NFT New York Hell's Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen

Named for the squalor its early immigrant tenements epitomized, the scruffy patch of bodega-infused real estate between Broadway and that unlikely landing strip known as the Hudson is home to intimate theaters, niche restaurants and--along with a rising tide of gentrification--an army of toy dogs likely to stage a coup one day. The neighborhood is also characterized by an abundance of things too big and ugly to put anywhere else in Manhattan: car dealerships, cell phone towers, cruise liners, the Port Authority, and stables for those hansom cab horses, the last of which accounts for certain odors and the distinct clip-clop of every rush hour.

It's also farther west than the subways venture, harshly industrial-looking and often beset by Lincoln Tunnel traffic or gale-force nautical winds. Yes, Hell's Kitchen may seem like the edge of the civilized world, and the panoramic view of New Jersey does little to dampen this grungy impression. Yet most locals come to cherish the mellow vibe and dearth of McDonald's locations that come with living just outside Manhattan's hyperkinetic and tourist-infested core. Here you'll have no trouble hailing a cab, or getting the bartender's attention. And as for the out-of-towners--well, they only get as far in as Ninth Avenue before their legs get tired.See more.

Hell's Kitchen may be close to Central Park, but why fight the crowds? Instead explore Hudson River Park, an elegantly sculpted swath of greenery running along the coast of the island. Its linearity makes for ideal bikers and joggers, but the idle will find plenty of lovely spots to spread a picnic blanket and watch lunatics paddle by in kayaks. Dewitt Clinton Park always has an entertaining game going on its baseball/soccer/everything field; it also boasts two popular dog runs for the bonding of canines and their owners alike. Community gardens have sprung up there and close by, thanks to green-thumbed volunteers from the area.

Two essential elements to absorb: one you find on stage, and the other you find on the end of a fork--usually in that order. The former is available at one of the countless off and off-off-Broadway theatres lying around--you know, the type that isn't showing something along the lines of "A Musical Loosely Cobbled Together From A String Of #1 Hit Singles"? Theatre Row is, as the name suggests, a lineup of such venues featuring, ahem, riskier fare--though perhaps not as scandalous as the peepshows that once littered that stretch of 42nd Street. Satirical mainstay The Daily Show also tapes around here, if you're looking for entertainment that's as free as it is hilarious. Head up to Restaurant Row on 46th to sample one of the cozy eateries and candlelit nightlife nooks that cater to audiences after the curtain falls. Almost every sub-genre of food is accounted for, and authenticity is rampant--don't be surprised to find actual French people eating at a French bistro!

Mom-and-pop places have proved resilient--everything from artisanal bread to custom-made paints can be got at tiny stores run by devoted experts. You might even see an old-school coffee shop without so much as a name on a sign out front. But the best spot for browsing may be the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market, nestled between bus ramps on 39th Street, which offers outdoor bargain-hunting on weekends. The usual gridlock is traded for a bazaar of vintage clothing, jewelry and collectibles, most priced a bit cheaper than they were before these particular vendors moved from a Chelsea location known as The Annex.

Land of contrast: Reservations are essential at Bar Centrale, with its speakeasy vibe and classic cocktails--and then there's an utter dive like Rudy's Bar & Grill, which serves each beer with a free hot dog. Elsewhere, you've got a decadent club-style concert venue and legendary smoker's roof in Terminal 5.

The breadth and depth of deliciousness is staggering here. Hallo Berlin boasts German soul food, Esca serves top-notch splurge/splash seafood, and Island Burgers features about forty variations of their signature dish. Middle Eastern lovers get their fix at BYOB gem Gazala Place or Hummus Kitchen. Pre-theater pick is French stalwart Tout Va Bien.

Amish Market is the top-end supermarket; Ninth Avenue International is amazing for Greek groceries. Sullivan Street Bakery makes bundles of heaven disguised as bread. Delphinium is the store where you can buy a non-Hallmark card, and Chelsea Garden Center, in spite of its geographic indifference, can provide the perfect flowers to go with it.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Five Beers in Five Boroughs + One Mugging

By Craig Nelson
Come on an epic journey across the five boroughs with NFT Managing Editor Craig Nelson and his drinking buddy Gabriel. From pure beer garden bliss to a late-night visit to the Bellevue ER, they experience the best and worst of New York City in a few short hours. The following is a true story...

