There might not be a fancy, schmancy, in-person ceremony this year — thanks, COVID — but the W42ST Best of Awards 2021 (sponsored by Wells Fargo and supported by HYHK Alliance and The Durst Organization) are underway. We will be out on the streets surprising and delighting our category winners over the next week…

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Tenth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen was a different world back in 1996 when Bruce Horowytz and Scott Hart considered opening a restaurant across from their apartment. “I remember, every day of construction a homeless person would put their head in our door, like, ‘What are you thinking, building in this neighborhood?’ There was nothing here,” remembers Bruce.

Now, 44&X — the restaurant opened by these Hell’s Kitchen pioneers all those years ago — has been voted Best Place to Eat by W42ST readers. They are used to picking winners. The couple has invested in successful Broadway shows like Dear Evan Hansen and Wicked. “But I can give you a much longer list of losers we backed that closed and didn’t make a penny,” laughed Bruce as he showed us their famed show biz cocktail list including Tequila Mockingbird and Liza with a Fizz.

They’ve survived the pandemic but were not one of the local businesses that got money from the Restaurant Relief Fund. “It’s not the same, but once Broadway came back, we were all right,” said Bruce.

They were delighted to see their name featured first on the list of shortlisted businesses in the header of the awards certificate. “That acronym name, 44&X, was the best thing — we are always first,” laughed Bruce.

The award was made in two stages, as we surprised first Bruce, and then Scott as they arrived at the restaurant for the evening. “Thank you! We are honored to be recognized by our neighbors, and it has been a privilege to serve them for the past 21 years. Post shutdowns, we are excited to be a part of our cities reawakening,” said Bruce.

44&X — 622 10th Ave (corner of W44th St)

This is what W42ST readers said about their favorite place to eat:

“The food is always great. The drinks superb. The wait staff friendly and efficient. Love the decor! It’s a wonderful place to bring friends,” said Inez Brandon.

Bruce Horowytz.(left) and Scott Hart celebrate their Best Place to Eat award. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“The food is amazing! I always order fish here because the chef is so gifted. He cooks each dish perfectly and it just melts in your mouth,” said Katie Kublitz.

“We’ve eaten there for at least 15 years. Bruce and Scott understand what people want to experience in dining,” said Steve Herring.

Their Banana Split was a hit with W42ST readers earlier in the year. Photo: Mackenzie Murray

@44xhellskitchen

RUNNERS UP

Last year’s winner, Empanada Mama, had to be happy with a runners up spot this year. Casellula who “didn’t expect to win” the Best Bar was close behind the winners. It was great to see that Ponche Taqueria and Tulcinco Del Valle were featured at the top of this list.

Casellula – 401 W52nd St (west of 9th Ave)

“The menu beyond cheese is full of delicious surprises, rotating by season and always highlighting small, local purveyors. Exactly what I like in a restaurant,” said Janie Brookshire

@casellula

Empanada Mama – 765 9th Ave (between W51/52nd St)

“Excellent food, quick service and the best empanadas in New York. Absolutely a Hell’s Kitchen institution,” said Dylan McKeon.

@empanadamamanyc

Ponche Taqueria — 420 W49th St (bw 9/10th Ave)

“There’s no place like this that makes you feel welcomed every time you come. They make you feel like you’re at home every single time. Best tacos hands down and the service is amazing !” said Carlos Flores.

@ponche_taqueria

Tulcingo Del Valle – 665 10th Ave (between W46/47th St)

“This is the very best Mexican restaurant. The owners are amazing, caring people and the food is part of what they represent. Love it — and you will also!!” said Penny Penzner.

@tulcingodelvallerestaurant

SHORTLISTED

The rest of the shortlist just shows what a fabulous selection of places to eat Hell’s Kitchen has to offer.

Añejo – 668 10th Ave (corner of W47th St)

“My go-to place for years now. Best brunch and amazing staff who always takes care of their locals!” said Jason Taft.

@anejonyc

Ardesia – 510 W52nd St (bw 10/11th Ave)

“The Frosé! Also the burrata and bacon jam,” said Scott Taylor Rollison.

@ardesiawinebar

Arriba Arriba – 762 9th Ave (corner of W51st St)

“I have lived in Hell’s Kitchen for over 40 years and remember when Arriba opened. It was a trailblazer for the area then and an anchor for all who live and work in this area now. Truly a home away from home. The food, the staff and the drinks are all top notch. And the owner is amazing,” said Michael-Vaughn.

