Times Square may be a must-see for out-of-towners, but it's a tourist trap most self-respecting New Yorkers try to avoid. Beyond the congestion, the food has always left much to be desired, anyway. (Guy Fieri has a restaurant there, need we say more?)
But there's hope on the neighborhood's culinary horizon. Here are five restaurants -- some new, some tried-and-true -- in Times Square's vicinity that are worth braving the crazy crowds. Watch out sketchy Elmo and the Naked Cowboy, here we come.

T45 Midtown Diner at Hyatt Times Square

135 W. 45th St., 646-364-1234, timessquare.hyatt.com With its
135 W. 45th St., 646-364-1234, timessquare.hyatt.com
With its colorful décor and theatrical lighting, this George Wong-designed eatery, which opened late last year, is far from your hometown diner. Executive Chef Nicholas Pelliccione has created a dynamic mix of contemporary and classic American dishes. In addition to juicy burgers and decadent desserts, lighter menu highlights include a quinoa veggie burger and a portabello mushroom sandwich.
We recommend: For a sweet treat, pop in Wednesdays when the restaurant's alcoholic shakes are half-off. (Credit: Hyatt Times Square)

East & West at Yotel

570 10th Ave., 646-449-7790, yotelnewyork.com Several blocks west
570 10th Ave., 646-449-7790, yotelnewyork.com
Several blocks west of Times Square, find this two-month-old fusion eatery tucked away inside the minimal Yotel hotel. The ambience is intimate and understated, but the menu is anything but simple. One side is dedicated to East-inspired dishes such as kimchee fried rice and crispy shrimp dynamite, while the other side focuses on playful Western treats including crab-stuffed deviled eggs and mushroom and truffle mac ‘n’ cheese.
We recommend: Get the most of both sides of the menu and order a few small bites to share and a round of creative cocktails, such as the Smoky Pear. (Credit: East & West)

Carmine’s Theater District

200 W. 44th St., 212-221-3800, carminesnyc.com This neighborhood
200 W. 44th St., 212-221-3800, carminesnyc.com
This neighborhood staple, fashioned with antique chandeliers and walls accented with family photos, is still a popular pre-theater option for tasty, family-style Southern Italian dining. Signature dishes include the eggplant parmigiana, linguine with clam sauce and chicken scarpariello.
We recommend: Save room for rich dessert options, including chocolate bread pudding, ricotta cheesecake and classic Tiramisu. (Credit: Carmine's)

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Triomphe

49 W. 44th St., 212-453-4233, iroquoisny.com/triomphe Its name
49 W. 44th St., 212-453-4233, iroquoisny.com/triomphe
Its name means “triumph” in French, and, 14 years since opening, the French restaurant is still worth celebrating. Try the prix-fixe power lunch ($44 for three courses in 60 minutes or less) or order a casual lunch at the bar, featuring less formal but still refined versions of full menu options, including the Hand-Formed Meyer Burger with green peppercorn sauce and garlic whipped potatoes.
We recommend: Order a glass (or two) from the extensive French wine list. (Credit: Iroquois New York)

Haru Times Square

229 W. 43rd St., harusushi.com A new flagship
229 W. 43rd St., harusushi.com
A new flagship restaurant for this beloved Japanese mini-chain opens Tuesday in the landmark building formerly occupied by the New York Times. Replacing Haru’s existing Theater District location, the new space features a sleek design concept, full-service bar and sushi bar, dining space for up to 140 and the generous portions the modern sushi establishment is known for.
We recommend: Don’t miss the Haru Happy Hour weekdays from 3-6 p.m. for inexpensive yet high-end light bites and creative concoctions. (Credit: Haru Sushi)