Slummer in the City 2005

By Cathleen Cueto
The Summer of 2005 was a one for the NFT books; hot, humid, swarming with insects, overcome with emotions and a ceaseless sense of hopeless anomie. Cathleen Cueto remembers that fateful summer. Voila, her slumming activities.

Living on a Budget in NYC

By Diana Bocco
The living is easy when you have lots of money. And that's why we need Diana Bocco to tell us to shop at the Greenmarket and patronize the free-for-all furniture store of the street. After all, what is living if not suffering; drinking if not free sampling? Nothing. It is nothing if not that.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

XL Nightclub
New York is fabulous! Not only can you see a drag show on a random Wednesday night, but you can take your pick of clubs. Hot Mess is a great option, taking place in the spacious, sleek hotel club XL. For only $10 you can see two hours worth of talented drag queens, including Lady Bunny and a line-up of hilarious, high-kicking, lip-synching, sometimes-singing queens, one or two of whom have been contestants on Ru Paul's Drag Race. Sugga Pie Koko is a riot, and let's face it, we go to see drag queens for humor and debauchery and singing into a dildo like it's a microphone, not for a serious evening at the theater. My only complaint was that even though I was ready for crude jokes, the emcee was shockingly racist, but what can you do. If any of you have the nerve to tell a queen what to do, be my guest.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Terminal 5
By far the coolest space at Terminal 5 is unfortunately the only space where you can't hear the music; namely, the roof. It's a great little space that feels like the deck of a ferry ship; who the hell designed it? Would love to know. You can also smoke, get a drink, and buy a hot dog out here, while you wait for the suck-ass opening band to simply Go The Fuck Away. Then head back downstairs and try to get as close to the stage as possible without being an asshole (it's possible, really). Or you can try to score some balcony space if you get there early enough. Biggest problem: the space is long and narrow, with the stage at one end; I like spaces that widen out from the stage much better. It's probably the largest venue I'd consent to see a band these days, unless Zeppelin plays MSG. If that happens, I'm fuckin' THERE, dude.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

Tout Va Bien
It's always nice to be able to have an ace in your pocket whenever someone asks you a question such as "can you give me a good restaurant recommendation in the Theater District?" My answer is invariably "Yes...go to Tout Va Bien. It's a little bit of classic NY, it's been there since the '50s, the food is perfectly simple French, you'll get a great mix of patrons, both local and far-flung, and there is usually someone crazy and drunk at the bar. So, just about perfect."

Posted By:  Molly Riordan
Photo:  Molly Riordan

Hell's Kitchen Flea Market
Tell someone you spent a rainy afternoon on a desolate street in Hell's Kitchen downwind of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and they'll think you either a doe-eyed activist or cultural ascetic. But you are neither of those things. You are a culture vulture, rifling through vintage furs and kitschy collectibles. You are at the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market. With countless archaic cameras, obsolete appliances, and more retro-dorable furniture and dishware than you can shake an iPhone at, the Chelsea-refuge market is a mass-assemblage of exactly what you'd expect. Who would expect all this frivolity to nest on a desolate block of 39th Street beneath the bus ramps? Oh, the juxtapositions. Landed gentry musing over pricey trinkets just blocks from the down-and-out who collect similar doodads in shopping carts. But don't overthink it. There's still no reason to go to the Kitchen, but as long as you're there, you may as well grab some eye-candy.

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Craig Nelson

Situation: You've just been part of the live studio audience at the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It's a draining process of waiting outside in the cold and then waiting inside under the bright lights of a TV studio. But when it's done you're totally pumped up because Barack Obama was the guest (via satellite). It's the highest rated Daily Show in history! Even better, you can actually imagine someone smart, funny, and caring as our president. But forget about the future of the world. Your time is now. And right now you're totally starving. You pull out your iPhone and use the brand new NFT Mobile Site to find a cheap and tasty place to eat on the western edge of Hell's Kitchen. And it works: NFT Mobile leads you directly to Meskerem, a solid Ethiopian joint, where you enjoy a scrumptious dinner. The chicken tibs are boneless goodness, the veggie platter is solid with a couple of dishes smothered with a fabulous berbere sauce, and the Addis beer is a deal at $5 a bottle. Over this fabulous feast you talk excitedly with your friends about how cool Obama was with Jon Stewart. One week later he's elected President of the United States of America. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Posted By:  Jennifer Keeney Sendrow

