Where to Eat Before Shakespeare in the Park

Image courtesy of The Public Theater (credit: Tammy Shell)

The Public Theater kicked off its annual and insanely popular Free Shakespeare in the Park on Wednesday with a six-week long production of The Tempest, to be followed by The Cymbeline later this summer. On the definitive list of things to do in New York City in the summer, Shakespeare in the Park ranks pretty high. Shows have featured some of the most talented thespians in the biz (Meryl Streep has very much been there, done that), and since tickets to the open-air performances at the Delacorte Theater are free, they’re pretty hard to get. Once you do manage to snag a pair of day-of tickets via standing in the Central Park line or winning the daily lottery online or in-person at Astor Place, you’ll need a place to eat, drink, and be merry before the 8 P.M. showing. Here are some Upper West Side spots close to Shakespeare in the Park that’ll answer the question that crosses every showgoers mind, “where do we eat?”

The Mermaid Inn – The Upper West Side outpost of this rustic chic fishhouse by default offers some great pre-show summer bites: oysters and wine. Their daily happy hour from 5 to 7 P.M. features $1 oysters and clams, as well as more substantial snacks, like fish tacos and fried calamari. Happy hour drinks are no more than $8.

Calle Ocho – This Nuevo Latino spot inside the Excelsior Hotel brings hoards of young, wild, and brunching New Yorkers to its weekend boozy brunch, but its proximity to the Delacorte Theater and happening dinner menu (lots of ceviche) make it a great option for dinner or a light bite.

Isabella’s – Down the block from Calle Ocho is Isabella’s, one of those uptown restaurants with a sidewalk dining scene that has most definitely been featured in a movie (if you’re wondering, it’s romcom Something Borrowed). The Med menu is heavy on salads, pastas, and fish, and don’t worry if you can’t get a seat outside, the Euro-style interior is just as aesthetically pleasing.

The Tangled Vine – On the corner of Amsterdam and 81st, this Mediterranean wine bar hosts a daily happy hour from 5 to 7 P.M. with $7 glasses of wine. The dinner menu is heavy on small plates like caprese salad and pizzettas that’ll split nicely between you and your plus one.

Shake Shack – If you’re really looking for a quick bite, stop at Shake Shack on the corner of Columbus and 77th. Be prepared to stand in line and save your frozen custard (we suggest the Shack Attack) for the walk to the Delacorte Theater.

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