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You know the tree at Rockefeller Center. Here’s where to eat nearby.


As a local, I should hate anything that attracts crowds in New York. In theory, this includes the Rockefeller Center tree. Once the tree’s lights are turned on — this year it happens for the first time Wednesday evening, just before 10 p.m. — the square becomes an ungodly, gridlocked throng of tourists, shoppers and commuters. It stays like this until Christmas.

But I don’t hate the tree. I love the tree.

The secret to surviving in crowded spaces is knowing where you’re going. This gives you a huge advantage over those around you, most of whom drift helplessly in the tide like jellyfish.

On the other hand, the new lineup hasn’t turned out to be as impressive as I had hoped a year ago. The Lodi Bakery, which made delicious Italian pastries and breads, was recently dismantled to make way for more tables – quite a loss. In the lobby, too many cheap, casual places sell Sad Desk Lunches. Few places stay open for dinner, and there’s an annoying and easy-to-fix lack of seating.

Nonetheless, you can still grab a quick lunch or satisfying snack below Rockefeller Center.

If you only wanted one recommendation, I would tell you to eat at Ace’s Pizza. A standing-room-only pizzeria with retro woodwork, Ace’s is a prime example of the slice shop revival, a movement that reexamines and reworks everyday American street corner pizza styles. Ace’s specialty is Detroit-style pizza, a Sicilian variation with a protective layer of crispy cheese around the edges. Ace’s crusts are airy and tender inside, like an old-fashioned Pullman bread. The same dough is used for the excellent garlic and cheese bread.

The virtuoso of the Italian sandwich Alidor is another buried treasure – not just buried underground but hard to find. Look behind Naro and persevere. Alidoro’s sandwich methods are simple but effective: fresh bread, imported cold cuts, local mozzarella, crisp arugula and lettuce, and a sense of restraint. The Alidoro, topped with prosciutto, peppers and mushroom spread, has its own cult following.

There are always lines to Black Seed Bagels. The wait is longer if you want your bagels toasted. It’s worth it, I think. The toaster gives the exterior a darker, crispier finish that more closely resembles that of the wood-fired Montreal bagels they are modeled after.

A few of the stores that stay open later are worth knowing about. The tipsy baker it offers interesting pastries in the morning, including a fine cinnamon kouign-amann. At night, when it transforms into a candlelit wine bar, it’s one of the few places in the lobby where you can stay for a while, or want to. The location of the hall Blue Ribbon Sushi does a regular trade in ready-made sushi boxes and poke bowls. It’s all good, but during happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m., freshly wrapped rolls at the sushi counter are only $8. There is also a two-for-one special on cans of beer and sake.

HAS 21 Green Dot, a branch of a Brooklyn favorite known for its cheeseburgers, happy hour offers a half-dozen oysters with a glass of wine for $21. And if the holiday crowds are getting you down and you’re looking for immediate relief, $12 buys you a shot and a beer.

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