We don't pass through Times Square NYC very often, for obvious reasons, but every once in a while fate (or, more likely, out-of-town visitors) has a way of landing us smack in the middle of all of those crossroads-of-the-world hordes. Now, wading through 700 million tourists can make us feel many different things, from irritation (don't just STOP in the middle of the sidewalk!) to gratitude (thanks for spending all that money!), but it's also always pretty much guaranteed to make us hungry. In years past, restaurants near Times Square NYC for a quick, reasonably fresh and/or tasty bite to eat were pretty much zero. Last fall, though, the snack situation in NYC Times Square started to change for the better, with the addition of several new carefully-curated (and nicely designed) shipping-container kiosks, located right on the pedestrian plazas which now give the Great White Way a little breathing room, and two of which we sampled yesterday.
Our first stop was Nuchas Times Square, which offers a short but appealing menu of what the proprietors call "inspired hand-held-foods" and which we call "empanadas." Nuchas has a 2-for-$5 deal, which sounded pretty great (heck, two empanadas is a not-bad lunch!) until we saw the size of these guys, which can only be generously described as "tiny." Two bites, and you're done. Call them mini-empanadas. Anyway, we stuck to the classics, an Argentine (ground beef with peppers, onions, and olives, though no raisins, which we always find to be a nice addition), and a Spicy Cheese (melted "assorted" not-very-spicy cheeses inside an oniony-shell). Both were fine, with the Argentine a clear winner, its beef actually well-seasoned and, well… beefy. The major flaw with Nuchas Times Square, other than their teenyness, is the zapped-by-a-microwave texture to the dough, which probably can't be avoided given that it's housed in a stand-alone shipping container, but which gives them an mall-ish, food court-like mouthfeel.
Next up (for "snack dessert") was Snack Box Times Square, managed by the folks behind the noodle chain-let Republic and serving up a slate of "typical American street food," which doesn't really mean anything except that most of the food categories here can also be purchased at hundreds of other street carts around town. The difference with Snack Box? All of the products are local brand-name favorites. So the doughnuts are from the great Doughnut Plant (they had at least ten varieties, in both "yeast" and "cake" styles, though the Peanut Butter and Jelly we wolfed down suffered a but from what is obviously a freezing-weather slowdown in turnaround), and the cupcakes from the Lower East Side baked-goodies institution, Sugar Sweet Sunshine. Those most iconic of city street foods, the pretzel and the hot dog, are on hand at Snack Box as well, the former from the first-rate Sigmund Pretzelshop (and available in several flavors, both sweet and savory); the latter from… we're not sure, but we've heard they're really smoky and good. Also on tap: La Colombe coffees, and milkshakes using the amazing Il Laboratorio Del Gelato. Overall, Snack Box provides a welcome antidote to the usual Times Square tourist-food-traps.
Nuchas and Snack Box Times Square details
Nuchas is located on Broadway between 44th and 45th Streets and is open on weekdays from 7:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m., and on weekends at 9:00 a.m. For more information and a look at the basic Nuchas menu, please see their website, here. Snack Box is located a couple of blocks up Broadway, just north of 47th Street, and is also open early in the morning until late at night.