Youngblood Playwrights Group
Many a play would be better received if the audience were permitted, nay, encouraged, to eat bacon and drink cocktails during the show. That is exactly what happens at the monthly Sunday brunch series produced by Ensemble Studio Theatre's Youngblood Playwrights Group. The writers in the group are no older than 30, but this decision would seem to make them wise beyond their years. A $15 ticket pays for the pleasure of watching about an hour's worth of brand new short plays and skits as well as access to an all-you-can-eat buffet full of pancakes, scrambled eggs, cereal, bacon, and breads plus a bar serving all-you-can-drink bloody marys and mimosas. Supporting new theatre has never tasted so porky.

Posted By:  Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan

Bouchon Bakery
When you can’t spare the $250 it takes to dine at Per Se but you really want to live in Thomas Keller’s world, stop by the counter at Bouchon Bakery. For $1.75, you can have a signature Chocolate Bouchon of your very own. It’s two heavenly bites of tender, slightly gooey chocolate cake shaped like a big cork, and it is as rich as it will make you feel while you eat it looking out on Columbus Circle from the third floor seating area of the Time Warner Center. If you want to unload a little more cash, the fresh pastries run in the $3 range, sandwiches go for about $9, and foie gras dog biscuits for your most deserving Labra-puggly-poo-zer will set you back $14. Nice to know Keller hasn’t forgotten those of us with cultivated tastes but slightly less cultivated bank accounts.

Posted By:  Ryan Joe
Photo:  Ryan Joe

99 Cents Fresh Pizza
Like the name says, and sold by the slice. The Bangladeshi proprietors take steaming pies out of their ovens 24-7, and never without a customer waiting. $1 gets you a slice with cheese; there are additional toppings, but they cost extra and after seeing a slice coated with some slimy gray mushrooms, I’d pay extra to keep them off. For $2.75, you get two slices and a soda. Peak times seem to be around 3 am and the crowd includes cops, EMT workers, Port Authority dispatchers, cab and bus drivers, partygoers, barflies, Covenant House outcasts, the occasional tourist, and crackheads. Beware the crackheads. They might be skinny, but if they have crazy in their eye, let them jump the line. Last winter, one of them slugged me in the mouth as I reached over his slice to get the pepper flakes. There’s an NYPD booth kitty-corner, which is comforting; it’s right next to the Port Authority Police Station, so in the rare instance that things devolve into chaos (generally customers behave and line up in an orderly fashion), count on the iron fist of the law to come down as swiftly and definitively as God’s avenging angels.

Posted By:  Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan

Associated Musicians of Greater New York
To perform at the Associated Musicians of Greater New York’s Monday night jazz jam sessions, show up at 322 West 48th Street after 7:00 and sign up on the clipboard to sing or play an instrument (bring your own guitar, horn, or reed). You’ll be called to the stage with other musicians, both budding and seasoned, to show your stuff. The fluorescent-lit room offers some folding chairs and a few black and white photos of Dizzy and Thelonious on the stark, white walls; a dim, smoky jazz hall it is not. But it is a welcoming forum for performers to practice playing before an audience, hone their jamming skills, and be supported by a community of musicians. Feel free to sit and just watch; last Monday I heard vocals of “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Almost Like Being In Love,” and while the quality of the performances, um, varied, the vibe was all upbeat and cool, man. And there’s no charge to be there! Regulars greet each other enthusiastically and mingle in the back of the room where the free coffee is.

