Dear tourist: Please don’t eat in Times Square. Walk just two blocks west to try these best restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen instead.
Most tourists visiting New York City stay in hotels near Times Square. The central location makes for easy subway transportation to anywhere in the city. But it’s also an area filled with chain restaurants and overpriced tourist traps. Generally speaking, unless they work for a company like MTV or Morgan Stanley, or at a nearby restaurant, you won’t see many locals here. New Yorkers generally go out of our way to avoid Times Square, potentially only walking thru it if needed to get to our jobs (you can easily spot these commuters with their earbuds, fast paced walk, and ignoring of the street hustlers, Elmo’s, and other people trying to get your attention).
If you ask any of us, New Yorkers will generally tell you to leave Times Square, especially if you’re looking for good restaurants. Luckily, just a couple blocks west is a more residential neighborhood with lots of bars and restaurants called Hell’s Kitchen.
So, skip the restaurants in Times Square and come try these Hell’s Kitchen restaurants instead.
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Best Restaurants in Hell's Kitchen
Best Korean Restaurant in Hell's Kitchen
You could say that Korean cuisine is having its moment in the NYC dining scene. I’ve even heard that Korean food is undergoing a renaissance here. Whatever the correct wording is, high-end Korean restaurants like Cote, Atoboy, Atomix, and Jungsik have certainly taken the city by storm and are known as some of the best restaurants in NYC.
And Kochi can now be added to that list of best Korean restaurants in New York City, and thus one of the best restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen.
Owner and chef, Sungchul Shim, was born in South Korea and gained a broad culinary experience working in the acclaimed kitchens of Le Bernardin, Per Se, and Morimoto. He finally opened his first solo project with Kochi in late 2019, survived the pandemic, and has since flourished.
The word kochi means “skewer” in Korean, and most of the $135 nine course tasting menu comes in some sort of skewer form. The menu can change, but a recent menu includes courses of amberjack, crispy shrimp with Korean remoulade, marinated American wagyu flat iron, and a black sesame seed ice cream sandwich for dessert.
Alternative: On the back of Kochi’s success, Chef Shim recently opened his second Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, Mari, focusing on Korean hand rolls.
Reservations recommended for both restaurants.
Best Italian Restaurant in Hell's Kitchen
Gotham Market West boasts a second hidden gem in New York City. But in this case, dell’anima is one of the best Italian restaurants near Times Square, with seating at their signature Chef’s Counter.
Originally opened in 2007 down in the West Village, dell’anima was a gem in the area until it moved uptown in 2019. Many of the same acclaimed dishes remain on the menu, but Chef Andrew Whitney has introduced his own Italian-inspired creations. The pasta is made in house each day.
The carbonara has a twist, made with tajarin (egg yolk-based noodles) and speck, rather than the traditional guanciale. And it’s served with a raw egg served on top for the customer to mix in and create the sauce themselves. And it’s one of the best Carbonaras I’ve had in NYC. The orecchiette with wild boar sausage and broccoli rabe is a great option. But from some reason, the pollo al diavolo is the dish I keep returning for. It’s a simple dish with some spice.
If you are with a group (this is my favorite restaurant to bring my 1-year-old daughter for daddy/daughter night) then you can sit at outside tables or any of the communal ones throughout the market. This way you can even order tacos, ramen, or pizza from the other food stalls and try a mix of foods.
Best Pre-Theater Restaurant in Hell's Kitchen
Unlike dell’anima listed above, Becco is certainly not a hidden gem. It’s one of the most popular and best Italian restaurants near Times Square. It is owned by celebrity chef, television host, and restauranteur, Lidia Bastianich and her son Joe. Lidia was owner of Del Posto in NYC (formerly one of the best and high-end Italian Restaurants in NYC) and is also a partner in the Eataly empire.
Becco sits on West 46th St, known as Restaurant Row, right on the outskirts of the theater district in Manhattan. And it’s one of the best restaurants for dinner before a Broadway show. So, if you don’t have a reservation, I recommend waiting until after 7pm when people leave for the Broadway shows.
Becco is also known for their unlimited table side service of the three daily pasta selections of the day for $29.95. These rotating selections are the only pasta on the menu. And honestly, they can be hit or miss. But their meatballs with freshly grated Grana Padano are among the best in New York City.
