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10 Cheap Eats in the Theater District

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |

Here are the best spots to save on pre-show eats

Taking a trip to the Big Apple to catch a play or musical can be a thrilling experience, but often a pricey one (worth every dime, of course). However, you may not want to add a costly meal of dining out to your excursion. Still, you have to eat, and if you don’t want to break the bank, there are some places you can grab some food in and around the Theater District that offer tasty meals at reasonable prices. Here are ten places with great food at fair prices. 

Mac & cheese is just one classic dish you’ll find in the theater district (Photo: iStock)

Mac & cheese is just one classic dish you’ll find in the theater district (Photo: iStock)

Located at 620 8th Avenue, just across the street from Port Authority Bus Terminal, is Schnippers, a moderately priced restaurant that serves American-style cuisine. It may have the feeling of a fast food restaurant, but appearances can be misleading. They have ample seating and a menu of standards like burgers, fries, salads and milkshakes. However, the highlights of their bill of fare are their macaroni and cheese dishes, including traditional and their signature Mac and Joe (a serving of sloppy joe on top of their creamy mac and cheese). You can grab a meal for between $12 and $20.

Ollie’s Sichuan
Specializing in cuisine from the Sichuan province of Western China, Ollie’s Sichuan at 411 W. 42nd St. is a great place for family to get a meal. Portions are generous and are typically big enough to split. A $15 chicken or pork dish, such as Chicken with Cashews or Sweet and Sour Pork, is really enough to feed two. Add a side orders of rice or noodles, and you’ll find your family filling up quite easily for about $15 to $20 a person. Their scallion pancakes are also a nice treat. The lunch special menu is even cheaper, at around $10 an entrée (served with rice and soup).

With indoor and outdoor seating, a visit to Blockheads at 329 West 49th Street is a particularly delightful dining experience in the warm weather. It is also one of the few places to find generously portioned frozen margaritas (for about $11). Blockheads serves Mexican food, so diners can choose from quesadillas, nachos, taco platters and burritos, all in the $11 to $16 ballpark. They also have several vegan options on the menu if that is a consideration for your dining experience.

The Halal Carts
For a really quick grab-and-go, do not dismiss the Halal Carts that you will find on many street corners in and around the Theater District. They are easy to find from the glorious smells emanating from them. These vendors offer a wide range of succulent dishes, including gyros and chicken and lamb served over rice. Be sure to let the cart operator know how spicy you like your food, because some of their sauces can be hot (in the best possible way). You can easily get away with spending about $6 to $10 per person. Portions are decently sized, and you’ll find yourself fighting to get that last few bites in, but unwilling to throw away a single morsel.

Los Tacos
At 75 9th Avenue is the taqueria Los Tacos, serving some of Manhattan’s tastiest tacos and quesadillas. With grilled steak, grilled chicken, marinated pork and grilled cactus as your choice in fillings, most of their offerings lie within the $4 to $7 range (though you will most likely want to order more than one of these scrumptious eats). Also on the menu is the Nopal Plate (Cactus, Beans and Cheese) and side orders of chips and salsa, as well as chips and guacamole.

Stage Star Deli
What better way to get in the mood for a Broadway play or musical than a trip to the Stage Star Deli at 105 W. 55th St. (the name is in keeping with the theme). They offer plenty of sandwich choices, all priced at $5.99, from chicken cordon bleu and chicken parmigiana to guacamole breaded shrimp and B.L.T., for a nice lunch or pre-show dinner (they close at 8 p.m.).

The Theatre Row Diner
The Theatre Row Diner at the corner of 42nd Street and 10th Avenue may just have one of the largest menus in Manhattan, with pages and pages of soups, sandwiches, entrees and desserts just waiting to be ordered. Their breakfast is particularly yummy (their eggs benedict and pancakes are worth a morning visit), but you will find something for everyone on this menu, whether it is lunch, supper or coffee and pie. Prices are typical diner prices, with the average meal falling in the $12 to $16 range.

City Kitchen
It may sometimes be crowded, and it may occasionally be noisy, but that just proves that it is doing something right. There is no denying that the counters of the City Kitchen are offering both variety and affordability. The establishment features several vendors coming together in one locale, including Box (chicken, lamb, duck, falafel and several unique options), Luke’s (crab rolls, lobster rolls, shrimp rolls and chowder), Dough (specialty donuts) and Azuki (sushi and sashimi). City Kitchen can be found at 700 8th Avenue. Most fare can will cost between $7 and $20. 

99 Cent Express Pizza
If you are in a hurry, grabbing a slice of pizza is the perfect way to go in NYC. The most economical of pizza choices is 99 Cents Pizza at 301 West 43rd Street, where you can get a slice of cheese pizza for $1, with an additional charge of 75 cents for pepperoni, spinach, mushroom, broccoli, pineapple or peppers and onions toppings. Soda costs a buck a can as well, so you can conceivably have two slices with one topping and a beverage for all of $5. It is quick, convenient and affordable.

Don Giovanni’s
Maybe you prefer to enjoy a sit-down meal in a charming setting, and you don’t mind spending a little more than at a grab-and-go restaurant, but you also don’t want to spend your child’s inheritance doing so. If you enjoy Italian cuisine, consider having a meal at Don Giovanni’s, located at 358 West 44th Street. The atmosphere is quaint and cozy, and the food and wine are both reasonably priced. Don Giovanni’s also happens to have a mouth-watering menu of pastas, salads, pizzas and entrees that are full of flavor. For a meal with this ambiance and of this caliber, you simply cannot go wrong. Plan for between $15 and $25 for an entrée.

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at

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