Posts Tagged With: Hell’s Kitchen NYC

Hell’s Kitchen Guide – 2018 Update

TaladwatYou may have been wondering why I havent updated the Hell’s Kitchen Guide in a while.  Maybe I dont hang out there nearly as much anymore.  Or watch too much Daredevil?  One is true.  I still hang out there often, especially before or after the Hell’s Kitchen tour.  But I do watch Daredevil.  I even saw the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen himself in action, slurping on Ivan Ramen noodles in Gotham West Market. No joke.  I asked his buddy Luke Cage what they were up to and he said they were filming The Defenders.  Jessica Jones was eating elsewhere, obviously not a fan of the just updated Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide.

But thanks to Daredevil, the neighborhood is much better and safer today.  You can walk around the kitchen after 8.  Thai joints continue to make babies, without protection and protection money concerns.  And there’s even a Momofuku now.  Two of them actually.  One of which, Bang Bar, which I wrote about last week, is in the guide.

Pure Thai Cookhouse is a well oiled machine that is perhaps the most important Thai among dozens in the area.  It was just a matter of time until the husband and wife team open Taladwat, dishing out small plates a few blocks down.  So far so delicious, and an obvious addition to the guide.  Another exciting addition is Saar Indian Bistro (below) from another master, Hemant Mathur, bridging Indian fine dining and typical curry houses ever so smoothly.  And about time I added Corner Slice at the constantly changing Gotham West Market.

I removed some dead skin and closings like Tehuitzingo and Larb Ubol which were the most shocking ones.  But on a more personal note, the closing of the neighborhoody Cafe Ole hurts the most.  I spent countless of hours there eating sandwiches and soups, while talking to Ana.  She will be missed.

The Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

 

 

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The 16 Dishes that Define Hell’s Kitchen Today

Nano Ecuadorian

Nano

15 years behind a desk deep inside Hell’s Kitchen introduced me to the wonderful world of car dealerships, construction machinery, and gay bars. I watched the neighborhood develop, grow and become one of the least appreciated food areas in NYC today.  It is a NYC neighborhood, full of personalities and stories.  9th ave has morphed into a little foodie paradise over the years, while 10th ave is full of destination gems.

Today I sit behind another desk, my own.  But I still visit Hell’s Kitchen about twice a week for work (so subtle) and research, and it still feels like a second home.  As with just about any Manhattan neighborhood, its nice to explore the area on your own.  But to bring some of these stories to life and understand what this neighborhood is all about, I recommend taking a tour (ok, not so subtle).  These are the dishes that define Hell’s Kitchen today in no particular order.  A combination of classics, personal faves, with some fresh meat mixed in between

Chicken Paitan at Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop – Its easy to fall for the classics at Ivan, but this latest invention is my favorite today.  It got the richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu bowl without the heaviness.  Its also the first dish to break the rule and appear in both Ivan restaurants (besides the classics)

Chicken Paitan at Ivan Ramen

Seco de Pollo at Nano – Although I’ve known about Nano for a while and enjoyed it in the past, its only in the last year or so that I’ve really discovered this true gem.  Chicken strips cooked with Naranjilla, a sour fruit grown in Ecuador.  Abel, the owner is one of those Hell’s Kitchen personalities you want to meet.  But if you want to see the last time he came to work dressed up, you will need to look at this.

Pepperoni Pizza at Capizzi – The Sacco slice, and the Diavola at Don Antonio are pretty darn great as well, but my gut usually leans toward Capizzi.  The pepperoni is cut thick, giving it more oomph.  And the pizza parlor look and feel takes you to another place and time: Staten Island circa 2016

Capizzi

Shrimp Tacos at Otto’s Tacos – Otto graduated from a mom and pop to a corporation (often the end result of finding success in East Village).  But their signature shrimp tacos are still some of the best in a sea of Taquerias.  They come smartly seasoned, with a tangy homemade serrano cream, fresh herbs and onions.  Wash them down with the homemade Horchata

Silan at Taboon – Vanilla ice cream layered with puffed rice and date honey sprinkled with caramelized pistachios and topped with shredded halva.  Need I say more?  I probably should.  This is one of the most popular big boy desserts in Hell, and its been on the menu since day one.

Taboon Silan

Canotto at Sullivan Street Bakery – You wont find this addictive pastry anywhere else because it was invented and patented by Jim Lahey.  The dinghy shape gives it the name (not to be confused with dinghy shaped pizza terrorizing Napoli purists).  You can find both savory and sweet Canottos but I always go for the Dolce (seasonal fruits, mascarpone, nuts).

Jonah Crab at Gloria – Simple, yet outstanding.  The sweet as lobster crab mixed with strips of Kohlrabi (like a cross between Turnip and Daikon), aided by a thin eggy Sabayon.  Ok, maybe not that simple, but so satisfying.  This mini Le Bernardin is possibly the most underappreciated fine dining in HK.

