Following on from my West Village guide, next up in the NYC Neighborhood series is my very own little slice of Manhattan, Hell’s Kitchen! I moved into my Hell’s Kitchen apartment nearly two years ago – I loved it then and I continue to love it a little more every single day! Let me tell you why……!
Hell’s Kitchen (sometimes referred to as Clinton) is on the west side of Manhattan, from West 34th Street upto West 59th St and from the Hudson River/ Westside Highway over to 8th Avenue. It’s essentially the area south west of Central Park, above Chelsea and west of the theatre district. In this post, I’m not going to include the new Hudson Yards development around 34th Street or Columbus Circle – both of which I love and spend a lot of time in, but will save those for another time!
Not all that long ago, Hell’s Kitchen was not a place you might choose to live. Unsurprisingly – with its name – it had a reputation for violence, gangs and poverty, starting with the Irish and German immigrants who lived and worked in the area (mostly on the Hudson River docks). Even in the 1980s, the area was known to have a high crime rate and was still thought of as less than desirable.
But over the past 20 years or so, its seen a lot of development and there are many high rise condos like the one I live in, that attract young professionals and families alike. The closer you get to the Hudson River, the more luxury developments you start to see. According to one of my favourite shows, Million Dollar Listing, Bruce Willis has an apartment in the area! Even today Hell’s Kitchen still has a gritty feel to it (which I love as a Londoner) – it’s certainly not as pretty as the West Village or quite as family orientated as the Upper West Side but it does have a diverse community and a very distinctive energy about it!
Although I had visited NYC a number of times before I moved out here, I wasn’t super familiar with all the neighborhoods, so when I was choosing somewhere to live, my criteria was: somewhere close to work (I’m able to walk to my office in Times Square in 20 minutes), a concierge building that was fairly new with amenities (rather than an older walk up) and a location that was safe and well positioned to get out and explore the rest of the city from. Hell’s Kitchen ticked all my boxes and although the initial plan was to live here for a year and then move to a different spot, I’ve just not wanted to leave and recently re-signed my lease for a third year running!
So What is it About Hell’s Kitchen that Gives Me All the Feels?!
While the East Village and Lower East Side may technically be more trendy/ hipster… honestly, as a mid-30s city girl who did more than her fair share of partying in London back in the day (!), for me, west is most definitely best! I spend a lot of time in the West Village and on the Upper West Side, so Hell’s Kitchen is super convenient location wise and just more of my sort of vibe! It has an understated edge and in my opinion is one of the most underrated areas in the city. Whenever I introduce friends who have lived in NYC for years to one of my a local spots, they usually can’t believe there are so many hidden gems in Hell’s Kitchen and are fast converts!
Favourite Restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen:
If you like to eat, then you’re in the right place. Hell’s Kitchen is awash with restaurants, cafes and takeaways in every cuisine imaginable. Some of the best Thai and Middle Eastern food in the city can be found here and there’s also the more unusual options of Ethiopian, Russian and Peruvian! I shared a very early days post about My Top 5 Places to Eat in Hell’s Kitchen when I first moved here and I’m happy to say that I still love all of these places, in fact Ardesia has almost become a second home, especially in summer on their patio!
Since then, I’ve become acquainted with some more absolute gems:
My favourite Japanese place to take visitors and NYC locals alike! Method is so tiny and discrete, that I walked past it twice a day, every day for a whole year before even noticing it! I’m so glad I did because it’s the cutest spot for the yummiest Japanese food. There’s a small restaurant (so make a reservation) with a chef’s counter and then an even smaller bar in an adjacent room. It feels very understated – like it doesn’t have to scream its prescense or how good it is because if you know, you know! My favourite dishes are the scallops and the lamb chops (believe me, you won’t regret it) but I’ve not had anything I’ve not liked here.
They will wow you with the thoughtful menu and the beautiful presentation of the food. The service is always friendly and professional and I love how they help me navigate their exceptional sake menu. I can’t rate this place highly enough!
Another place I walked past everyday and got so excited for as I saw it ready itself to open sometime last year. It describes itself as New American, farm to table fare. I’ve gone so often (it’s pretty much over the road from me) that I’ve gone through most of the menu and I can safely say the food is seasonal and delicious.
I enjoy Happy Hour at the bar more often than I’d like to admit! And I especially appreciate the friendly staff (the bartenders are superb mixologists and take their craft very seriously) and the sense of community. I’ve often fallen into conversation with a fellow local who is sharing the bar with me! I feel like I’m in an episode of Cheers!
I normally avoid the 9th Avenue restaurants which can be a little tourist trappy (as can Restaurant Row on West 46th between 8th and 9th!) but my friend A found this little spot on Google when she came to visit me earlier this year. Not expecting much, I was blown away by the quality of the food and the cute ambience. We enjoyed the place so much that we stayed from 4pm – 10pm without really noticing, switching our table to seats at the bar for a rose fueled evening! Speaking of the bar, how cute is it?!
