Pre-Theater Bites: Island Burgers and Shakes + Afghan Kebab

&tBefore moving to New York my idea of a pre-theater meal was a giant feast with my family at Carmine’s, Ollie’s, or Virgil’s (all owned by the same people, maybe?) Italian, Chinese or Ribs: that’s the sort of stuff you need to nourish you through the fifth reprise of “Do You Hear The People Sing?” in Act 7 of Les Miz.

But now that I’m “in the know” and I go to school for theater and I’m surrounded by theater-folk, the place to go before a show is 9th Avenue. That’s where to go because there’s great variety and it’s cheap.

So Thursday last week I went with my class to see “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” with Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin. (The play is one of my all-time favorites but the production lacked lots of zing. I think it may have to do with the size of the theater and the spaciousness of the set.)

Beforehand, Dan suggested we go to Island Burgers and Shakes on 9th Avenue. (Oh, Dan has a theater blog–check it out: Venal Scene.) We worried that Jason, the vegetarian-vegan, wouldn’t have anything to eat. But we didn’t worry too much.


This was a good place for us because there was space, the food comes fast, and it’s easy to talk loudly without bothering people. (There were, like, 6 of us.)

James Felder (of the category “James Felder” and the website Snapshot Artifact) espoused the wonders of the black and white milkshake. “The perfect black and white milkshake is made with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup,” he explained, “in every sip sip you taste all the chocolate and vanilla separately and you can appreciate them both.”


I was so moved I ordered one myself. I really enjoyed it.

The burgers at Island Burgers are, if anything, creative. There are two giant lists on the menu of various topping and bun combinations. I chose the Saratoga (I think?) that had a burger on sourdough bread with horseradish sauce and cheese and bacon.


I like the idea of this burger a great deal. In the taste department it gets a good grade, but in the eatability department it fails. The bun disintegrated¬†as soon as I lifted it. I couldn’t get my mouth around the burger and so I had to cut it with knife and fork. Big bulky burgers like this are hard to eat and not my cup of tea.

Apparently, they’re not James Felder’s either. He wrote me the next day:

“Those burgers blew ass chunks last night.”

I’m not sure about that. I think it’s a good place to know about for pre-theater burgers (though The Burger Joint in the Parker Meridien gets my award for best Midtown hamburger.)


Last night Lisa and I tried to get student tickets for a bunch of shows. This is a bad plan for a Saturday night—-we were rejected across the boards. So we stumbled up 9th Avenue and there I was again, in front of Island Burgers.

“Hey I just ate here!” I said. “Next door is an Afghan Kebab place. Let’s try that!”

I had a really good Afghan Kebab experience with Jason a few months ago, also on 9th Avenue. But I think it was a different place. This place was pretty good. Lisa had pumpkin and I had lamb:


It came with lots of food: bread, rice, salad and the meat and/or pumpkin. We left very full.

At one point, a party of ten tourists from middle America came in and took up a bunch of tables. The male head of this group wandered from table to table and said with a drawl: “Make sure you take the opportunity to go to the bathroom at some point during your meal. Then take a peek into the kitchen—you can see how Afghanis cook their food.”

We thought this was funny.

1 thought on “Pre-Theater Bites: Island Burgers and Shakes + Afghan Kebab”

  1. I think you might want to check out Big Nick’s. It’s a restaurant on the corner of 71st and Columbus. I recommend the pizza, but the menu is huge, and there is a lot to choose from, and it isn’t that expensive. It’s a big hangout for AMDA students (an acting conservatory), as housing is a block away. I hope you enjoy it!


Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top