Gloria Crab

Ratchaburi crab and pork dry noodles at Pure Thai Cookhouse – Confession time.  I dont really order this anymore, as I usually go for for the specials these days.  But its clearly the most important dish at the most important Hell’s Kitchen Thai.  Mix it all in including the Yu Choy (like chinese Chinese Broccoli), and the small amount of broth and you got magic

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Carnitas at Tacuba – The only Carnitas (Mexican pulled pork) I tasted in NYC featuring that Mission District slow roasted nastiness.  It comes with Chicharron (Cracklings), four little tortillas for you to master your taco skills, but thats not all… A beautiful, tangy tamarind habanero salsa that will make you want to dip your credit cards into.

Tacuba Carnitas

Ika Shoga (Squid) at Blue Ribbon Sushi – EWZ old timers may be surprised by this pick instead of the oxtail fried rice.  They are both quite exceptional.  But while you can get some incredible fried rice dishes all over NYC, I havent seen anyone treat squid quite like this.  Sauteed with ginger and garlic.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Squid

Murg Kesar Kebab at Saar Indian Bistro – Its only been open for a few months as of this writing.  But when someone like Hemant Mathur (Malai Marke, Chote Nawab) opening his first Hell’s Kitchen location it automatically becomes the best Indian in the Kitchen.  I got a feeling that once I taste the much hyped Cauliflower Latkes (they didnt have them last time), I may sub it here.  But these Saffron, lemon and ginger infused chicken strips are melt in your fork exceptional

Chicken Kebab at Saar Indian Bistro

Tofu at Danji – Let me just say this.  I dont really eat much tofu.  But as soon as I get inside Danji, I smell the soy vinaigrette and order this dish even when I dont plan.  The four rectangles are flash fried, and topped with ginger scallion dressing, and that wonderful soy vinaigrette.  The result is crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and incredibly delicious throughout.

Danji Tofu

 

Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai – The Khao Soi is equally terrific.  But If there was ever a dish that helped me through the last 5 NYC winters, this is it.  Pam is like my Thai Jewish mother making me chicken soups when I’m under the weather.  But instead of boring chicken, you got three marvelous bony oxtails, with a complex fiery broth.  It cures flu like symptoms and summertime sadness.

Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai

Soup Dumplings at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns – Ive seen many moms and many pops getting squeezed out of high rent 8th ave over the years.  But as long as these guys continue to deliver high quality XLB (soup dumplings), they can make it anywhere.  Well, maybe not Staten Island

Trenette at Mercato – I have to list the best Italian in the hood, I just have to.  I dont believe you can go wrong with any of the pastas here.  But I always go for the light Trenette al Pesto Trapanese (almond, garlic, tomato), especially in the warmer months.

Mercato TrenetteBourekas at Gazala’s – Although a bigger and potentially better Gazala’s just opened in UWS, the little Hell’s Kitchen institution feels like the flagship.  And 9th ave wouldnt be the same without these warm flaky, outrageously delicious pastries lining up the window front.

Gazala'a Place Bourekas

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Best Ramen Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen

Ivan Ramen - Chicken PaitanYes, I know, I’m about 24 hours late on this.  Its beginning to feel a lot like spring here compared to what we experienced the previous 4 days.  Today I can finally wear just enough layers and headgear to be recognizable and to comfortably go to the bathroom during tours.  And I dont need to inspect the mummies I’m with every 30 minutes to make sure these are the people I’m touring with

Although during this cold spell I’ve been craving mostly Thai and Vietnamese soups, Ramen is usually the more common medicine.  So for the latest issue of W42st, that colorful magazine you see all over Hell’s Kitchen, I wrote about my favorite Ramen dishes in a neighborhood that is perhaps most Ramen heavy in NYC today.  Remember the four pillars of Hell’s Kitchen:  Ramen, Mexican, Thai and Gay bars.  Come to think of it, Gay bars is the only one I didnt write about.  I’m on it.

Chicken Paitan at Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop (top)- While the average folk go for the classic dishes that made Ivan famous, savvy W42st readers should opt for the latest and greatest.  The richness and deliciousness of a Tonkotsu without the heaviness.

Yuzu-Kosho Ramen at Mentoku – Solid Ramen with no wait in Hell’s Kitchen is like finding a parking spot within 30 minutes.  Love the way they cut that Chasu so thin, and that spicy, zesty Yuzu paste carries some serious depth.

Spicy Ramen at Totto (bottom)- Its that complex spicy sesame oil that transforms this thing into an umami of flavors.  On a really cold day, it doesnt get much better than this.  Ok, maybe Turks and Caicos.

Akamaru Modern at Ippudo – Its a good time to catch up with your virtual friends while waiting for your table.  Two hours later you can return the favor by posting this sumptuousness.