Best Thai Restaurant in Hell's Kitchen, NYC
Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen has a lot of Thai Restaurants. Unfortunately, Talad Wat, which I considered the best Thai restaurant in the neighborhood closed during the pandemic. But fortunately, new arrival LumLum has quickly made a name as one of the best Thai restaurants in New York City.
The menu at LumLum has many of the commonly found Thai noodle dishes, like Pad Thai and Pad See Ew. But they describe themselves as a Thai Seafood Bar, and so you can experience great Thai seafood that is harder to find in NYC. Start with the spicy lemongrass soup with tiger prawns or the squid ink soup. And there are several choices for whole branzino as the main. And I love the appetizers, including the fried toro fritters, grilled cuttlefish, and the pork belly.
I like everything on the menu. It’s that good.
Alternative: A second great Thai restaurant has just opened in Hell’s Kitchen. Chalong is a seafood-focused southern Thai restaurant. 749 9th Ave
Queen of Sheba
Best Ethiopian Restaurant in Hell's Kitchen
When people visit me from out of town and want to try food that they may not be able to get at home, I often introduce them to Ethiopian cuisine. And Queen of Sheba is not just one of the best Hell’s Kitchen restaurants, but also one of the best Ethiopian restaurants in New York City.
Owner Philipos Mengistu grew up in the family business, as his mother did the cooking at their restaurant located in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. After immigrating here, he opened Queen of Sheba in Hell’s Kitchen to share his mother’s Ethiopian recipes. He even imported Berbere spices from his mother, using her recipe.
If you’ve never had Ethiopian food before, main dishes such as Tibs Wat (diced beef), Awaze Tibs (lamb), Doro Tibs (chicken), or any of the vegetarian selections are served communal style for sharing on top of a thin spongy bread known as injera. This injera is also served on the side, and you rip off pieces to pick up bites of the meat and vegetables using only your hands.
Best High-End Chinese Restaurant in Hell's Kitchen
Another new restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen has raised the bar for Chinese cuisine. Chi serves Chinese dishes mainly from Szechuan regions, but also features Cantonese, Hunan and Beijing seasonal menus.
Chi is priced on the higher end, but items like the spicy cumin lamb or braised beef in chili sauce (both $26) are priced slightly better and are fantastic. Of course, you can stick with the smaller Asian tapas or dim sum. Or you can go all out and get one of the several lobster or whole fish dishes. Whatever you order, you’ll find that Chi is one of the best restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen.
Best French Style Bistro in Hell's Kitchen
Another newcomer to the area on 9th Ave, south of 42nd St is the new French style bistro named Steak Frites.
Try the escargot, onion soup, or moules frites. And then the hangar steak might be the best deal, but if you’re ok with sharing then the Cote de Boeuf or Chateaubriand for two are certainly the stars here. Tack on the fantastic French wine list, and Steak Frites is one of the best new restaurants to open in Hells’ Kitchen.
Other Great Hell's Kitchen Restaurants
- Empanada Mama: An outpost of the original location in the East Village. Choose from over 30 empanada varieties
- 44th & X: The best brunch in Hell’s Kitchen.
- Chef’s Counter at Brooklyn Fare: I always forget that this Michelin 3-star restaurant is technically located within Hell’s Kitchen. It’s one of the best restaurants in NYC, and the world.
Best Bars in Hell's Kitchen
Rudy's Bar & Grill
Best Dive Bar in Hell's Kitchen
Rudy’s Bar & Grill isn’t just the best dive bar in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s one of the best dive bars in New York City. When Prohibition ended in 1933, Rudy’s got one of New York’s first liquor licenses. And the original door with the last name of the original owners, Rudy, carved into it still remains.
There are two things in particular, that are unique to Rudy’s. First, is the giant pig standing outside on the sidewalk. He is dubbed Baron Von Swine, and has been there since the late 80’s (or ealry 90’s as the manager doenst exaclty recall). And the 2nd thing is that every drink comes with a free hot dog – if you ask. The beers are priced as low as $3 for a Rudy’s Blonde ale or $4 for a Rudy’s Red, Bud, or Bud Light, making this one of the best cheap eats in NYC.
Author Brad Thomas Parsons set out to write a book about dive bars throughout the U.S. and interviewed the manager at Rudy’s.
If Rudy’s turns into a Walgreens, the neighborhood is gone.
