Unless you live or work in Hell’s Kitchen, we’re betting you don’t spend a lot of time eating in this part of town. But those who do will tell you there are lots of excellent restaurants in the area, from Thai to fancy Italian to Mediterranean small plates. You just need to know where to look.
A general rule of thumb when it comes to Hell’s Kitchen restaurants: your options vastly improve as you move north from the Javits Center, and as you move away from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Then again, that’s probably true for life in general. The less time you spend near those places, the better off you’ll be.
Here are our favorite restaurants in the neighborhood.
We discovered The Marshal back in 2013, and it’s been our favorite restaurant in this part of town ever since. It’s a perfect neighborhood establishment filled with friendly people. The American food is all familiar stuff, but good enough that you won’t mind paying a little more for it than you might if it were home-cooked.
An excellent modern Korean restaurant that serves many variations on bibimbap and incredible bulgogi sliders. We love it for lunch, but proximity to 8th Avenue also makes Danji a great pre-theater move.
Method is a dark Japanese restaurant on 9th Avenue that projects seasonally-appropriate Youtube videos (snowboarding in the winter, etc) onto the wall and has its own sake bar attached next door. And when you put it all together, the combination of YouTube entertainment, a big sake list, and low-lit atmosphere actually works. Especially for situations where you don’t want to decide if you’re just getting drinks and snacks or a full-on dinner until about 20 minutes into the evening. They have Japanese-inspired small plates for sharing, and some bigger things like tempura, duck, venison steak, and a daily sashimi special for $50. They also have a solid lunch deal, if you work in the area.
If you go on dates in Hell’s Kitchen (or often appease your uptown friends by meeting them halfway), you should know about Kashkaval. This is a Mediterranean small plates restaurant that’s brick-walled, candle-lit, and generally quiet, without being too romantic for let’s say, a third or fourth date. You can share wine, Turkish flatbreads, and some skewered meats. Plus, there’s a fondue list that comes in five variations and three different sizes. Including fondue for one. Just thought you should know.
Dianne & Elisabeth, from the same people behind the Marshal, feels a little like a cool downtown spot, except that it’s on 10th and 45th. The space is divided into two parts: a bar area where work friends meet to drink wine and eat fancy corn dogs, and a dining room where dates and small groups eat reasonably-priced mains like cod and pork shoulder. You’ll actually be able to hear the person across from you, despite the Lana Del Rey remixes coming from the speakers.
There are a few great Thai restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen, and Wondee Siam is one of them. Wondee Siam II is another one. And then there’s Pure Thai Cookhouse. OK, there are actually a ton of great Thai restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen. Choosing one is probably the hardest part. Hit up Wondee for simple, affordable food.
Poulette is the place you go when you’re looking for an easy lunch or a quick dinner, especially if you’re the kind of person who typically only eats rotisserie chicken while sitting on the couch in your underwear. Isn’t that where everyone eats rotisserie chicken? In front of the TV in their undies? Or is that just us? Nevermind. The point is, you’re gonna like Poulette.
The best ramen in the area, as evidenced by the long waits, even at lunch. Dining solo is your surest move for speedy seat acquisition, so go at it alone during your Midtown lunch break one day. Bring a book or a fully charged phone to keep yourself occupied, and bring some cash too. Totto doesn’t take plastic.
An excellent albeit pricey Middle Eastern restaurant, Taboon is a reliable spot for dinner with the parents or date night in Hell’s Kitchen. Even though the menu features things like homemade hummus and lamb kebab in a pita bowl, they also serve plenty of easy crowd- pleasers like whole branzino and hanger steak. Something for everyone.
44 & X is an expensive restaurant on 44th and 10th Avenue filled with white tablecloths and people eating sirloin and sea scallops. It’s good for dinner with parents, or when money isn’t a factor and you just want a nicely cooked piece of fish with your cocktail that’s named after a Broadway show (like “Mean Girls ‘Burn Book Bubbly’” and “Aperols in America”). On the weekends though, this place turns into a busy brunch spot for the younger, neighborhood crowd. And yes, they have a separate Broadway-actor-themed cocktail list for brunch.
A nice Italian spot that does the classics right, like homemade pasta, eggplant parm, and lasagna. Tavola has the distinct honor of being the best thing to exist on the weird stretch of 9th Avenue behind Port Authority. The space has a charming market-in-Rome kind of feel. Stick to the pastas over the pizzas.
Briciola is owned by the same people behind Aria and Cotenna, and they all feel pretty much like the same Italian wine bar. Briciola is small, and usually crowded with people on dates or having obligatory catch-up drinks. They have a huge list of inexpensive pastas (all $14), small plates, and a weekday lunch special where you get a glass of house wine and a plate of pasta for $18, if you work in the area at the kind of place where sobriety is somewhat optional on a Friday afternoon.
Inti is quiet restaurant on 10th Avenue that feels unremarkable in almost every regard, aside from their very authentic and very good Peruvian food. Everything here comes in large portions at pretty affordable prices, including things like ceviche and a whole rotisserie chicken with french fries, fried plantains, rice and beans, and salad that will easily feed five adults. So the next time you need a group dinner before a show at Terminal 5 or a night out in Hell’s Kitchen, Inti is the place.
An excellent wine bar in the bottom of a high rise condo on 52nd Street. Ardesia is always a good first date option in this area, thanks to interesting wines by the glass and solid bar bites. Even better if you live upstairs.
The question: where should we take grandma to dinner after the matinee? The answer: Esca. It’s always Esca.
Pure Thai Cookhouse is one of the best Thai restaurants in the city, despite having a name that makes it sound like a line of vegan noodles from the Whole Foods freezer section. Speaking of noodles, most of the ones at Pure Thai are handmade, so focus on those dishes, and make sure to start with an order of vegetable dumplings.
When Gotham West Market opened, we were just as excited as all of the people who live on 11th Avenue, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 147 people according to the most recent census. That’s probably why you’ll rarely find Gotham West Market crowded, despite the presence of places like Ample Hills Creamery and Corner Slice. Take advantage of the lack of population density and make your way (way) out west for lunch or dinner sometime soon.
You probably know the drill here: pick your balls, sauce, and sides, and enjoy a casual and reliable meal. The Hell’s Kitchen location has a few seats at the bar and some big communal tables in the middle for groups, and like the city’s other versions, it’s good for a dinner that you don’t want to spend a lot of money on.
Great restaurant name or greatest restaurant name? For best results, order the food here in the order it appears in this place’s name. The ramen is the least impressive thing on the menu, but the soup dumplings and the scallion pancakes are excellent. We’ve already petitioned for those to be added to the sign. What’s another four words?
Next time you’re headed to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, do yourself a favor and hit Tabata Noodle. It’s not the best ramen shop in Hell’s Kitchen, but it’s pretty good and definitely better than what’s going to happen to you inside of that godforsaken place.
A cute little wine bar that serves something called a “Pig’s Ass Sandwich” and one of the best pieces of chocolate cake you’ll come across in a restaurant. That said, you could skip both of those and just order a huge plate of cheese and have just as successful of a meal. Proceed as you see fit.
Mercato is a popular and simple Italian restaurant in the lower part of Hell’s Kitchen, also known as the part you really don’t want to be hungry in. Is it the best Italian restaurant in NYC? No, but it’s definitely the best you’re going to do for a civilized meal this close to the world’s most disgusting bus station.