The good news: Unlike some of the other "Taste of" events in NYC, which can run you in the $75 range, the Taste of Times Square works via $1 food tickets (and most dishes cost less than five tickets). The meh news: As is usually the case, you get what you pay for. That means many of the restaurants setting up shop along 46th Street in tonight's TOTS event are easily skipped (a dollar is still a dollar; are you going to spend it on grub from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. or the Hard Rock?). Conversely, it means that you can sample fare from some truly worthy eateries for a song. Here's our tactical guide to getting the most out of TOTS:
1. Map it: Print out this Taste of Times Square map and bring it with you so you waste no time wandering aimlessly. Every minute counts.
2. Buy food tickets early: The main booth at 46th Street and Broadway opens at 3PM; other booths will open throughout the neighborhood at around 5PM (the event's official kickoff time); check the above map for locations.
3. Starting at 9th Avenue, let the eating begin. First up, try something from Becco, Lidia and Joe Bastianich's Italian outpost.
4. Heading east, snap up some neo-Mexican from Toloache, and then pop across the street for gumbo or jambalaya from the comfort-foody Bourbon Street.
5. Pause at the Swing46 tent: Here, the culty swing-dancing club will have an orchestra providing the street's soundtrack, plus dancers (and dancing lessons, if you're feeling feisty).
6. Barbetta has been cooking rustic Italian dishes since 1906. It won't be as peaceful as dinner in the restaurant's own lush back garden (a rare Times Square oasis), but you should still sample something here.
7. Crossing 8th Avenue lands you at John's. Does this experience replicate that of its Bleecker Street ancestor? No. Still damn good pizza, though.
8. Beeline for Broadway: Here, side by side, is quality red-sauce Italian from the storied Carmine's and Virgil's, home of the only Manhattan-smoked 'cue. Pick one. Or try both.
9. Heading back westward, spend your last remaining food tickets on dessert at Junior's. And yes, we mean cheesecake.
For more information on TOTS (ncluding a full list of participating restaurants), visit the Times Square Alliance.