Tonkatsu with Spicy Black Garlic Sauce at Hide-Chan Ramen – If you like it ultra rich and porky, it doesn’t get much richer than this. Get the fried chicken too while you’re at it.

totto-spicy-ramen

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Five Hellish Quickies

IvanThis month on Hell’s Kitchen’s unofficial official magazine W42st, the theme is… ok, I dont really remember.  I’m pretty sure the theme is not quickies, but sounds like it should be one of these days.  I try, but sometimes I just cant match the Eatlists with the theme.  If for example the theme is The Kardashians (it could happen), I would have a hard time coming up with related recommendations, other than maybe Casellula, home of the pig’s ass sandwich.

The list this time is snacks.  And the good news this month is that I dont have to copy and paste the Eatlist anymore.  You can just read them here.  Or pick up a copy at your favorite Hell’s Kitchen barber, restaurant, and tarot card dealer.

And you can see the rest of the Eatlists here.  Just ignore the pussy…

https://www.w42st.com/search?q=ziggy&term=ziggy

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Hell’s Kitchen – Dining With the Family

There was a time when Hell’s Kitchen was just about the last area in North America you would take your family out to dinner.  There was a time, not too long ago, when I would drive with friends just to see the prostitute action along 10th and 11th.  We would not even roll down the windows, let alone get out of the car in this neighborhood.  Of course I’m talking about when I was a teenager, not in my mid 40’s.  Hell’s Kitchen was a rough neighborhood.

But boy is it different today.  Not only its safe to dine out with your family at all hours, the options out there are endless.  In this month’s W42st magazine you see all over the neighborhood, the theme is family.  In the insert you will find these 5 places I would take (and took) my family in Hell’s Kitchen.  Notice there’s no Trip Advisor family darling Carmines on the list.  Works for some families.  Not so much for mine.  “Family style” sharing is something you can do easily with any of these places

Pio Pio – The sprawling high ceiling basement space of this Peruvian is perfect for families of all sizes.  The usual Peruvian suspects like the Chicken and Ceviche are spot on.

The Marshal – Small space with a sound family friendly menu.  Whether its Frittata and Mac and Cheese for brunch, or Meatloaf, Chicken, and the best bread and butter in town for dinner

Mercato – Who says family style means large plates of chicken and eggplant Parm.  A pasta feast at Mercato is a lot more interesting for Hell’s Kitchen kids

Ippudo – Kids love the atmosphere, energy, and all that yelling…”Welcome in”, “thank you”, and presumably “aim well” when going to the bathroom

Blue Ribbon Sushi Columbus – This pick may raise a few eyebrows, until you see how shareable some of the hits are like the fried chicken, oxtail fried rice, and sauteed squid.

 

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Hell’s Kitchen Summer Update

Yonekichi

Winter is coming!  July 16th to be exact.  That means time to load up on seafood, pea soups, and Japanese street snacks.  The first update in almost a year means it was quite the busy year.  I cleaned up a bit and removed some places that closed like Mooncake foods, but got a few doozies to replace it in the health department.  Big Mazal Tov to the new members…

Gloria – This neighborhood pescatarian was a no-brainer.

Yonekichi – Light and delicious Japanese Rice Burgers with great combo specials to boot

Fresh From Hell – Ingredient focused healtheria with sinful stuff like sandwiches featuring Sullivan bread.

PS.  As of this writing, Sullivan is closed for renovations.  A few more weeks they tell me

The complete Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

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Happy, Healthy Hell’s Kitchen

fresh-from-hellIts that time of the year again.  Resolution season!  The slowest eating month of the year.  The time of the year when Mrs Z says “Enough”, and I have to sneak out of the house Shawshank Redemption style in order to eat something that doesnt have Quinoa in it.  I then find myself in a dark room in a basement, a resolution speakeasy,  with other men indulging in pizza, and chicken skin dumplings.  These are dumplings deep fried in chicken skin instead of dough.

If you are a well balanced individual, meaning one who can stand on one leg for more than 5 seconds without breaking a wrist, you probably poopoo the entire resolution concept.  Why does one wait until January to change bad habits.  But for the rest of us, who sometimes cant see our own feet in the shower (I’m being nice here with feet), we use January as an alarm clock.  Its time to hibernate.

