The Village Voice’s Obie Awards are on Monday, celebrating the best Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theater. So what better time to take in a variety of shows and performances? Yet the Theater District can be confusing culinary waters to navigate, especially for those from out of town and not wanting to blow the bank after shelling out for the buzzed-about performance. So without further ado, we present Our 10 Best Restaurants for Pre-Theater Prix Fixe. Tasty food and a special discounted menu? Now that’s an occasion for applause.
Note that this list is specifically pre-theater prix fixe, meaning that many decent spots in the neighborhood that make for good eating before the show were excluded if they didn’t have a discounted set menu (ultra fancy chef tasting menus were also excluded). For some of those eats, though, be sure to check out last year’s post on The 10 Best Things to Eat Around Times Square, NYC.
10. Swizz — Swiss food doesn’t get much love in New York, let alone elsewhere in the world, so it’s exciting that Swizz exists, even if some dishes fall into the murky classification of Euro-Continental cuisine. The $30 pre-theater menu, available from 5 to 7 p.m. is a tad limited, with soup or salad, followed by fondue (there are other choices, but this is what the restaurant is known for), and apple tart. Just don’t fall asleep during the show following the gutbomb of melted cheese expanding in your stomach. 310 West 53rd Street, 212-810-4444
9. Marseille — Part of the Tour de France restaurant group that also owns Pigalle, French Roast, and L’Express, among others, this Times Square restaurant specializes in the standard French classics rather than typical Marseillaise fare. For $30, you can choose snails (or if that’s too exotic for Aunt Bessie, pistou soup), followed by steak frites or moules frites, and then anything listed on the dessert menu. But happily no French attitude is on the menu! 630 Ninth Avenue, 212-333-2323
8. BLT Market — One of the many enterprises in Laurent Tourondel’s restaurant empire, BLT Market focuses on seasonally selected, farm-fresh options. While farther from the heart of the Theater District hubbub, this one is worth a few extra steps. The $48 menu includes locavorish dishes like smoked black pepper beef carpaccio with goat cheese, bucatini puttanesca, and lemongrass tapioca pearl soup. Make sure you plan ahead, though — this deal is only available for a 45-minute window, between 5:30 and 6:15 p.m. 1430 Avenue of the Americas, 212-521-6125
7. Kellari Taverna — Kellari Taverna is what you’d expect from a pre-theater restaurant: It’s big and bold and maybe even a little gimmicky, but that doesn’t mean it sacrifices quality. The Greek fare you’ll find at this somewhat seafood-oriented spot is filling and full of gusto. Entrées on the $32.95 menu ($22.95 without dessert), available from 4 to 7 p.m. and then again from 10 to midnight, include dishes like great grilled sardines followed by steamed bass with wild greens or seafood stew with ouzo. 19 West 44th Street, 212-221-0144
6. Dervish – With most prix fixes featuring French or Italian cuisines with the occasional Greek thrown in, it’s refreshing to find Turkish food in the mix. From 4 to 8 p.m., and for $27.75, you can get your fill of Turkish salad, borek, and walnut hummus among the many appetizers, followed by grilled chicken or lamb or the Sultan’s delight — lamb cubes, eggplant puree, and tomato sauce. 146 West 47th Street, 212-997-0070
5. La Silhouette — This upscale French spot opened just a few months ago, but is already putting out some dazzling food that rivals some of the city’s top spots for Francophilic fare. Dig into the $38, three-course menu, available from 5 to 6:30 p.m., making sure to order the roast chicken, whose skin crackles a perfect shade of golden brown. 362 West 53rd Street, 212-581-2400
4. Molyvos — Offering a $37 set menu both before the show (5:30 to 7:30 p.m.) and after (9:30 until closing), this Greek restaurant provides the standards. Start with melitzanosalata (eggplant salad), taramosalata (roe spread), and tzatziki (cucumber-yogurt sauce), followed by lamb-and-beef-stuffed cabbage leaves and then a lemony rice pudding. It’s sort of like seeing Mamma Mia, only a lot tastier. 871 Seventh Avenue, 212-582-7500
3. Oceana — At $49 ($74 with wine pairing), this three-course, seafood-centric menu (available from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and then again after 9) is on the pricier side, but you’re also getting high-quality grub. Start with four shimmering oysters or maybe the scallop sashimi before clamoring into salmon à la plancha. Or, hell, pay the $5 supplement and get lobster! If you’re shelling out for theater tix, you can probably pay a Lincoln for the enticing crustacean. 120 West 49th Street, 212-759-5941
2. Chez Napoleon — You won’t find any nouveau entrées or fancy garnishes decorating the plates at Chez Napoleon. Simple French bistro offerings mark the $32 prix fixe, available at both lunch and dinner: soup du jour or salad, one of three changing entrées from Grand-Mere Marguerite, and either crème caramel or chocolate mousse, served with coffee for dessert. This family-run business has been around since 1960, so you know they’re doing something right. 365 West 50th Street, 212-265-6980
1. db Bistro Moderne — The set menu here doesn’t include the famed short-ribs-stuffed $32 hamburger garnished with truffles, alas. What you will find on the daily changing, $45 menu available from 5 to 6:30 p.m., is slightly Mediterranean-influenced, Francophilic fare with dishes like cauliflower soup with basil oil, roasted monkfish with coco bean ragout, and a warm chocolate tart with salted caramel. Fantastique! 55 West 44th Street, 212-391-2400