Events — 08 June 2011
A Taste of Times Square 2011

Thousands of New Yorkers did something in unison on Monday night that they typically avoid under normal circumstances- they willingly ventured into Times Square for a special event hosted by the Times Square Alliance. Broadway from 42nd to 47th Street hosted the 18th Annual “A Taste of Times Square,” an outdoor food and entertainment festival celebrating the west side restaurants that make up Manhattan’s most famous (and most illuminated) stretch of land. We would have been better served to arrive at the 5pm start tine, because our delayed arrival only allowed more of the lines to lengthen and make the special tastings all that more difficult to come by.

The event was run more like a local town fair than a traditional tasting event, with free admission but with tickets having to be purchased in advance from one of the many ticket booths lining the streets. With tickets in hand, patrons could stand on any of the lines for food samplings, which cost between 1-5 tickets each. While Times Square can normally be a difficult area to navigate, the lineup of tents and clusters of eaters made moving around even more of a challenge. But the 34 restaurants were well stocked and well staffed to handle the event, even at places like Virgil’s Real Barbecue, where the line seemed insurmountable.

It was certainly nice to see all of the area restaurants get into the action as well, as big names like Applebee’s, Carmine’s, Bowlmor, and even Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. had visible food tents. The Hard Rock Cafe was even gracious enough to donate 100% of their proceeds to the Food Bank For New York City. Local steakhouses like Palm West, Ruth’s Chris, and even Shula’s got in on the action, as well with diminutive but tasty samples of tender red meat.

Seemingly each block featured a different set of street performers and local entertainers- from harpists to guitarists, jazz musicians to a mariachi band, with the best part being the Drum Cafe, who boasts “we provide the drums and you do the drumming!” Noshing on the Brooklyn Diner’s “strawberry blonde cheesecake” or a plate of delicious penne courtesy of John’s Pizzeria while strolling down the street listening to a bevy of talented blues musicians, was certainly a highlight of the evening for this writer.

While it’s atypical for New Yorkers to be drawn to the area, the bright lights and bustling energy in Times Square are certainly electric. There’s a certain nostalgia about walking down 42nd Street for the first time, having never seen something as grandiose before, overwhelmed by something that’s bigger than you. It’s not the scenery that’s necessarily the turnoff, but rather the slow moving, camera flashing, bajillion tourists with seemingly nowhere to go and no rush to get there. And while crowds of people swarmed around each tent at the “Taste of Times Square” Monday night, and as frustration began to mount, a simple glance at the backdrop of our famous neighborhood made the experience worth all the trouble.

- Jane Van Arsdale

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