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10 Cool Theater Hangouts in Times Square

How many of the more than 40 million people who pass through Times Square every year hang out somewhere before or after (or between) Broadway shows? Broadway stars certainly do — at favored bars and restaurants, but also in plazas and parks, a bakery, and one special bookstore. These — plus a few hotel lounges, rooftop pubs, candy emporiums, even one spacious theatre lobby — can be good places to visit when you hit the theatre.


The Drama Book Shop

The Drama Book Shop
The Drama Book Shop. Photo by Drew Dockser.

The Drama Book Shop first opened in 1917 as a specialty bookstore dedicated to the performing arts. The Tony-honored spot has a storied history that most recently involves an acquisition by Lin-Manuel Miranda and his Hamilton collaborators. The store’s newest location on 39th Street might not exist if not for Miranda, director Thomas Kail, theatre owner James L. Nederlander, and producer Jeffrey Seller, who together bought the bookstore after it shut down in 2019. They saved a cultural institution that is more than a century old.

The new Drama Book Shop, designed by Hamilton set designer David Korins, opened in 2021. The beautiful space features a full-service cafe and plenty of cozy seating. The bookstore calls itself a “community space” where theater artists, students, and fans can gather. It’s a tradition for playwrights to sign copies of their plays when they stop by — if you’re lucky, you might just find one of these autographed copies in the stacks. Feel free to come here and relax, discover a new script, and check out all the theater posters!

266 West 39th Street (near 8th Avenue), dramabookshop.com


Sardi’s

A few of the legendary caricatures in Sardi's.
A few of the legendary caricatures in Sardi’s.

While singing about his dream of becoming a Broadway producer, The Producers’ Leo Bloom imagines having “lunch at Sardi’s every day.” A Broadway institution, the restaurant has a rich history in the theater business. It’s where the idea of the Tony Awards was born and where many opening-night parties are held to this day.

Sardi’s has lived at its location on 44th Street since 1927, officially making it “the toast of Broadway for 90 years.” Their menu features continental food, but the real highlight is their walls covered in caricatures of Broadway celebrities. With more than a thousand portraits, new stars are added to the collection throughout the year with mini ceremonies. You could spend hours here looking at caricatures of all your favorite show-business people, from Angela Lansbury to Bradley Cooper.

234 West 44th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues), sardis.com


Birdland Jazz

The theater located in Birdland Jazz.

Birdland is one of the most famous jazz clubs in the world. Since 1949, it’s been drawing in the industry’s brightest stars. The club’s first headliner was Charlie Parker, who was followed by legends Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Chet Baker, Stan Getz, and more of the most beloved names in jazz. Birdland has music scheduled every night across its two levels: the Jazz Club and the Theater. Stop by and enjoy some of the best live music in town, while grabbing a bite from the award-winning dinner menu.

In more recent years, Birdland has added a Broadway at Birdland concert series to its lineup. This has included headliners such as Ariana DeBose, Liza Minnelli, and Glenn Close. The 2018 opening of the Birdland Theater has welcomed even more theater stars to perform in the legendary space. Especially now that Birdland’s prestige stretches into the theater world, it’s safe to say this is one of the coolest places to hang out.

315 West 44th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues), birdlandjazz.com


Joe Allen & Bar Centrale

Joe Allen.
Joe Allen

If you walk down 46th Street, what looks like an unassuming spot tucked off 8th Avenue is really a decades-old Broadway insider hangout. Theater stars and patrons alike flock to Joe Allen for their fix of comfort food. This classic tavern’s eatery is located on the second floor of a townhouse, and the basement houses a speakeasy called Bar Centrale. Come here for a preshow dinner, between-shows snack, or postshow cocktail.

One of the restaurant’s claims to fame is its Flop Wall — the wall in the restaurant lined with posters of shows that flopped on Broadway. The wall of failed shows has been growing since 1965, when the restaurant first opened and the cast of a show called Kelly gave Joe Allen a poster. Even though it ran for only one performance, it’s lived on the Flop Wall forever. Quirky history like this is what makes Joe Allen the perfect industry spot!

