a plug to the Marco Canora team. This place is swanky if you’re looking for classic pre-theater glamour, serves one of the most melty, savory duck dishes I’ve ever eaten (like some judge a restaurant on its roast chicken, I do so based on its duck), and not stuffy in the least. [Update: Since Insieme changed ownership, I can no longer wholeheartedly recommend this option. Caveat emptor.]

Feeling trepidation about your make-or-break first meal for the in-laws? Come to Ask Casey for restaurant recommendations, cooking tips, menu suggestions, or help with any other interesting propositions you’d like to throw my way. Email me at caseyATgoodfoodstoriesDOTcom and I’ll rack my brain to answer your questions.

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  1. Yes, it’s a tough area! There’s always the theater-crowd standbys like Joe Allen, but they don’t excite me for some reason.

  2. Casey cannot in good faith recommend Ellen’s Stardust Diner (where the singing is slightly better than the food), but it’s my favorite Times Square haunt so I have to give it a shout out! After visiting one of her restaurants, stop by and have some pie! Oh, and enjoy the show!

    1. LM, next time we do a post on places where your waitstaff will sing as they serve you, I’m coming to you for advice!

  3. What about corkage policies at these restaurants and other restaurants. I only frequent wine-friendly restaurants. What are the rules for corkage?

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