54 Blocks Of Broadway! Pt.1 & 2 – Great Hot Dogs! From Needle Park To Naked Cowboys!



Welcome To Times Square! Just A Few Of My Favorite 54 Blocks of Broadway!

I found this gorgeous night time shot of New York’s iconic Times Square, and it made me think about what an amazing city this is…Time Square houses some of the greatest Broadway shows of all time, and when people think of Broadway, here is what comes to mind:


Yes, Broadway theaters are everywhere, with the biggest hits shows like “Hamilton”, which my wife and I saw with Lin-Juan Miranda:

Alex Duda John Rieber Hamilton Broadway

Yes, it truly is as amazing an experience as you’ve been told, and if you want to see more from our night on Broadway, you can check it out here:


“Broadway” however, is so much more than just Times Square and the theater district.

I spent several days in New York in the last few months, and I decided to walk a chunk of Broadway…here is what I saw!


Welcome To 72nd Street – Home To Gray’s Papaya!

My journey southbound on Broadway began at an iconic spot in Manhattan: 72nd street, which houses one of New York’s legendary hot dog stands:


Bite Into “Gray’s Papaya!”

This is the perfect place for my journey to begin.

Gray’s Papaya was founded in 1973, and has become a New York institution. In the June 2006 issue of Time Out New York, Gray’s hot dog was ranked as the best in the city.


Once you step inside, there isn’t much decision-making to be had: their special gives you two dogs and a papaya drink – order and move aside!

You can add cheese, grilled onions, raw onions, pickle relish, the list goes on. While I may have ordered “the special”, it was also the only item I saw advertised, and everyone else got the same thing as well!

I stepped outside and into New York’s gritty drug past – it all begins at 72nd street where the subway station sits – a pretty building with a classic New York look:


Yet just across the street is Sherman Square – a tiny sliver of a park that has a sordid past – because it was also known as “Needle Park”:


here is a short video to explain:

Sherman Square is a tiny little park on W. 70th Street…in the 60’s and 70’s, it was a popular place for junkie to score…it will always be remembered thanks to the gritty 1971 film “The Panic in Needle Park” starring Al Pacino – which was filmed here…


This film is a great snapshot of New York at that time, and a very young Pacino is mesmerizing as a junkie living on the street…see more about this film here:


Now that I’ve loaded up on hot dogs and heroin, I started walking south. Here is what I DIDN’T SEE:


No More Tower Records!

Heading south, I was reminded that there used to be a huge Tower Records, with a downstairs stuffed to the gills with movies and music – I used to spend hours buying far more than would fit in my suitcase home.

The upper west side 60′ to 70’s block of Broadway are now devoid of unique shops like Tower, or a Barnes & Noble that shut down, or even my favorite chinese food spot Ollie’s…all gone, to be replaced by businesses that could be anywhere…


That changes for the better at 64th, with the gorgeous Lincoln Center just to the west of Broadway…and just a few blocks south of that, you get a twofer:


At 60th street you come upon Columbus Circle, with the massive Time Warner Center looming above you.

The Time Warner center at Columbus Circle houses a multi-story indoor mall, and great restaurants like Per See and Nobu as well…oh, and on the ground floor are two very distinctive “nude” statues – one male, one female – and yes, it caught me off guard:


A VERY popular statue!

That’s right, the atrium of this mega-space has two enormous naked statues, and you can see just how popular the male one is: the outer coating on a certain part of the statue is gone! Kind of funny actually, and certainly worth popping into the building to see it and have a laugh…


The Time Warner Center is at Columbus Circle and Broadway, and is gorgeous at night.

Upstairs is Thomas Keller’s 3-Michelin starred Per Se restaurant – one of the best in the world…you can see some of their incredible food here:


Heading south on Broadway across 57th – you get to The Ed Sullivan Theater where various shows have lived since, including David Letterman’s late night show…


Stephen Colbert calls it home now, and just down the street is the first of Broadway’s theaters – this one called The Broadway, and currently housing a classic musical:


Just a few blocks south is the legendary Winter Garden theater – home to “CATS” for years – now performing the musical based on the comedy “School Of Rock”:


The Broadway you walk down south of 57th includes lots of new restaurants and stores, but it also has a nice mix of the classic places as well, and lots of food carts and magazine stands.




Yes, there are a lot of folding tables set up with t-shirts, scarves and hats as well…you can find anything on the streets of New York!


