Long home to Broadway boys looking for affordable housing, in recent years Hell’s Kitchen has also been the beneficiary of burgeoning dining and nightlife scenes, thanks in part to the gentrification that continues to push the gay bars (and gay boys) out of Chelsea. Given the area’s luxury real-estate boom, the neighborhood’s reign as a lifestyle destination may be even shorter—but we sure can enjoy it now. Hell’s Kitchen offers a charming “gayborhoody” feel, as well as a convenient Midtown base from which to explore some of the City’s best-known attractions. The heart of the neighborhood is between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, from 46th to 56th Streets. It’s easily walkable, with plenty of attractive hotel options nearby. Below, see our picks for some of the area’s best gay-friendly restaurants, bars and clubs.
Bars & Clubs
355 W. 52nd St., 646-476-2747
Whether you’re a tourist, local or member of the bridge-and-tunnel weekend crowd, Industry is a critical dance spot. Weeknight events provide must-see entertainment; don’t miss the Monday night shindig, Marty Thomas Presents DIVA. Running for six years, the evening features incredible real, live singers—no, not in drag—and Broadway performers, starting at 11pm (no cover). The space offers a lounge, an area for dancing (with a stage) plus a bar in the back that’s open on weekends. Pro tip: Industry is cash-only, so visit the bank before you go. (The ATMs inside charge crazy fees!)
348 W. 52nd St., 212-397-1700
Opened in 2003, Therapy is one of the longest-standing—and trendiest—gay spots in the neighborhood. It’s a classy place for a good cocktail and to get a light bite to eat (except Saturdays, when the kitchen is closed), with a nice mix of locals and visitors. They offer a great happy hour from 5pm to 8pm, seven nights a week, and their nightly entertainment—high-quality, clever and politically timely drag performances—is also excellent. Some of these talented ladies sing with their natural voices.
369 W. 46th St., 212-333-4177
Everyone ends up here at the end of the night (sometimes lines form at 2am!). You’ll always have a great time at Hell’s Kitchen’s standby dance bar—and probably lose a friend or two in the club’s diverse sea of guys. This is the most unpretentious of dance spots. Stand up on a platform against the wall, jive and watch go-go boys in jocks rock to the latest pop hits. Or head upstairs and check out the crowd in the mirrored walls as you dance to a deeper beat.
401 W. 47th St., 212-586-9390
NYC’s best gay lounge bar sports floor-to-ceiling garage-style glass doors that are open on beautiful days. Take a seat with a few best friends or gather for a special occasion, though the blasting beats make conversation a challenge. (It’s a low-key spot, but you’ll still only be able to hear the person next to you.) Want a snack while you sip? Munch on pretzels and Goldfish crackers at the bar. Enjoy the racy bathroom decor too!
793 Ninth Ave., 212-713-0481
There’s no other place like it in NYC! At the City’s only country-western-themed gay bar, the bartenders double as dancers. They’ll groove to whatever music you like—there’s a jukebox—but be careful where you put your drinks. (Those cowboy boots are not made for walking.) Their periodic jigs on top of the bar bring in locals and tourists alike.
Posh Bar & Lounge
405 W. 51st St., 212-957-2222
Open until 4am every night, Posh is the kind of dive you might go to with a friend and wait for things to get a little dancey in back. You’ll enjoy good, boozy times here pretty much any night. The crowd could be anyone from suits and squares to industry queens.
742 Ninth Ave., 212-951-1518
Boxers is famous for its straight-bro, sports-themed brand, but it’s also known for its shirtless gay bartenders wearing boxer shorts. Plus, the venue has the only rooftop in Hell’s Kitchen fit for beautiful summer evenings and weekend brunches. Daily happy hours (except on Saturday) feature 2-for-1 drinks, while different nights of the week have special deals on premium vodkas. Any and every type of sporting event imaginable is on TV—constantly.
859 Ninth Ave., 646-892-3313
This brand-new neighborhood favorite is all the rage, slightly removed from Times Square and the bridge-and-tunnel crowd. Come here to see more sophisticated locals celebrate birthdays, enjoy cucumber margaritas and dance to the latest hits.
697 Tenth Ave., 212-924-9885
Hell’s Kitchen’s version of Cheers features nightly drag shows and friendly bartenders. This watering hole will make you feel great, as will its potent $6 Long Island iced teas during their weekend “Skinny Brunch” specials and their everyday deal of $4 drinks until 9pm.