That leads to this irony.  W42st, the new(ish) Hell’s Kitchen magazine responsible for banning your Ziggy from 3 places Hell’s Kitchen establishments and counting, is back at it again with a new feature.  Its a foldout little zine inside the magazine, or sometimes just sitting on top of it at places.  And inside you have a map of various lists like new places, cool bars, top palm readers, and something called Ziggy’s Eat List where I feature 5 places related or not to the theme that month.  So my first contribution is listing 5 healthy options in Hell’s Kitchen (the irony).  For those who cant get the magazine (this feature isnt available online), here are the places…

Azuri Cafe
As far as Falafel and Shawarma in Hell’s Kitchen go, there’s no Better Than Ezra. Its an institution that comes with a little attitude.  Ok, a lot.Azuri Cafe - Chicken Shawarma
Indie Fresh
Bison Borscht anyone?  Da!  A Gotham West Market staple dishing out healthy soups, broths, and even burgers, utilizing top notch raw materialsindie-fresh
Mooncake Foods
A delicious hole in the wall with a varied Asian influenced menu.  Although I come here for the best Wonton soup in town these days, the rest of the healthy lineup is excellent.  Mooncake Foods Wonton soup
Fresh From Hell
A fresh and promising Hell takeout discovery in a very convenient spot.  Great soups, smoothies, and sandwiches featuring, fresh from hell too, Sullivan Street bread (picture top)
The Marshal
Close relationship with 14 area farms means close relationship with many patrons.  It also means delicious salads, but I cant pass on the bread and the meat options.The Marshal - Capreseimg_4981
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The Marshal – Farm to Hell’s Kitchen

 

Courtesy of The Marshal

Courtesy of The Marshal

Adventurous diners, ready for some Pig’s Blood Flatbread with Smoked Salmon Roe? Perhaps a decadent Mugwort Foie Gras, or how about the good ol’ Geoduck?  Well, you will find none of that at the Marshal in Hell’s Kitchen.  Not even close.  In fact chances are that you will have a hard time bragging about your meal to your girlfriends and making it sound remotely sexy.  “OMG so we had this thing called Meatloaf that was like the most amazing thing ever.  Here’s a selfie of me and the meatloaf”  Meatloaf, Pot Roast, Salmon.. there’s no conceivable way to make them sound sexy these days.  But this 6 month old 10th avenue “Farm to Table” comes as close as you can get

Processed with VSCOcam with s5 preset

Courtesy of The Marshal

Adventurous Foie seekers should still be able to appreciate the flavors and attention to detail here.  Although the menu reads like “American (Old)”, just about every item is listed almost like a paragraph describing the origin of the ingredients.  The back of the menu features 14 local farms where they source much of those items.  Almost like eating at Da Roberto in the village of Montisi, Tuscany.  Almost!  “Slow Food” models such as Roberto, and other Farm to Table places in Italy are simply called restaurants, or Trattorias. While in the US, its a concept.  But it is what it is.  And in ethnic happy Hell’s Kitchen, Solid “American” may seem like a concept in itself.

The Marshal - BreadRule of thumb – when you see bread on the menu in NYC as opposed to your typical free basket, get it.  The warm French Loaf is crunchy and soft in all the right places and will make your taste buds believe it was baked seconds ago especially for you.  Bread and butter bliss.

Chicken Liver Pate was solid.  Refreshingly fresh Caprese included sizeable sweet tomatoes, with handmade mozzarella, fresh Shushan Valley basil and balsamic reduction.  But the early highlight came in the form of the meaty, scrumptious Newfoundland Mussels.  Its creamy, garlicky white sauce is so appetizing you want to dip anything in it…bread, fingers, metrocards, anything!The Marshal  -Mussels

And then there was that meatloaf which was just like at grandmas.  That’s after grandma graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute followed by a 2 year stint with the Canadian navy.  Similarly, the goat cheese and herb stuffed chicken just doesn’t get much more tender and juicy than this.  The wood oven Mac and Cheese with bacon hit the spot.  On another visit I enjoyed a perfectly cooked and juicy burger which is only available for lunch.The Marshal - Meatloaf

The sides here require a PHD in sides.  We opted for a fine bacon wrapped wedge of white cabbage, simple roasted potatoes, and a sweet potato and kale au gratin which took the gold.  And don’t leave home without trying the mammoth hot fudge, walnuts, cherry, vanilla ice cream, or any of the other two desserts featuring ice cream from the nearby Je & Jo.  Welcome to the hood Marshal.The Marshal - Mac n Cheese The Marshal - Caprese The Marshal - Sundae

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The Hell’s Kitchen Survival Guide

Hell FoodUpdated: November 22nd, 2018

“One more block” is what I normally say to tourists who come to NYC to experience one of the best NY attractions (Broadway shows) along with one of the saddest NY attractions (Theater District Dining).  One more block and you are in the middle of ethnic galore 9th avenue.  To experience eating in NYC, one of the greatest food cities in the world, one should take advantage of one of its greatest strengths, ethnic dining.  From amazing Sri Lankan food to fiery Thai.  Most visitors don’t realize that you wont find any Theater District Restaurants on any “Best of” lists, but you WILL find some of the following.  And if you insist on fine dining, why not go to something like Ma Peche, Lincoln, Marea, or The Nomad which are not in the district but a short cab ride away or a nice stroll on Broadway.  You already paid $300 to see Muppets having sex on stage, surely you can afford a $5 cab ride to make the night complete and eat at some of New York’s finest.