-Danny DePamphilis, Manager at Rudy’s
On The Rocks
Best Whisky Bar in Hell's Kitchen
In direct terms, On the Rocks is the best whiskey bar in Hell’s Kitchen. Ii” even say it’s one of the best whiskey bars in New York City. But much like their online presence, you’ll have to put in effort to find their physical location. It’s over on a relatively low foot traffic area of 10th Ave. It doesn’t have a prominent sign. And since it is open only at night, you might not even notice it walking by in the daytime.
They maintain around 400 bottles of whiskey from the United States and around the world. There is no menu. So, the bartender will help guide you based on your preference and budget. Whether you are looking to try Bourbon, Rye, Scotch or maybe a great Japanese Whisky, the staff will be helpful in sharing their knowledge with you. Pours currently start at $25 and up, so don’t expect to find any inexpensive whiskey here.
Alternative Recommendation: It’s not in Hell’s Kitchen, but if you love Scotch, Keen’s Steak House near Penn Stations has one of the best Scotch menus in the entire country.
Best Pizza in Hell's Kitchen
There is no single correct answer for the best pizza in New York City. Lucali is commonly named as the best, but it requires lining up several hours before they open. DiFara is a hike out to the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn and relative newcomer Razza is across the Hudson River in Jersey City. Then you have John’s on Bleecker, L&B Spumoni Gardens, Prince St, Scarr’s, Una Pizza Napoletana, and several others that could be top depending on preference.
So far, Corner Slice has remained under the radar.
Tucked away in a food hall called Gotham Market West, along 11th Ave, it’s certainly off the beaten track. And so, you won’t have a long wait to order from this very unassuming counter.
The crust is possibly what sets this pizza apart from others. The dough requires a three-day process, starting with a quality durum wheat flour blend followed by a 60-hour fermentation. Its then baked in a sheet pan, and the result is a light and airy crust, with crisp edges. It doesn’t feel as dense as the equally great square slice at Prince Street Pizza.
The tomato pie is perhaps the best around, but their home-made mozzarella makes for a great Margarita, and the hot sopresetta is probably my favorite topping. Corner Slice is a hidden gem and makes some of the best pizza in New York City.
Best Hotels in Hell's Kitchen
Staying at hotels in Hell’s Kitchen puts you close to the subways and easy transportation of Times Square, but in a little quieter area and usually at a slight discount to hotels in Times Square.
The Yotel is my pick for best low-cost hotel in Hell’s Kitchen. I’ve booked rooms there many times when I have guests coming to visit. Yotel keeps costs low by using an automated check-in and small rooms. Every room I have seen has been perfectly clean and nice. It is right on 42nd Street, just a few blocks from Times Square and Port Authority Bus Station. There is a rooftop bar that rarely gets very busy.
Pod Times Square
The Pod Hotel is also a great budget hotel that keeps costs lower with extremely small rooms, including ones with bunk beds. The rooftop is quite nice and the restaurant is fine.
Ink 48 is the best hotel for a more refined stay. It has the nicest rooftop bar in Hell’s Kitchen and a stylish restaurant. It’s definitely one of the classier hotels in the area. It’s just one block west of all the restaurants on 9th Ave, but a little further walk to the subways.
About Other Hotels
Arlo Midtown is a new hotel on West 38th St. I haven’t personally seen the inside yet but have heard it is very nice. Arlo operates four-star hotels that are quite nice. Pro: It’s a nice hotel that is closer to Penn Station and the Javitz Convention Center. Scallywag’s bar with live music and two restaurants listed above in are right around the corner. Con: It’s in an area that wasn’t the prettiest, but has been getting nicer in recent years, especially since Hudson Yards was completed.
About the hotels on W40th St along the south side of Port Authority Bus Station: Honestly, these can be hit or miss. Sometimes they get great reviews. This street used to be dungy (the entire area around the bus station was sketchy), but all the hotels now are starting to make it better. Many of them have rooftop bars, such as the Aliz Hotel with a nice cocktail bar at the top. I wouldn’t make these my first pick if money didn’t matter, but I’d also feel completely fine staying at them.
Super Budget Hotels: I don’t think you could convince me to stay at some hotels like the Travel Inn or Skyline Hotel. But if you have stayed at any super budget hotels in the area, I’d love to get your thoughts and pictures of them!