885 Ninth Ave., 212-489-6889
Strolling north to Central Park? If you need a taco to tide you over—or a burrito to fill you up—stop by for the best quick Tex-Mex in the neighborhood. Try the BBQ chicken tacos, and enjoy free chips and salsa with every order.
Gallo Nero Wine Bar and Grill
402 W. 44th St., 212-265-6660
This Theatre District restaurant may be small, but don’t dismiss it: it offers outstanding Italian comfort classics (the ultralight gnocchi are to die for), an expertly curated list of over 100 wines and attentive service like you’d find at a family-run restaurant in Rome. This is a great place for the pre- or post-theater crowd, but be sure to make reservations.
668 Tenth Ave., 212-920-4770
Añejo has a popular brunch, and it’s no secret why: come enjoy three drinks (including margaritas; this place specializes in tequila) and a brunch entrée for $29. Chilaquiles, huevos rancheros or morning tacos will help soak up Saturday night’s alcohol as you stumble out for Sunday fun day.
578 Ninth Ave., 646-707-3916
This local spot serves up great, authentic Mexican cuisine. It may take a while to make, so grab a drink next door at Hardware if you need to. It’s perfect for a post-drag-show meal with friends, although you’ll be subjected to blaring TVs (en español) and a tight space with just a few small tables.
346 W. 52nd St., 212-586-2880
Bulgogi sliders—yum! Danji, with modern takes on traditional Korean specialties, is located on 52nd Street a few doors down from Therapy and across the street from Industry Bar. Reservations are a must, especially since this tiny eatery received a Michelin star, the first-ever for a Korean restaurant.
824 Ninth Ave., 646-763-6585
El Centro achieves a crowd-pleasing trifecta of good service, good food and drinks, and a central location with some outdoor seating. Sit on the corner of Ninth Avenue and 54th Street and watch the boys strut by (if you can manage to get a table!) while enjoying all your favorite Mexican dishes. This cozy spot has been in business since 2006. They’ve hit on a formula that works.
717 Ninth Ave., 212-581-5999
This Hell’s Kitchen standy offers reliable Thai dishes—pad Thai, green curry, seafood mango salad and a number of gluten-free options—at affordable prices in a cozy yet clublike atmosphere with a cool blue-lit interior. You’ll enjoy the fun pop soundtrack and buzzy bar scene.
Wondee Siam I & II
792 Ninth Ave., 212-459-9057; 813 Ninth Ave., 917-286-1726
There are seemingly countless Thai restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen, and most are average to good. Wondee Siam (both locations) are a cut above. Heat seekers take note: both locations do spiciness well. Recommended dishes include kraree puff and pad gra pow. Wondee I is the smaller of the two; Wondee II, just one block north, is relatively large and luxurious by comparison, but it’s still your average modest-size Hell’s Kitchen restaurant.
754 Ninth Ave., 212-977-1588
Named for the neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen serves consistently excellent nouvelle Mexican cuisine. It can get quite crowded and tables are set snugly together, but diners will enjoy supercute crowds (skewing young, trendy and gay) and tasty seasonal ingredients served up in innovative creations. Don’t miss the unisex restrooms labeled MW, WM, MW.
44 & X
622 Tenth Ave., 212-977-1170
Named for the intersection it calls home, 44th Street and Tenth Avenue, this is a chic spot with great service in an ever-more popular section of Hell’s Kitchen. The menu is filled with American comfort food favorites; try the herb scrambled eggs with Vermont cheese grits at brunch.
44 & 1/2
626 Tenth Ave., 212-399-4450
Sister restaurant to 44 & X, this spot somehow still feels like a hidden gem, even though it’s been around for seven years. It offers a beautiful patio in back.
762 Ninth Ave., 212-489-0810 and 212-489-0815
While it might not have the best Mexican food in town, Arriba does serve up an enormous margarita; their “Mama”-sized margs have been getting Hell’s Kitchen gays drunk before Hell’s Kitchen was gay. Keep this place in mind for pre-theater drinks. You can also linger as long as you want; the friendly staff doesn’t try to shoo you out to turn over their tables.
Explore more of the neighborhood in our Hell’s Kitchen section.