In the 19th century, this West Side neighborhood became a breeding ground for crime and gang violence. But Hell’s Kitchen has come a long way in the past century, and even more so in the last few decades. Today, it’s a vital area of Manhattan, offering an assortment of places to dine including ethnic eateries, hole-in-the-wall spots, and trendy farm-to-fork restaurants. When you find yourself hungry in this section of Midtown, here’s where to eat in Hell’s Kitchen.
5 Napkin Burger
This casual chain (there are three other locations in Manhattan) boasts a famous and an eponymous dish: a juicy 10-ounce hamburger dressed with imported gruyere, caramelized onions, and rosemary-garlic aioli, supposedly requiring five napkins to finish. The chef recommends ordering the 100 percent ground chuck patty medium-rare with a juicy, pink center but will surely cook it to your liking. Besides this buzzed-about entree, 5 Napkin Burger serves up a long list of alternative burgers such as lamb kofta, ahi tuna, and the epic house-made 5N Veggie. You’ll also find plenty of dishes sans hamburger – from hand-rolled sushi to matzo ball soup and the Hell’s Kitchen wings – to sate your appetite.
630 9th Ave
Though it has an unusual name, this upscale restaurant is one of the early arrivals in the Hudson Yards district. Legacy Records– situated in an apartment building called Henry Hall – is the brainchild of Robert Bohr, Ryan Hardy, and Grant Reynolds, the creative team behind downtown’s Charlie Bird and Pasquale Jones. Besides the main space serving brunch and dinner with an Northern Italian-influenced menu, Easy Victor Cafe is a casual spot for breakfast or lunch, and Ada’s Place, a frou-frou bar mixing up fancy cocktails and pouring Champagnes, Burgundies, and more than 60 whiskeys, sits on the second floor.
517 W 38th St
The locavore movement is alive and well in this sustainable spot along the western edge of the neighborhood. The menu changes daily as the chef and in-house forager gather ingredients from local purveyors and farmer’s markets. Meat eaters shouldn’t ignore the Berkshire pork chop – it comes perfectly cooked and pairs well with seasonal vegetables. The hamachi crudo, Brussels sprouts with bacon, and pasta dishes are worth tasting too. PRINT. bartenders blend small batch and locally produced spirits into inventive cocktails, and the extensive by-the-glass wine list is sure to impress oenophiles.
653 11th Ave
Masseria dei Vini
Specializing in typical recipes from Puglia, Chef Pino Coladonato takes great care in crafting rustic Italian dishes at Masseria dei Vini, which translates to “Farmhouse of Wines.” Main plates run the gamut – expect squid ink pasta, spaghetti with clams, sea bream in cherry tomato sauce, and an enticing lineup of gourmet Neapolitan pizzas prepared from imported Italian ingredients. Curated by Enzo Ruggiero, the wine list offers selections from various regions in Italy including Piedmont and Tuscany. With more than 350 choices, you’ll find at least one that suits the palate and budget.
887 9th Ave
Previously on the team at Daniel and Masa, Chef Hooni Kim works his magic in the kitchen, marrying French cooking techniques with authentic Korean flavors. One of the best restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen, Danji is a hole-in-the-wall tapas-style eatery that prides itself in using fresh and often organic ingredients, so count on an MSG-free zone. Menu highlights range from bulgogi beef sliders to mushroom japchae noodles and bacon wet kimchi fried rice. For the total Danji experience, opt for the “Favorites” tasting menu, a good value at $55 per person ($28 extra for beverage pairing). Reservations are recommended here since the cozy dining room provides just 36 seats.
346 W 52nd St
A “taboon” is a dome-shaped, wood-fired oven that’s been used to cook delicious food in the Middle East for thousands of years. In 2004, Danny and Ayala Hodak and Gadi and Sheila Ruham paired up to bring – what was then a quiet stretch of Tenth Avenue – Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, prepared in their very own taboon. If the thought of egg burek and crab and potato latke-crusted sea bass make your mouth water and stomach growl, then this excellent “Middleterranean” eatery should be high on your list of Hell’s Kitchen restaurants to visit. Other go-to dishes are the mushroom mafrum, branzino, and Spanish octopus. Save space for the rice pudding!
By Tracy Kaler