With that said, here’s the best food in Hell…

New:  Food Tours of Hell’s Kitchen, East Village and Brooklyn

** Note:  I update the guide from time to time, but the article links below to “Top Dishes”, “Best Burgers”, etc may be a bit outdated.  Most of the dishes and places are still there and there’s enough useful info, but some are closed ***

Top Dishes – Round 1

Top Dishes – Round 2

Top Dishes – Round 3

Top Dishes – Round 4

Top Pre-Theater Options

Best Burgers

Best Pizza

Best Thai

Best Soups

The Sandwich Awards

Gotham West Market Top Eats

Ivan Ramen Whitefish Donburi

Food Halls

Gotham West Market –  Perhaps the coolest thing ever to open in Hell’s Kitchen.  In a city suddenly flooded with all sorts of food halls, this is one of the more intimate, and less visited ones.  Main reason being the tourist free zone of 11th and 45th, making it more of a neighborhood stop.  Only about 9 high quality vendors, and a bicycle shop.  Ramen, tapas, burgers, Mexican, health food, sushi burritos, meat purveyor, high end coffee, and to top it all, some of the best ice cream in town.

Middle Eastern

Falafel – Azuri Cafe.  Soup Nazi meets Oscar from the odd couple.  Ezra’s grouchiness is well documented, even on his menu.  A couple of weeks ago I saw him smile but I’m pretty sure it was gas.  But the falafel here is a piece of art.  Skip the 3 ball recession platter and go for the sandwich, or the excellent chicken Shawarma.

Middle Eastern – Gazala’s Place.  Fabulous Druze cooking.  Some of the best Hummus in town (I spent plenty of time in Israel including the druze village where Gazala came from so I know my Hummus).  The place is slightly larger than a shoe box.  More like a hers and hers closet (in my house at least.  I count my blessings to have 2 shelves left).  The only complaint is I wish for better bread than the paper thin lafa to scoop the stuff.  I’m not big of the Bourekas overall, but the cheese and sun dried tomato Bourekas here is solid.  For more of a takeout middle eastern you may want to consider The Hummus Kitchen on 52nd.  Surprisingly all kinds of great hummus in the area.

Gourmet Middle Eastern – Taboon.  One of the most successful, hidden gems in the area.  A creative menu created by a top Israeli chef coining the term Middleterranean.  Try any of their bread specialties baked in their Taboon oven, and the Silan (below), one of my favorites desserts in the city.Taboon Silan

Doner Kebab/Turkish – Turco.   This is perhaps the closest thing we have to the German Doner Kebab (Turkish immigrants in Germany made it the most popular fast food snack since the invention of the Speckpfannkuchen and Zwiebelkuchen).  The main culprit is that thick, crispy tasty pita bread that holds its own for the most part.  I slightly prefer the chicken over the lamb but you should try both.

Asian

Momofuku – Bang Bar.  Leave it to David Change to make lines fun, an have people stand on line for a $5 snack.  Oddly situated in the Columbus Shops at the Warner Center, its worth the short trek for the spicy pork “U”.  And for a price of a Halal cart lunch its… I’m saying it… a Bang for your buck.  Get it?  Because its called Bang.

Korean – Danji.  The best Korean Tapas in the area by far.  Ok, probably the only one but its still quite good, and not quite tapas.  You will be hard pressed to find better chicken wings in the area, and the sliders aren’t too shabby.  Michelin people agreed (initially), rewarding it a star soon after opening

Ramen -Totto Ramen.  Shoe box setting and potential long waits adds to the charm at the original.  Just write your name on the board outside (Not Seymore Butts – already done) and wait.  Order the spicy Ramen, add the egg and you are all set.  Newer, bigger Totto located a block away 464 West 51st.  Less wait if any than the original

Ramen – Ippudo Westside.  Perhaps the most exciting HK opening in 2013.  One block away from Totto and others making HK a NYC Ramen powerhouse.  Just like Totto, this is an experience, but a little different.  Its bustling, noisy, energetic, and that’s just the wait inside and out.  Clearly my favorite here so far is the Akamaru Modern, but you must add the egg, and for a little more spice the spicy miso paste.  Highly recommend this one

Ramen – Mentoku.  Three is a crowd you say?  I disagree!  The other two are now well known oldtimers, and these days you will most likely find me at this relaxing no-line, no hassle, newcomer.  Start with the simple but the delicious fried chicken and finish with the spicy Yuzu-Kosho.

