Checking Out Times Square from the R Lounge at the Renaissance

Times Square as seen from R Lounge.

This is what Times Square looks like from a window table at R Lounge, the Renaissance New York’s second-floor restaurant and bar with the flashy address – Two Times Square. Talk about the thick of things.

It’s one of those wow-I’m-in-New York! views, up there with the dining room at Helmsley Park Lane (Central Park), the roof bars at the Kimberly (Chrysler Building), the Bentley (East River), the James (lower Manhattan) and the Gansevoort Meatpacking District (Hudson River) and the revolving roof restaurant at the Marriott Marquis (the entire city).

And miraculously, when we stopped by mid-afternoon this week we had the room all to outselves, save for a woman with a broken leg seated by a window.  “Sit anywhere you like,” said the greeter.

Did we want to eat with Daniel Radcliffe, bigger than a Macy’s parade float,

The side windows at R Lounge.

beaming into a window next to Wicked’s Green Witch and The Jersey Boys? Or the laughing model for Aerie lingerie, clad, more or less, in red lace? We opted for the straight-on shot of the street and TKTS booth back-dropped by the ball-drop building and its zingy tower of ads. But with windows on three sides – the room pushes into Times Square like a battleship — there’s hardly a bad seat in the house.

Given the address (and view) you’d never guess this prime piece of restaurant turf has had a hard time holding a tenant. In less than a decade, Foley’s Fish House morphed into Chop Suey, a pan-Asian mash-up that served everything but chop suey. Neither garnered much buzz or traction. In March 2010, the room turned into R Lounge, sporting stylish contemporary décor like zebra-print sofas and hot pink pillows and flaunting two trends – casual dining with power cocktails and small plates and celebrity restaurateurs (sort of).

Window seats.

Though not well known beyond New York, the Bromberg Brothers own New York’s Blue Ribbon restaurants, famed in these parts for stylish comfort food. In 2010, the brothers teamed with Renaissance to bring classic Blue Ribbon dishes like bbq pork sliders on brioche and grilled three-cheese paninis to select hotels.  New York’s Times Square led the pack, rounding out the Blue Ribbon Classics with bar bites (mini lobster rolls, lamb sliders) and mains like linguine with white clam sauce and roasted free range chicken.

Encouraged by the server, we chose the angus chuck burger on a brioche bun,

R Lounge burger.

which came smothered in cheddar, three bacon slices, onions and tomatoes ($18). Though thinner than we expected – it was a standard patty — the meat was delicious, expertly char-grilled (too bad about the bland fries). But $5 for a good but generic iced tea? Welcome to Times Square. But food is almost a bonus. We can’t think of a better perch for drinking in Times Square’s peculiar delights without battling the street-level crowds. And we didn’t have the place to ourselves for long. As we left, nearly every window table was taken.

R Lounge at the Renaissance New York Times Square, 714 Seventh Avenue at 48th Street; 212 765-7676.

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