The Stardust Diner!

At the legendary Stardust Diner on 50th and Broadway, you can order classic deli food, served by singing waitstaff!

Just a block south is where all the action is:


Welcome To Times Square!

The entire Times Square area runs for almost ten block north to south, and it is ALWAYS packed with tourists, who post pictures in front of huge buildings, or sometimes with topless women painted enough to just stay on this side of the law!


Time Square is also home to “The Naked Cowboy”, who also poses with Tourists, – for a fee of course…

naked cowboy times square

I used to vist the Virgin Megastore in Times Square…long gone now, as are many of the classic New York restaurants and shops of the past…now, this is a modern, bustling megalopolis – here is a video 360 degree look from the heart of Times Square:


Superheroes and animated characters race around to pose for pictures – they are mostly annoying, but part of the “Atmosphere” of the place.

Late at night, the wacky characters who pose all day with tourists take a break for something more cerebral – I shot this pic one night at midnight!


This area of course used to be one of the seediest streets in the world: the infamous 42nd street grindhouse experience of the 70’s was a wild time for New York’s Times Square…

Times Square Grindhouse 1983

These theaters are long gone, but if you want to see what all the fuss was about, check out my story here:


There you have it, the first thirty blocks of my Broadway trek.

Still to come: part two of my walk down 54 blocks of Broadway…as I head south from Times Square and straight into this!

review shake shack

Here is the link to that story!


Let me know what you love about Broadway!

Categories: 70's Cinema, Art, Books / Media, Cult Movies, Exotic Travel, Film Noir, Food, food blog, Food Review, Great Films, Independent Cinema, Memoirs, Movies, New York, Obscure Movies, Recipes, Restaurants, Talent/Celebrities, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir, Uncategorized, Wacky Food

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23 replies

  1. Hi John,
    That’s funny. Great hotdogs! I’m from New York and love Broadway with a passion.

  2. Never been to New York but your post gave me the vision of it… great

  3. This is a really fabulous post. It really shows some highlights and funny moments.

  4. I have only been to New York City once but I really enjoyed it. I saw Broadway Bound and A Chorus Line. Both excellent. Loved your pictures.

  5. Wow..what a walk down Broadway..for someone who hasn’t been there you took me with you and I felt I was on that walk with you…Thank you, John, a great post.

    • Thank you! I had the day to myself, so I did it – I worked on projects in New York and became an obsessive walker because there is so much to see – my record was 194 blocks one day…

      • That is some walking how many miles was that? The most I have done in well less than a day was 26.2 miles( a marathon) But that many blocks sounds like fair few miles 🙂

      • Around 15 miles or so….I keep better track of that stuff now…walked 16.5 miles in Chicago last summer, when my wife and I were just in Paris we walked 57 miles in 6 days

  6. Thank you very much John, I have always wanted to go to New York City. Thank you for taking me there. I can’t help but miss the old days a little too. Did you get a sandwich from Rupert’s Hello Deli?

    • Lloyd, the Carnegie Deli isn’t on Broadway, but I used to go there – now closed…I went to legendary Katz’s deli and posted about it a few weeks ago…the sad part of Broadway are the changes to classic place…I will look for this deli on my next trip!

      • Cool, Letterman used to feature Rupert a bit which is why I ask. I enjoyed the food places you did check out.

      • My pic of the studio where he shot has an image of the Italian restaurant he also used for his bits…they are all still there!

      • That’s awesome, I’ve seen the place in photos but did not see those bits. What would they do? I started watching Letterman in 2001, I know there were two guys (Pakistani I think who featured a lot in the 90s and owned a shop nearby). The meatball on top of the Christmas tree every year. Perhaps from the Italian joint?

  7. I forgot to add that I have seen ‘The Panic in Needle Park’ a couple of times. It is my stepson’s favourite Pacino role.

  8. Great post, John. I really enjoyed this one.
    Loved the chicken-guy playing chess, and the delicious-looking hot dog too.

    By the way, I got the link working and read the Ford magazine article. It was top-notch, and beautifully illustrated with those photos too.

    Best wishes, Pete.


  1. 54 Blocks Of Broadway! Pt. 2- From New York’s Times Square To Shake Shack! – johnrieber
  2. “Hitch Hiking” #4! A 196 Block Hike Through New York’s Central Park! Peering Through Hitchcock’s “Rear Window!” – johnrieber

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