326 West 46th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues), joeallenrestaurant.com


54 Below

54 Below
54 Below, located in the basement of the original Studio 54.

Located in the basement of the original Studio 54, this restaurant and cabaret space is known in the community as Broadway’s Supper Club. Here, you will find some of theater’s brightest stars on their night off — whether they’re performing or in the audience. This past year, the venue was even honored with a Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre. Upcoming performers include Jason Robert Brown, Shoshana Bean, and Amber Gray.

If you don’t stop by for one of their cabarets, they offer a preshow dinner every night from 5:30 p.m. You can enjoy the old-school, elegant ambiance of their main dining room before heading to the theatre!

254 West 54th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenues), 54below.com


Schmackary’s

Schmackarys
Schmackary’s

Known in the theater industry as the “official cookies of Broadway,” this small but mighty bakery in Hell’s Kitchen serves more than 45 different, unique flavors. Just a few of their original cookie flavors are Funfetti, Maple Bacon, Oatmeal Scotchie, and, of course, classic Chocolate Chip. If you sit inside and people-watch, it probably won’t take long before you see one of your Broadway faves.

For a long time, the bakery has partnered with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BCEFA) to bring in Broadway stars to work behind the counter as part of an annual fundraiser. Favorite stars, including Sara Bareilles, Jeremy Jordan, and Andrew Rannells, have all put on the iconic Schmackary’s uniform for a day. This tradition is on pause during the pandemic, but you can still stop by and try their delicious cookies!

362 West 45th Street (near 9th Avenue), schmackarys.com


The Pershing Square Signature Center

Signature-Center-Photo-by-James-Ewing
The Pershing Square Signature Center. Photo by James Ewing.

While the Pershing Square Center Signature Center is primarily home to the Signature Theatre’s three Off-Broadway theatres, the center also houses a shared lounge and cafe space for artists and audiences. Their second-floor lobby is an open space with free Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, and a small bar and cafe. The nonprofit encourages the community to come here to gather, relax, and work on creative projects.

We can’t think of a better place to get inspiration from than this storied organization, which has been an artistic home to playwrights including Suzan-Lori Parks, Lynn Nottage, and Paula Vogel.

480 West 42nd Street (at 10th Avenue), signaturetheatre.org


West Bank Café

West Bank Café

West Bank Café, located just a couple blocks from Times Square, is a staple in the Theatre District. For years, it’s been a go-to spot for Broadway lovers and stars alike, serving American classics in a comfortable environment. Back in the day, Tennessee Williams, Bruce Willis, and Arthur Miller were among their star-studded regular clientele.

In the cafe’s basement, you’ll find the cabaret space known as the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Once a favorite performance space for Joan Rivers and Laurie Beechman herself, the intimate dinner theatre houses drag shows, cabarets, and much more.

407 West 42nd Street (near 9th Avenue), westbankcafe.com


Civilian Hotel

Civilian Hotel
Civilian Hotel

You don’t need to stay in one of the guest rooms to experience the wonder of the Civilian Hotel, the new theater-themed hotel in Hell’s Kitchen. Designed by the Rockwell Group (set designers behind Broadway’s Take Me Out, She Loves Me, Into the Woods, and more), this hotel has already been dubbed “Broadway’s newest hot spot” by Town & Country.

Head to the second floor and hang out in the lounge — a breakfast spot in the mornings and a cocktail room in the evenings. The walls are decorated with Broadway memorabilia throughout. The Blue Room, a speakeasy-like space, is surrounded by iconic Broadway pieces curated by David Rockwell and Paul Tazewell. In here, you can find items such as Elphaba’s hat from Wicked, King George III’s crown from Hamilton, and the original set model for the recent revival of Company. You’re free to nerd out in this gorgeous space.

305 West 48th Street (near 8th Avenue), civilianhotel.com


The Museum of Broadway

The Museum of Broadway. Photo by Paul Bennett Architects, PC.

It hasn’t opened yet, but it deserves a spot on the list. A first of its kind, the Museum of Broadway is a space curated by artists, historians, and designers, dedicated to the history and significance of Broadway in New York. The interactive and immersive experience will cover more than 300 years of theater history.

The museum, located right off Times Square, is slated to open to the public on November 15. Highly anticipated is an understatement, since it was originally set to open in 2020. Mark your calendars!

145 West 45th Street (between Broadway and 6th Avenue), themuseumofbroadway.com