I’ve since been back with my aunt and uncle who are avid foodies and it got their blessing too! If you like seafood in an informal and fun environment, this one’s for you!
I’m a little ashamed to admit that I only visited Casellula for the first time a few weeks ago. It’s been on my radar for a while because its so close by, several friends have recommended it and it looks lovely from the outside but for some reason I’d always forgotten about it. Now I’ve been, I definitely won’t be making that mistake again.
This little spot is a light and airy French style wine and cheese bar – and if you know me, you know I like my wine and my cheese! They have a magnificent wine list and the owner and staff are super friendly and knowledgeable if you’re a little confused on what to go for, so don’t be shy, ask away! I also adored the old fashioned cabinet in the middle of the room, which showcases their cheese! I am kicking myself for not taking a photo, but will add one here the next time I visit!
Hakkasan is always a fabulous choice for dinner but I also love the long, and often surprisingly quiet bar for after work drinks. And I’ll let you into a little secret, it’s one of my go to first date spots!
I’m pretty sure the reason it’s so quiet is that while its close to the craziness of Midtown, simply walking past you would never know it’s there. Unless you have a reservation and are looking for it, you would most likely miss the entrance. I love the luxe, dramatic and dimly lit interiors, the innovative cocktail list and the service is always on point! And of course, the food! It remains one of the best Cantonese restaurants I’ve been to. You’re in for a treat if this makes it onto your list!
Other Cute / Interesting Places in Hell’s Kitchen:
Aside from the plethora of restaurants in the neighborhood, here’s a little run down of some of the other spots that are worth checking out too.
I can’t get enough of seeing Manhattan by boat (more on that coming in a future post), I happily take all of my friends / family who come to visit me on a boat trip so they can really see the best of that iconic Manhattan skyline. So I’m fortunate that the Circle Line cruises start very close to where I live at Pier 83!
For any and all cinema – or movie – fans, there is a great movie theatre right by the water on West 57th Street. It has a smaller selection of thoughtfully curated movies and the screenings rooms are small and decked out with super comfy reclining seats. There is a bar on site and what I especially love is that sometimes directly after a movie, the will invite the director or one of the actors to come in for a Q&A! I most recently saw the wonderful Elizabeth McGovern who popped in after a screening of The Chaperone. It’s also one of the most visually stunning pieces of architecture around, take a look at the gorgeous triangular building jutting into the water!
After a trip to The Landmark theatre, I normally stop at Hudson Market at the top of the street to pick up some goodies. Grocery shopping in NYC was a big shock after the luxury of almost daily trips to M&S or Waitrose back home in London. Stores here aren’t great but Hudson Market is wonderful with fresh produce and a beautiful looking interior to boot. They also have some eat in options for lunch on the go. And if you’re into celeb spots, Bruce Willis shops here too!
I found this little place on one of the very last trips I took to NYC before officially moving over two years ago, so it holds fond memories for me. I remember sitting here eating a taco and being so overcome with emotion and excitement that soon this was going to be my home! NYC that is, not the market! It’s an indoor/ outdoor space with different food areas and communal space to sit and eat. I love that one of the bars opens out their windows so you sit at the bar on the street side looking in!
It’s fun, informal and all to easy to stuff yourself silly! So don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Somewhere I haven’t been yet but I know I would totally love and geek out at is the Intrepid Air Sea and Space Museum on the absolutely enormous Intrepid aircraft carrier which I can see from my window!
And how could I forget my ultimate Hell’s Kitchen spot…..my rooftop! The picture at the very top of this post is the view from my amazing roofdeck which totally makes up for the tiny apartment I live in! Here’s where you can usually find me chilling out…..!
So those are my Hell’s Kitchen top picks! I could go on forever because there’s so much I love about this place. I’m always excited to find somewhere I haven’t tried and lucky for me there are new places springing up all the time!
I also asked some friends (thanks guys!) who live near me to send me their favorite places as well so here are some more Hell’s Kitchen recommendations for you:
44 and X – reinvented American classics in a lovely setting with outside seating if the weather’s good! A lot of the staff are jobbing actors and it pulls an eclectic crowd being so close to the theatre district. The last time I was here, we were seated next to the actress Vanessa Williams!
Tacuba – haven’t been personally but have heard great things about this lively Mexican joint.
Blue Dog – again, haven’t been but I am making plans to because this place looks gorgeous and reminds me of an English gastropub!
On The Rocks – tiny little bar for whiskey aficionados (no website but is at 696 10th Avenue)
Lillies – a quaint little Victorian drinking establishment!
The Distillery – my friend S loves this place and I can see why! Craft cocktails and a speciality gin bar! What’s not to like?
What else do you love about Hell’s Kitchen?
And can you guess where we’ll be headed for the next installment in the NYC Neighborhood series?!
Leave me a comment below and let’s see if you’re right!