Japanese – Blue Ribbon Sushi.  Not all chains are created equally.  This is far from Applebee’s.  And depending on who you ask, and the day of the week, this is not exactly in Hell’s Kitchen but close enough (Yelp thinks that it is).  Its located in the SIXTY Hotel on Columbus Circle (on 58th st).  Whether you are a sushi lover is irrelevant in this case.  Good fried chicken, steaks, and the sick oxtail fried rice alone is worth the price of admission.  And other goodies such as the excellent Ika Shoga (sautéed squid), and Kanpachi Usuzukuri (amberjack sushimi) worth detouring.

Thai – Pure Thai Cookhouse.  Not your average NYC Thai food among a plethora of all kinds of great Thai on 9th.  No drunken noodles,  no red curry, no green curry and not even purple curry on the menu.  What you do get is something a bit more authentic with all sorts of complex flavors and extra heat.  Read the post for what to order.  Update 12/3/13:  These days I really enjoy the ribs, Curry Paste with Pork, Ratchaburi crab and pork with dry noodles, and the pumkin custard with coconut sticky rice off the board (not on the menu)

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Pure Thai Ratchaburi

Thai – Taladwat.  The new kid on the Thai block is a possibly the most important opening in Hell in the last few years.  Thats because its the latest from David Bank and his wife, the owners of Pure Thai Cookhouse, and its three times bigger.  The menu focuses on 20 or so small plates covering a wide array of protein.  You have the option of getting two for $16.  So far the Crabmeat Tom Turmeric is a winner

Thai – Pam Real Thai.  I was hesitant to add this one for too long, partly due to having two Thai places on the list already.  But.. a) Many EWZ readers have already been to Pure and/or Larb Ubol, b) The Oxtail Soup, and c) Just about everything else I’ve had here is pretty darn good.  Setting redefines minimalistic, and the place could use some refreshing, but I dont go there for the decor.  Try the Pad Kra Prow (w/shrimp), Pad Prik Khing, Khao Soi, best Kee Mao Seafood in the hood, and the Oxtail Soup which is just about my favorite soup on the planet.

Chinese – Gourmet Szechuan 56.  By far the best Chinese in the area.  Like Pure Thai, Spice level significantly higher.  Loving the  Shredded Beef w/ Asian Spicy Green Chili especially

Chinese/Dumplings – Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen.  A little piece of Chinatown on the border of Hell’s Kitchen, steps away from Times Square.  Contrary to what the name suggests, this place isnt known for its ramen, but for its soup dumplings. The place is tiny, and at peak hours there could be a line but it moves quickly.  Communal tables add to the fun, but try not to squirt that dumpling soup juice on your neighbor.  Unless its a Broadway actor

Pork Buns

Indian – Saar Indian Bistro – My little Indian rule of thumb – pay special attention to the latest from Indian master Hemant Mathur (Malai Marke, Chote Nawab and many more).  The dude just knows how to cook and how to hire them.  He finally opened one in the Kitchen in 2018, making Saar the most important Indian in the area, and very different than the rest.  Its a nice bridge between a cheap curry house and gourmet Indian.  Try the Chicken kebabs, Cauliflower Latkes, Butter Chicken, Pepper chicken

Indian – Basera Indian Bistro.  I tried every single Indian in the area, and keep going back to this one.  Friendly, big, and best lunch specials by far.  This is your average American Indian, but done right.  Good Tikka masala, lamb Biryani, but its just about a Chicken Chettinad fest for me as of late.

Indian Lunch Buffet – Benares.  I’m not normally into lunch buffets these days, but this is one that my co-workers and I enjoy lately.  What I like about it is that they dont offer the usual conventional Tikka and Chana Masalas, but various shrimp and lamb dishes with proper Unamerican degrees of heat and flavor

Rice Burgers – Yonekichi – Another piece of East Village in HK.  Rice burgers may sound weird or one of those trends that goes nowhere, but those little things are actually delicious. I wasnt too sure at first but it grew on me quickly.  Its light and healthy, and with the added fried egg can be quite satisfying.  People complain that they are small and they are.  But the Combos that may include Shishitos and succulent potato wedges will fill that void.  For around $14 that includes a drink, this is actually one of the best and most delicious deals around.

Italian

Italian – Mercato.  This is quickly becoming not only my favorite Italian in the area but my favorite restaurant in the area.  Truly flavorful, mostly authentic southern Italian (from south Italy, not south Staten Island) dishes like the excellent homemade Trenette (below) with garlic, almonds, tomato and basil.  A cozy Trattoria, with an all Italian staff.  Check out the simple spaghetti, the meaty gnocchi, Sardinian specialties, and look for any specials like the excellent Cavatelli

Mercato Trenette

Italian – Il Melograno.  A lot of mediocre Italian in the area.  This is not one of them.  No frills, small, cheap(er) Trattoria sitting in a location where its almost impossible to survive unless you are doing something right.  Owner from Brescia, no stranger to Northern Italian cooking.  Try the Pappardelle with sausage and truffle oil.  In the warmer months locals flock to their sidewalk wine bar Il Baretto on 11th.

