City Views: Far from its namesake, Hell’s Kitchen thrives as a modern district


Rudy’s Bar and Grill has been a Hell’s Kitchen staple since 1933. With affordable prices and classic dishes, it is a must-stop spot.

August Zeidman, Features Editor

In New York City, many of the trendiest and most gentrified neighborhoods have grown out of what were once some of the poorest and most dangerous.  This is true for the former industrial parks of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the heroin haven of the Upper West Side, and Garment District, the historic site of New York City’s sweatshops.  Another area where this has held true is Hell’s Kitchen, so named for how dangerous it once was and the level of organized crime in the area from the 1920s until the 1980s, as well as the decrepit nature of the tenement apartment blocks and the poverty associated with them.

Now, walking through the heart of the district along Tenth Avenue or alongside the water at Twelfth Avenue, you can find shops, parks, and even theatres.  These spots offer a refuge from the usual hustle and bustle which can clog up most of Midtown and provide a scenic atmosphere to enjoy some of the best that Manhattan has to offer.

Green spaces such as DeWitt Clinton Park—which spans a few square blocks off of Eleventh Avenue—offer the neighborhood an open air and are a great spot to take a walk, read on a bench, and, if you’re there on a nice Saturday morning, you’ll be sure to see lots of pet owners walking their dogs.  Named for the famous New York governor of the early 19th century, the park is not the only way Clinton left his mark on the state, as he also oversaw the construction of the Erie Canal, a revolutionary infrastructure project which was the first of its kind in the United States.

Additionally, the neighborhood offers easy access to both Central Park and Riverside Park, as Columbus Circle is just a block northwest of Hell’s Kitchen and the latter begins about ten blocks to the north, on 72nd Street.

The beautiful sights along the water are also a major draw of the area, as the piers for which Chelsea are so famous continue to their north.  With Piers 84 and 92 hosting regular events, there is always something to do. The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum housed in the famous aircraft carrier namesake is also located in Hell’s Kitchen, and offers an unparalleled collection of artifacts from American non-terrestrial transit.  Various sightseeing cruises also leave regularly and offer up-close views of the Statue of Liberty and the skyscrapers of downtown.

Hell’s Kitchen also has a thriving theater movement and is home to many small theatres where anyone can see productions by amateur and professional actors in dramas written by aspiring playwrights.  A notable example is the Ensemble Studio Theater located on 52nd Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenue, which is famous for its annual One Act Play Marathon where every day for several months in the late spring and early summer young actors perform an assortment of short plays.  You can view multiple plays for a single flat fee. The tradition surrounding this began in the 1970s, when the arts culture of the area began to flourish as crime gradually subsided.

For fans of television, Hell’s Kitchen is also home to many cable landmarks. CBS Broadcasting studios lie in the heart of the neighborhood, from which newscasts are aired and your favorite shows transmitted. Additionally, Trevor Noah, successor to Jon Stewart, airs the Daily Show from his studio on Eleventh Avenue and 52nd Street.  For fans of fictional series, Marvel’s Daredevil is also set in Hell’s Kitchen. With such a frequent filming, there are ample opportunities to be part of a live audience.

Another highlight of the Kitchen is (as one might gather from the name) the culinary culture which thrives there.  There are countless restaurants clustered along the avenues.  Some staples are still around, carrying on the long working-class traditions of the neighborhood, such as Rudy’s Bar and Grill, a landmark in business since 1933, which is famous for its classic American meals.  Its quick service and cheap prices make this spot a longtime favorite.

Many newer restaurants also take the spotlight thanks to the rapidly developing food scene.  Places such as the Pure Thai Cookhouse are famous for signature plates in the now-diverse neighborhood.  Pure Thai is known for their homemade noodles and sticky rice served in delicious, albeit eye-wateringly spicy, dishes.

Another popular and perpetually busy restaurant is the Peruvian inspired Pio Pio 8.  Ever since its founding in 1994, it has grown into a very successful business and now has multiple locations.  Its claim to fame has always been their rotisserie chicken with a special sauce.  This rich recipe has become famous and Pio Pio is definitely a go-to spot.

If you ever find yourself in Hell’s Kitchen, there are an endless number of reasons to stay.  From the beautiful parks to the fabulous food, it is a neighborhood of rich culture and history with much to offer.