Madison Square Garden is often described as the most important sports and entertainment venue in the world. While most folks tend to be hyperbolic about anything New York, they are probably not wrong in this statement. Not only do the New York Rangers and Knicks play at MSG, but the highest-profile concerts and comedy performances are hosted in this iconic arena.
The location is top-notch, with the arena being situated in a central Midtown Manhattan district (as improbable as that sounds). Because of this, there are so many incredible dining and drinking options to enjoy before or after the show.
Don’t get stuck eating overpriced chicken tenders or popcorn. Drop your bags off at luggage storage near Madison Square Garden, and explore the surrounding areas for an epic pre-game meal. Here are your best options:
You can go in a few directions to grab pizza near Madison Square Garden. Of course, there’s a slice shop at every corner serving your standard paper-thin crust pizza. There are also ultra-high-end Italian restaurants serving by-the-book authentic pies. Capizzi Pizza is somewhere in the middle. It has a menu of delightful Grandma-style (and quality) creations that are within the NYC tradition but a little more upscale.
So feast on delicious wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza and fried calamari before you head to MSG, and if you have a few too many at the game, you can always stumble into a slice shop late-night.
- Address: 547 9th Ave, New York, NY 10018
If you’re reading this and the game or concert is tomorrow, it is probably too late. If you’re doing your due diligence and can make a reservation, do it right now. This family-style Italian restaurant serves all the classic comfort foods you’ll ever want. Their homemade pasta is delicious and plentiful, and their chops rival any NYC steakhouse.
With classic decor and old-school flair, Carmine’s is as iconic a New York restaurant as you’ll ever find. It’s a bit of Old New York that’s becoming painfully elusive and one of those experiences that pair perfectly with a night at Madison Square Garden.
- Address: 200 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036
If you’re reading this before the days leading up to your MSG adventure, go make a reservation at Elmo. This trendy American restaurant and bar is only blocks from Madison Square Garden, so it gets pretty busy on game day. Expect upscale burgers, sandwiches, seafood, and a very respectable steak at Elmo. Generally, there are a few modern touches on each of these dishes without becoming too gimmicky.
- Address: 156 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011
Haymaker Bar and Kitchen
More often than not, a pre-game is based more on beverages than actual sustenance. If you’re mainly looking for a spot to grab a few drinks before heading to Madison Square Garden, there are plenty of sports bars and Irish pubs lining the streets of Midtown. If you want a watering hole serving legitimately excellent food, Haymaker is your spot.
They have an impressive craft beer list and delicious cocktails, and their upscale bar bites and classy comfort food are perfect for providing a base for the rest of your evening. The mac and cheese is particularly excellent. Just keep an eye on the clock; you’ll enjoy this place so much that you’ll lose track of time! It’s happened.
- Address: 252 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001
Manhattan’s dining scene will forever be associated with high-end steakhouses. Keens is about as quintessential as it gets. This Midtown mainstay has been serving loyal customers for over 40 years, and it’s a popular spot for travelers looking for an authentic New York dining experience. The cuts at Keens are generous, with all the classic sides being added a la carte. It’s the perfect spot for a group of guys looking to bro down before watching the Knicks lose by 30 points or an upscale date night before an Arcade Fire concert. Pro tip: get the fries.
- Address: 72 W 36th St., New York, NY 10018
When you’re planning your whole day around face-off, tip-off, or when you think the opening band will finish, you’ll want everything else to be as quick and convenient as possible. That’s why a casual meal is preferred before heading to MSG. Luckily, Manhattan has so many great options you thankfully will not get stuck with fast food mediocrity. Kobeyaki combines the quickness of a fast-casual restaurant with the care and flavor of a full Japanese restaurant. There are plenty of sushi and izakaya options on the menu, and all of it is quick for a short sit-down meal or grab-and-go. Most importantly, it’s all delicious.
- Address: 110 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018
Local and traveling foodies flock to Koreatown (K-Town to Manhattanites) for hole-in-the-wall diners, buzzy BBQ spots, and perplexing dive bars. Pocha 32 is a great pre-game option (especially for adventurous eaters) because there is a fully-stocked bar, as well as great Korean food. It’s a no-frills spot that’s comfortable and covers all your bases.
The walk to or from Madison Square Garden isn’t terribly long, but hockey fans making the trek during January or February will enjoy the warming spice of Korean comfort food, like Pocha 32’s famous budae jjigae stew.
- Address: 15 W 32nd St, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10001
New York City can be an overwhelming place to visit, so planning ahead is super important. Whether it’s finding a place to securely store your luggage, researching how to navigate the subway system, or making a dinner reservation, these measures will pay off, allowing you to live in the moment and enjoy yourself. Finding a solid place to eat will certainly help, especially if you can snag a reservation. And with so many restaurants around MSG, it’s great to know which one suits your tastes best!