@arribamidtown

Chez Josephine — 414 W42nd St (west of 9th Ave)

“The warm and inviting atmosphere, I really feel like I’m in Paris! The food is soo consistently delicious! Love that there is a place celebrating Josephine Baker’s legacy. And the cocktails are spectacular!” said Priyeta Khanal.

@chezjosephineny

Claudio’s Pizza — 598 10th Ave (between W43/44th St)

“Always reliably tasty pizza and a million other options…including clam chowder!” said Matt Wagner.

@claudiospizza10thave

Gossip Bar — 733 9th Ave (bw W49/50th St)

“Good Irish fare with a mix of other food. Beef stew is incredible,” said Ciarán Hughes.

@gossipirishbar

Hold Fast — 364 W46th St (bw 8/9th Ave)

“The whole team at Hold Fast is so focused on making everyone feel welcomed and valued, a meal or drinks there is always a great time with good friends. As an added bonus, the quality of the food and cocktails is always as high as the service. Love the way they stood by the Broadway and performing arts community during the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Angelo W. Apollos.

@holdfastnyc

Il Melograno — 501 W51st St (corner of 10th Ave)

“Founded, owned and operated by two of HK’s most charming Sicilians, Il Melograno is an undisputed icon in the neighborhood. Their exceptional execution of classic and reimagined Southern Italian cuisine holds its own in any ‘Best of’ list, and their rotation of homemade soups always excites my partner and me to return for Sunday supper. We are grateful for the entire team at Il Melograno, who make all guests feel like family,” said Danny Volker.

@ilmelogranonyc

Jasmine’s Caribbean Cuisine — 371 W46th St (east of 9th Ave)

“It’s an amazing space with delicious food,” said Chadd Roberts.

@jasminecaribbeancuisine

Kashkaval Garden – 852 9th Ave (bw W55/56th St)

“It’s a hidden gem of HK. The food is far better than any restaurant around. And there isn’t a huge representation of Mediterranean food in HK! It deserves to win!” said Austin Recktenwald.

@kashkavalgarden

Kochi — 652 10th Ave (corner of W46th St)

“Excellent flavors, excellent service, minimal ego. everything you want in a dining experience,” said Ruby Chang.

@kochinyc

Mama Mia 44SW — 621 9th Ave (corner of W44th St)

“My family has been going here for years! Love the food and the atmosphere!” said Emma Cohen.

@mamamia44sw

Marseille – 630 9th Ave (corner of W44th St)

“Still the best pre-theater restaurant — and theater is back!” said Judith Baumel.

@marseillenyc

Mémé Mediterranean — 607 10th Ave (corner of W44th St)

“Super fresh ingredients and tasty. Vegetarian options also,” said Lorrie D King.

@mememediterranean

Norma — 801 9th Ave (corner of W53rd St)

“They have authentic Sicilian food, outstanding quality,” said Maria Appendino.

@norma.gastronomia.sciliana

Patzeria Perfect Pizza — 231 W46th St (east of 8th Ave)

“A really amazing and fun experience!!!” said Advait G.

@patzeriaperfectpizza

Pure Thai Cookhouse — 766 9th Ave (bw W51/52nd St)

“Excellent and authentic Thai food, consistently excellent. Enthusiastic staff, helpful and personable,” said Julie S.

@purethaicookhouse

Swift Eats — 609 9th Ave (bw W43/44th St)

“Super healthy! Fresh. Exactly what Hell’s Kitchen needs. Nothing else like it on 9th Avenue!” said Jordy Latore.

@swifteatsny

Tacuba – 802 9th Ave (between W53/54th St)

“Great food and great atmosphere — what more can you ask for?” said Cesar R.

@tacubahk

The Marshal — 628 10th Ave (between W44/45th St)

“Inventive farm-to-table food in a cozy atmosphere. Their wine-tasting dinners are a wonderful experience and value,” said Bianca Russo.

@themarshalnyc

Valla Table — 641 10th Ave (bw W45/46th St)

“The food tastes like it does in Bangkok,” said Jonathon C.

@vallatable

West Bank Cafe — 407 W42nd St (between 9/10th Ave)

“Great acoustics. Great, well priced food. Music on weekends. Warm decor,” said C. Stokes.

@westbankcafenyc

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