Posted By:  Krista Apple
Photo:  Krista Apple

Uncle Nick's
Uncle Nick’s has many attributes working in its favor. Its Hell’s Kitchen locale makes it the perfect after-work/preshow meeting spot; it’s a welcome departure from the bevy of restaurants featuring chic “New American” cuisine (i.e., Vinyl parts I and II) that is homogenizing Ninth Avenue; plus it’s the best way to get your Greek fix without schlepping to Astoria. A menu full of hot and cold Greek tapas and entrees (from olives and cheeses to seafood, kebabs, and…a hamburger?) combine with a refreshing Mediterranean wine selection to leave you sated and sedated. (Hint: Go tapas-style and share the culinary wealth; you’ll get better quantity and variety for your money, as the entrées are disappointingly small.) And be sure to satisfy your culinary and pyrotechnic cravings with Saganaki, the ever-popular cheese flambé dish that’s set afire tableside for your dining pleasure... Opa!

Posted By:  Krista Apple
Photo:  Krista Apple

Amy's Bread
The cashiers at Amy's Bread have not inherited my grandmother's soft demeanor, demure smile, or grey pin curls. Nevertheless, there's something about Amy's Bread that conjures memories of home and grandma. Stocking a fresh daily supply of breads, cakes, cookies, and sandwiches, Amy's Bread delivers sweet delectables without the accompanying diabetic shock of Magnolia or the Cupcake Cafe. Bread is the signature product: five grain; peasant wheat; potato onion dill bread; parmesan cheese twists; foccacia with rosemary; olive fougasse. They also stock a healthy (?) supply of subtle and unique home made treats such as applesauce donuts, orange butter cookies, and chocolate cherry rolls. Lunch is also a treat with salad plates and a large sandwich selection (I recommend the Supreme Grilled Cheese sandwich and almond brioche toast for dessert). Visit the Chelsea Market location and you can watch the bakers and rollers hard at work through the kitchen's glass walls.

Posted By:  Krista Apple
Photo:  Krista Apple

Delphinium Home
Have you been won-dering where you can find that Superfriends stationery with match-ing lunchbox, or those glow-in-the-dark flying piggies? For all the times youÕre shopping for the person who has every-thing, Delphinium has the answer to your tissue-paper-wrapped prayers. The owners stock subtle, tried-and-true gifts for the meek at heart, such as yummy soaps and Archipelago candles; but they also veer (thank-fully) into the realm of the bizarre, the wacky, the tacky, and the neo-kitsch. They do carry greeting cards, for those gifty moments when only words will do. And their companion store on Ninth Avenue, Delphinium Home, stocks home furnishings and the Wear Me Out menÕs clothing line. If youÕre looking for Hallmark, keep a-walkinÕ. But if the sometimes-classy pseudo-tacky is what you seek, youÕve found your haven. This ainÕt your mamaÕs card shop.

Posted By:  Ran Lee
Photo:  Ran Lee

Tony Luke’s has long been considered a favorite in Philly for cheese steaks. This new hole-in-the-wall location just west of Times Square brings that taste to New York, sans the “how it’s supposed to be eaten” snobbery. At Tony Luke’s you can have your pick of provolone (sharp or mild), white American, or classic Cheez Whiz without any fear of ridicule. Then get ready to take your meal to go; the restaurant’s décor isn’t something they’ve spent a lot of time on. What they have spent time on is clipping and saving articles from New York magazines raving about their roast pork sandwiches and fries, which are great alternatives if you’re not feeling the cheese steak.

Posted By:  Ran Lee
Photo:  none

Burgers, burgers, BURGERS!!! Island Burger doesn’t have fries on their menu; instead they’ve got the thickest shakes and best selection of specialty burgers that you can find. I have quite the fondness for their Chile Burger—a diner classic, yes, but not when cooked medium rare and paired with sourdough bread and basil-infused chili. My brother ordered the Cowboy Burger, an all-beef patty smothered in BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, and Monterey Jack cheese. For the faint of heart, grilled chicken can be substituted.

Posted By:  Ran Lee
Photo:  Ran Lee

Unlike other schools who work on a ‘semester’ or ‘sessions’ schedule, Broadway offers all of their classes a la carte. Even if you purchase a bundle of ten classes, it’s absolutely your prerogative to spend them as you choose. Use them all for ballet or spread them out over different genres. If you want to take a tap class one week, a hip hop class another week, and a jazz class the next, they don’t mind. Classes are categorizedby level of difficulty, so a beginner’s hip-hop class will learn a far simpler routine than an intermediate. The problem is there’s no way to figure out your level until you take a class, so choose wisely.

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