Check-In NYC: A Weekend in Hell’s Kitchen

Words by Brian Sloan, Photographs by Matthew Papa

While the origin of Hell’s Kitchen’s name is up for debate, no one can deny that the neighborhood, just west of Midtown Manhattann’s Times Square, is one of New York City’s most exciting. Known in the early and mid-20th century for its gritty streets, this part of town has transformed—especially over the past two or three decades—into a vibrant area brimming with great spots for drinking, dining, dancing and culture. Not only is it home to many Off-Broadway theaters, it is also an important hub for the City’s LGBTQ+ nightlife scene.

Read on for an action-packed, three-day weekend itinerary in this quintessential NYC neighborhood.

Yotel New York at Times Square West

Where to Stay

Located near the heart of Manhattan, “HK” (as some locals call it) features convenient and affordable places to stay such as Yotel New York at Times Square West. This high-tech, pod-style hotel is right along “the Deuce” (aka 42nd Street), providing easy access to all the neighborhood has to offer including proximity to the sights and sounds of Times Square. The hotel’s sleek entrance on Tenth Avenue features automated check-in via tablet along with a luggage robot that will store your bags before check-in or when you’re headed out.

From left: bar at Social Drink & Food; fourth-floor lobby

From left: Terrace at Social Drink & Food; martini at Social Drink & Food

Elevators whisk guests up to the main lobby on the fourth floor, where you’ll find many of the Yotel’s amenities: a gym, coffee shop, cabaret space and their main restaurant, Social Drink & Food. This large indoor-outdoor dining space features an airy terrace with picnic tables and views of Hell’s Kitchen—a great place to relax after arrival for happy hour cocktails and small bites. The floors above hold Yotel’s compact cabins, which feature efficient design, cool modular furniture and plenty of USB outlets for charging your devices.

Broadway theaters on West 45th Street

Friday

Have a Bite Before a Show

If you’ve got Broadway tickets and are looking for a classic pre-theater dinner, stop by Joe Allen on Restaurant Row (the block of West 46th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues). This old-school bar and restaurant is a theater-crowd staple famous for strong martinis, big burgers and hearty meatloaf. It’s also known for its unusual decor of original posters from Broadway’s biggest flops, which keeps the regulars humble.

Don’t Forget Dessert

Find a sweet post-theater dessert at Schmackary’s, which serves up freshly baked cookies in flavors such as funfetti, banana walnut and the ever-popular maple bacon.

…And a Nightcap

End your evening with a cocktail at Dutch Fred’s, an upscale bar tended by serious mixologists. They’ll even torch some cinnamon sticks for their Sixth Sense, a twist on a classic Manhattan. The Paesano, their take on a Negroni, is served up in a jam jar with a gingham napkin for a lid along with a piece of orange dark chocolate.

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Saturday

Start with Coffee

Jump-start your weekend at Kahve, a local favorite since 2011 specializing in strong Turkish coffee. Located just west of Ninth Avenue on 51st Street, this nook of a shop has some outdoor seating alongside a hot pink railing. If you like their brew, consider purchasing some of their roasted beans to take home with you—the Ethiopian house blend is a best seller.

Visit Local Shops

While you’ll find plenty of major retailers like Nordstrom and Kiehl’s in the neighborhood, the real discoveries are the local merchants who’ve been there for decades. The LGBTQ-themed gift shop Delphinium Home, run by the couple John Soroka and Michael Quinn and their friend Gary Alaimo, is a great spot for souvenirs; choose from knickknacks like humorous mugs, NYC-themed coasters and racy greeting cards or opt for beautiful coffee table books on theater and the City.

Fine and Dandy

Fine and Dandy

Afterward patronize another gay-owned and -operated business, Fine and Dandy, a fashion retailer that’s developed quite a following. Overseen by longtime couple Matt Fox and Enrique Crame III, who live just around the block, it comprises two separate stores on the ground floor of a brownstone on West 49th Street. One specializes in vintage ’80s and ’90s tees, sweats and jackets while the other features newer men’s items alongside Mad Men–style accessories (tie bars anyone?) and clever gifts like a handy traveling cocktail kit.

Also cute is the store Domus, the Latin word for “home.” It has a range of items like handcrafted jewelry, colorful scarves and pocketbooks, and even some New York­–themed toys. The store has been a local favorite for decades, with the owner usually behind the register giving recommendations.

Lunch and a Walk to the Water

Ninth Avenue is the main drag for dining, with lots of Asian, especially Thai, choices along the strip. A popular spot near the corner of 49th Street is V{IV} Thai, which is easy to spot thanks to the rainbow-colored faux flowers covering their dining shed. Enjoy traditional dishes like pad Thai and pad see ew along with some Northern Thai dishes and specials.

Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Work off those noodles with a walk west on 42nd Street to Hudson River Park and Pier 84, a beautiful green space with a lawn for relaxing or, if you’re looking to be more active, kayak and bike rentals. On the next pier north there’s a docked decommissioned aircraft carrier, the USS Intrepid, which functions as a naval aviation museum; the test space shuttle Enterprise sits on its main deck.

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For an afternoon pick-me-up, stop by Amy’s Bread, a bakery that’s been in the area for three decades. Their sticky buns are a fan favorite, but they’re also known for their scones and chocolate twisted bread. And if you’re feeling celebratory, a slice of one of their cakes is perfect for two to share.

Chez Josephine

Chez Josephine

Enjoy a Night Out

For a cozy Saturday night dinner, make a reservation at Chez Josephine. A 42nd Street landmark for 35 years, this unique restaurant dedicated to the memory of American expat Josephine Baker serves up a mix of nouveau and classic French dishes in exquisite style. Originally run by one of her adopted sons, the place features paintings of Baker alongside works by local artists that fill its dark and velvety red interior. On the menu, standards such as filet au poivre with frites and trout amandine are recommended.

Flaming Saddles

Because Saturday is, of course, the best night to explore the hopping LGBTQ+ scene, start your pre-game at DBL, a low-key boîte where the locals get the party started with budget drinks and drafts. If you want to catch some pro dancers, don’t miss the high-kicking action at Flaming Saddles, a country-and-western-themed bar just up the avenue, where the barkeeps serve up exuberant line dancing between serving drinks.

For late-night dance moves of your own, head to Hardware, over on Tenth Avenue, a longtime neighborhood spot that features DJs, dancing and drag under its spinning disco ball. Back over on Ninth Avenue, Rise is a bigger nightclub-style space with multiple bars and plenty of room to move for its young, partying crowd.

Sunday

Hold Fast

Head to Brunch

Sleep in—you’ve earned it. But not too late, as you don’t want to miss one of the many boozy brunches in the neighborhood. A relatively newish offering on Restaurant Row is Hold Fast, a homey, Southern-style spot that has 2-for-1 brunch drink specials alongside dishes like chicken and waffles and biscuits and gravy.

Playwrights Horizons

Take in a Matinee and Finish with a Cocktail and Bite

As a prime home to the Off-Broadway theater scene, HK has many prestigious theaters right in the neighborhood, including Playwrights Horizons, where Broadway shows like A Strange Loopgot their start. There’s also the Signature Theatre, MCC Theater and New World Stages.

As your weekend comes to a close, drink in the sunset and stunning views of Midtown at Ink 48 hotel’s rooftop bar, The Press Lounge. They specialize in high-end cocktails along with panoramic views of the City and the river. Afterward grab a casual dinner at the Gotham West Market, just down Eleventh Avenue. This food hall features one of the best pizza joints in the neighborhood at Corner Slice.

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Yotel New York at Times Square West

For the first installment in our Check-In NYC series, see our Guide to the Meatpacking District.


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