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.
Some people say you should judge a group by its weakest link. But if you avoid that negative logic and judge groups by their strongest, then you’ll come to the conclusion that Hell’s Kitchen is the best restaurant neighborhood in NYC. That’s because Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare on W 37th Street is arguably the best restaurant in the city. The 15-course tasting menu at this chef’s counter, which is hidden in the back of a grocery store, includes perfectly prepared sea urchin topped with fresh truffle, and equally phenomenal sauces like a sweet saffron bouillabaisse. Dinner here is incredibly expensive, but if you’re going to spend several hundred dollars on one New York City tasting menu, it should be this one.
Grilled skewers have reached a Margot Robbie-level popularity boom at restaurants around NYC, and Kochi is the best option in Hell’s Kitchen. This Korean spot serves a $75 tasting menu with skewers ranging from raw scallops and fluke to a black sesame ice cream pop at the end, and they’re all delicious. Sit at the long bar with a date and watch the chefs prepare all nine courses in front of you.
If you live in Hell’s Kitchen, you’ve probably walked past Tulcingo de Valle too many times to count. Next time, stop in, because this small, aqua-colored dining room on 9th Ave serves some of the best Mexican food in Manhattan. The dishes here are Poblano-style, so come ready for mole, cemitas (sandwiches made with refried beans and peppers), and specials like juicy pork ribs in a pool of spicy salsa verde. You can always walk right in and grab a table here, so the next time someone says, there’s no good Mexican food in NYC, you know what to do.
You might hesitate to check out The Polynesian. After all, it’s a massive rooftop tiki bar near Times Square where you’ll find drinks served in mugs shaped like treasure chests and a $16 poke bowl. But the cocktails and bar snacks are from the people behind Carbone and The Grill, and the flaming drinks and multi-tiered pu pu platters are delicious. When the weather’s nice, the wraparound outdoor bar here is one of our favorite places for drinks and a light bite in Midtown.
Sushi of Gari serves our favorite sushi in Hell’s Kitchen. Their original UES location is famous for deluxe omakase experiences, including an incredible broiled tomato and salmon piece that’s hot, cold, and juicy all at the same time. And you can get all of the same pieces at their Hell’s Location location as well. If you don’t want to spend over $100 on an omakase, the sushi or sashimi platter are excellent choices.
B Side is your best bet for brick-oven pizza in Hell’s Kitchen. The pies here taste like whoever’s making them cares more about bread than finding somebody to love. There are almost exclusively bar seats inside of this dimly-lit restaurant on W 51st Street, but you can usually walk right in and get a spot. We especially like the carbonara pie and the Roberta’s ripoff - topped with enough soppressata to feed a family of four, lots of chili oil, and honey drizzle.
There are many ways to enjoy a meal at Tori Shin. You can order a la carte skewers, do a chef’s tasting, or sit in a private room alone with a chef who will make you a meal so special that you’ll daydream about chicken parts for weeks to come. But no matter what you choose, you’ll find some memorable chicken skewers at this yakitori spot on W 53rd street.
Capizzi is a one-room, cash-only pizza place where you can eat a solid wood-fired margherita pie in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s essentially Lucali, if you take away the BYOB policy, Mark Iacono’s DILF charm, and the long waits. You can usually walk right in, which makes this a useful option the next time you’re looking for lunch or dinner near Port Authority Bus Terminal.
If the Simpsons opening sequence looks more like fluffy bread loaves than clouds to you, Sullivan Street Bakery should be your go-to neighborhood spot in Hell’s Kitchen. This counter-service bakeshop, which is part-cafe and part-pizzeria, works well for a quick lunch slice or a coffee date with someone you want to impress without looking like you’re trying too hard. And since this location of Sullivan Street is a small, all-white room with high ceilings and lots of natural light, it’s ideal for daydreaming about flying focaccia.
Frankly, you’re not going to have a life-changing meal at Gotham West Market. But, a Sicilian pie from Corner Slice is the closest you’ll get in this 11th Ave food hall. The slices here are crispy on the bottom and fluffy in the middle. They do free delivery if you live nearby, but if your only option is to eat pizza inside of the market, at least the cafeteria-style seating will make you feel young again.
The other Gotham West Market restaurant that’s worth your time and money happens to be the first location of one of our favorite ramen spots in the city. Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop is a counter-service vendor like all the rest, except here, you’ll find chewy ramen noodles on par with Ivan’s other locations.
There aren’t many places in NYC where tourists and hungover New Yorkers come face to face. But that’s exactly what happens in this 24-hour empanada spot. Empanada Mama is essentially a neighborhood diner that caters to the masses. Like most diners, you won’t find any food here that will make you want to Airdrop photos of soup to strangers on the train. But every neighborhood needs a solid option that never closes. If you can’t decide what to order, go for the simple corn empanada filled with beef.
If you visit Guantanamera in the daytime, you’ll think it’s just a Cuban restaurant with tiki ceiling fans and an empty stage set-up. That’s because, like owls and animated cowboy dolls, this kitschy 9th Avenue spot comes alive at night. The live band, crowded bar, and kind man selling hand-rolled cigars are the real reasons why you should come here. So the next time you want to simultaneously hear some live music while eating a cubano and learning how to mambo, try this place.
Every New Yorker should be a regular somewhere. So if you live in Hell’s Kitchen and don’t have a local spot yet, choose The Marshal. We discovered this small, 10th Avenue restaurant back in 2013, and it’s still one of our favorite places to eat in the neighborhood. It’s always filled with dedicated regulars and a few non-regulars who just want to eat some meatloaf, a piece of fish, or some other American dish that they probably could have made at home, but didn’t.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.