Seafood

Gloria.  The most refreshing new face in the area since The Marshal.  You can read all about it here

American

Wine and Cheese bar – Casellula. Great wine and.. you guessed it.. Pork Ass sandwiches.  Small, not the prettiest bar but the food more than makes up for it.  Just leave it to them to make you a cheese and meat assortment with some vino and enjoy those asses

Bar/Gastropub – Shorty’s.  Calling this a Gastropub may be a stretch, but you do come here for the Philly Cheesesteak.  I’ve had it in Philadelphia, and I can assure you that this is the real deal.  Same bread (arrives daily from “Le Bus” in Philly and finish baked in house), same steaks, same Whiz, same style, same everything.  Owner apparently was part owner of the great Tony Luke’s in Philly.  If you never had one, you are in for a messy treat.

Burger – Island Burger and shakes. Great burger, and you guessed it… Churrascos (chicken breast sandwiches).  I tried many burgers in the area and took many bad ones for the team, but those guys always do it right.  There’s a huge menu of different combinations.  I like the Barzel’s but your best bet is to try what looks good to you, or ask the waiter.

Farm to Table – The Marshal.  One of the most exciting additions to the neighborhood in recent years.  They have a relationship with 14 local farms whose ingredients fill much of the seasonal menu.  Just about everything they do, they do well.  From the terrific french loaf, to the meatloaf and roast chicken, to the ice cream sundae. Ditch the diner and go to this neighborhood spot to experience American cuisine at its finestThe Marshal - Meatloaf

Pizza

NY Slice – Sacco.  An old timer.  No 99 cent slices here (more like $2.50), but a NY slice as good as it gets

Slices – Merilu.  My kind of family.  Merilu from Torino dishes out great thin slices along with her kids while the dad just eats the stuff.  Come on Friday or Saturday to try Merilu’s excellent meatballs

Slices – Corner Slice.  Gotham West Market now dishes delicious square “Grandma” style slices by pizza wizards backed by Ivan Ramen

Neapolitan Pizza – Don Antonio.  Opened by two Naples veterans who know a thing or 3 about pizza.  One of them also owns the popular Keste in the village.  Try the slightly fried Montanara that no one else does, and my fave Diavola boasting the best sopressata in town.

Pies – Capizzi.  A solid alternative to the Don Antonio, John’s craziness and perhaps the closest thing to a pizza parlor you can only find in the outer boroughs.  The ingredients speak for themselves, like the bright, fresh tomato sauce and the extra meaty pepperoni and sausagesCapizzi

Latin

Empanadas – Empanada Mama.  Empanadas are like little patties, and should be on everyone’s area walking tour.  Try the spicy chicken, the meaty Brazil, and before you try the Viagra make sure there’s ample space between you and the person in front of you.  Hmmm, this sounded much funnier in my head.

Ecuadorian – Nano.  This hole in the wall on 10th has some serious “nona” action going for it.  An “I cant believe this is not Peruvian” Ecuadorian has joined Lali and the rest of the growing latin gang in the immediate area.  Try the homey Caldo de Bola soup which made the Best Soups in HK cut.  For lunch you got various deals that include the Seco de Pollo, chicken strips in a mild but pleasant gravy, and Sango de Res, beef in a soup like green plantain sauce, among all kinds of other surprises

Peruvian – Inti.  10th ave is the new 9th ave.  Can someone go here please? Anyone?  Bueller?  Its always empty during lunch for some reason and it would be a real shame if it closes.  A Pio Pio alumni with a twist.  And the twist being empty ceviche.  Great looking and tasting Ceviche Mixto (below), Fresh fish chunks, shrimp, octopus and calamari with red onions, cilantro and rocoto hot pepper.  Add sweet potatoes for much needed contrast and the traditional baby corn and you got yourself a winner.  Or try the always reliable Rotisserie chicken

Inti Ceviche

Peruvian/Large Groups – Pio Pio.   Ok, I give up.  Pio Pio is a chain.  In fact I think the official name for this one is Pio Pio 8, or something like that.  It’s also not the best Peruvian in the area (Inti gets my vote), and it wont win any James Beard or Z-List awards any time soon.  But whenever I’m asked the question I loath the most by my employer.  A last minute place for a large group that is not only affordable but will make everyone happy, this is the first place that comes to mind.  Good drinks, rotisserie chickens, and much more.

