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Where to Eat Near Madison Square Garden
Going to See Harry Styles or Billy Joel? Eat Here First.
Madison Square Garden is New York City’s iconic sports and music venue. The Garden is home to both the New York Rangers and the New York Knicks and attracts the biggest names in entertainment. Billy Joel has a record-breaking residency at Madison Square Garden, which started in 2014 and continues to this day. Harry Styles is also completing his 15-day residency at the Garden, and upcoming shows include Lizzo, Pearl Jam, and The Smashing Pumpkins to name a few.
Madison Square Garden is centrally located in the heart of Midtown New York and, a first glance at the terrain shows a vast sea of chain restaurants and fast food outlets. But, dig a little deeper and you’ll find some hidden gems — all within a short walk to the Garden.
Here are five great places to eat and drink before visiting Madison Square Garden.
Food halls have sprung up all over New York City (and the world), but few have the gravitas of Mercado Little Spain. The food hall, located at Hudson Yards, was created by chef José Andrés (with the help of Albert and Ferran Adrià). It’s meant to be both a love letter to and a travelogue of Spain through food and drink. If you’re in a rush you can have some tapas, Jamon Iberico, and a churro for dessert at the food hall. Alternately, there are four sit-down restaurants in the compound. My favorite is Spanish Diner, a casual concept. Grab a seat at the bar and order what can only be described as diner food if a master chef from Madrid cooked it for you. That’s right — omelets are featured at Spanish Diner with huevos rotos (fried eggs and potatoes) as the star. There are also fantastic sandwiches, cheese plates, salads, and gazpacho if you’re looking for something on the lighter side.
HanGawi is located in Koreatown — just a 15-minute walk from Madison Square Garden. Tucked amidst bustling restaurants blaring K-Pop, Hangawi is an oasis of quiet and calm. This vegetarian Korean restaurant’s philosophy (when was the last time you experienced a restaurant with a philosophy?) is to provide meals that are a balance of um foods (green vegetables and fruits) and yang foods (roots and tubers) to provide optimum health. Park your shoes at the front, and step into a dining room that seems more monastery than eatery. If you think for a minute that a vegetarian meal is boring, you haven’t tried the spicy tofu kimchi hot pot or, for that matter, anything else on the menu.
Meeting your friends for a beer before the game or concert? Stout’s your place. This local public house offers about 20 beers on tap, and about two dozen in cans and bottles. No surprises on the food menu — just good scratch pub grub including a giant Bavarian pretzel, potstickers, a friend chicken “picnic” with all the fixings, and “Wisconsin-style” pizza — a bold move when located in a city known for its iconic pizza style. Wisconsin-style, by the way, means a scratch-dough pizza topped with Wisconsin cheese.
Located directly in Penn Plaza (and, thus, adjacent to Madison Square Garden), Nick + Stef’s happens to be a damn fine steakhouse in a sea of tourist traps. If you’re in a “New York State of Mind” before going to see Billy Joel, you might want to start with the Piano Man martini (A vodka martini with blue cheese olives) before tucking into your (what else) New York Strip. The steakhouse is a proper one — with waiters in suits — and caters heavily to the Nicks and Rangers fans who come straight from a day at the office to the games. Nick + Stef’s is so heavily intertwined with Madison Square Garden that it’s only open on Sundays if there’s an event at the Garden that evening — so check ahead if you’re going.
Versa is a buzzing modern bar located just across the street from Madison Square Garden. It gets loud and crowded just before an event, but don’t despair - head upstairs to the rooftop garden for some fresh air with your beverage — and a perfect bird’s eye view of the Garden (if you’re into selfies).