Dominican – Lali.    Read this while listening to this.  Ready? Lets go.  Home cooking cant get any more homey than this.  Small, Diner-ish, Reggaeton music blasting in the background to help you chew and move, and the two lovely nonnas serving including Mrs Lali herself.  You get what’s available today which will normally include some sort of stew, chicken, or ribs.  Go for the braised chicken if available, or the beef stew, with rice and beans of course.  Breakfast and lunch only

Mexican – Tacuba.  I realize that there’s a better chance seeing Lindsay Lohan win an Oscar than seeing tourists (without guides) in one of those last remaining bodegas/hole in the walls deeper in the area.  This is the latest from Julian Medina of Toloache fame. And everything I’ve tried so far from the octopus sandwich for lunch to the Carnitas for dinner suggests GO!

Tacos – Otto’s Tacos.  The first addition I didn’t even need to try.  I’m well too familiar with their East Village spot, and those shrimp tacos (hmmm, how you doing!).  But I did of course had my fix on day two of this most important Hell’s Kitchen opening since Gotham West.

Misc

Ethiopian – Meske.  This is a fun place for groups.  Just order a bunch of plates and watch them create the plate of dreams.  Use the spongy Injera bread below to scoop up all those goodies.  Queen of Sheba practically next door also worth consideringMeske

Farmer’s Markets – Stiles on 52nd is a tiny market with a big heart and Outer Boroughs prices.  You also have the 57th st Greenmarket on 57th and 9th open Wednesdays and Saturdays from about mid April to December.  What fantastic timing on my part, eh?

Diners.  Westway is the classic, Georgio’s Country Grill the not so classic, and Renaissance is somewhere in between.  All 3 offer your no frill basic diner fare.

Bakeries/Cafes/Sandwiches

Sandwiches – City Sandwich.  Sorry I have to use that “one of the city’s best” again.  From Naples to Lisbon to the huge Portuguese community in Jersey, comes some of the best bread in the area, with some of the most unusual ingredients like blood pudding, sandwiches worthy of a run-on sentence.  Just try to study the huge menu ahead of time so you dont feel pressured or confused once there.  I like some of the egg sandwiches (egg based sandwiches got its own section) like Bench Girl, and of course the only on Tuesday, porky Roberto

Bakery – Sullivan Street Bakery.  Talking about no brainers. Another “One of the best in town” and the source to many top restaurant’s bread baskets like Scarpetta and Maialino.  Try some of the bread, the spectacular Canottos (the sweet ones), Bombolonis (donuts on crack), and the chocolate almond croissants.  Many love their pizzas but its the other stuff that makes me go there almost weekly these daysSullivan Street Bakery

Café/BakeryBibble & Sip.  One of the new kids on the wrong side of the block.  Technically just outside of HK but deliciousness sees no borders!  A place where you can unwind and BS all you want (it says so right on their logo).  The Earl Grey Banana Bread is quickly gaining neighborhood fame.  Add the Earl Grey Panna Cotta (notice a theme?), Matcha Cream puffs, scones, the morning egg sliders and all sorts of rotating daily goodies.

Café – Rex.  The new kid on the block and by kid I mean Rex, the hardest working baker in HK.  And only 3 years old!  Ok, not really, he’s 4 now!  Ok, not really again, his father helps out a little but still.  Great coffee, scones, and muffins like the Morning Glory.

Bagels – Pick-A-Bagel.  Ess got nothing on these guys.  This is by far my favorite bagel place in the area, and trust me I’ve looked.  A good place to try the walnut raisin spread but I normally go for a simple bagel with butter.  Muffins are great in size and taste, and the only place that has Ziggy’s fave banana nut.  Its a great concept:  You say “Bagel” and they pick one for you.  🙄

Sweets

Chocolates – Kee’s.  What happens when you leave your corporate job to follow your dream and open what eventually becomes one of NY’s finest chocolate shops?  You open another one, and another one, and on 39th st in Hell’s Kitchen.  Creamy explosion, the words that come to mind once you chew on one of the 50 or so truffles and chocolates.  Top notch craftsmanship doesn’t come cheap.  But still, a good option after lunch at Mercato, Larb Ubol, or Capizzi.  Or before dinner, whatever takes.

Pies – Little Pie Company.  While everyone is obsessing with cheesecakes, those in the know come here for the insane Sour Cream Apple Walnut Pie.  When I was walking home on my birthday earlier this year, guess what I picked up on the way.  Laundry!  But then…

Healthy

Fresh From Hell.  Quite a few healthy places surprisingly closed the past few years like Mooncake Foods despite being popular.  But tiny takeout FFH is a solid new alternative with fine sandwiches featuring Sullivan bread, and the best split pea soup this side of wherever they make the best split pea soup.

Just a Bit Outside

Best HK dining that’s not actually in HK – A new category for theater goers and those who want to experience some of NY’s finest that happened to be just outside the area.  Consider Lincoln, Ma Peche, Marea, The NoMad, Betony

There are more slightly less desirable options which I will not include but there you have it.  Stay hungry my friends!Mercato

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

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