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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“I’m really surprised because we didn’t expect to win. We’re kind of in between the categories as a wine bar, a cheese bar. We’re not really a restaurant, not really a bar. I just expected, we would slip through the cracks — somebody else would win bar and somebody else would win restaurant,” said Brian Keyser from Casellula, as he received the award for Best Bar. “We were happy to have been nominated.”

Casellula took 9% of the readers’ voting for the Best Bar category of the 25 shortlisted venues — and was 15 votes ahead of the nearest runner up. The bar, like many in Hell’s Kitchen, has won many hearts for the fight it has made to survive the pandemic.

On Instagram, Casellula campaigned for votes as Best Bar and Best Place to Eat.

Back in May 2020, we interviewed Brian as he deliberated on whether to close the bar permanently. “Right now, the smart financial decision for me is the one that’s bad for my community. Take the PPP money, pay off my landlord, and peace out. Jobs lost, tax dollars lost, New York lost,” was how he felt then after the business had been closed for two months — but he persevered.

In September this year, he reopened the wine and cheese bar on W52nd Street. “It’s been a rollercoaster up and down that, ‘We’re going to open. We’re not going to open. We’re going to open. We’re not going to open,’ but now we’re good at least for a while,” he said in our interview.

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

This is what W42ST readers said about their favorite bar:

“Do you need a Cheers?! Everyone knows your name. The staff and clientele are convivial, the wine is always flowing and the cheese is heaven! I used to live around the corner and go once a week — and now that I’m 60 blocks away, you’ll still find me there for dinner,” said Lucille S.

(From left) Patrick Johson (Wells Fargo), Liv Rooth (fromager), Brian Keyser, Jennifer Scher (chef) and Ryan Hong (Wells Fargo). Photo: Phil O’Brien

“It’s quaint, and makes you feel like you’re on the scene. And the food, desserts and wine are paired perfectly for the best dining/bar experience!” said Josh Hyman.

“A bar with cheese will always beat a bar without cheese,” said Faith G.

Wine and dessert pairing at Casellula. Photo: Mackenzie Murray

@casellula

RUNNERS UP

It was a hard fought battle to pull away as runners up from the large field of competitors. Local favorites Rudy’s, which reopened in August and Gossip, which kept open through much of the pandemic (even surviving having one of its mascots bear-napped). 44&X came on strong with its imaginative Broadway cocktail selection — and Hold Fast remained popular, but could not retain the winner’s place for a second year.

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

“The nod to Broadway cocktails are delicious. The best recipes and mixologist yet,” said Cheryl L Gentry.

Ging-ger Rogers 44th Street the Musical Cocktail from 44&X.

@44xhellskitchen

Gossip — 733 9th Ave (bw W49/50th St)

“The friendliness and attentiveness of the people who work there, the spectacular food and drinks. The place is very cozy and entertaining,” said Guillermo Alvarez.

@gossipirishbarnyc

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

“The owners are amazing! They truly care about their patrons and providing AWESOME food, FANTASTIC cocktails and a WELCOMING atmosphere,” said Jay Carey.

@holdfastnyc

Rudy’s — 627 9th Ave (bw W44/45th St)

“Rudy’s is fun and unique! Best jukebox, free hot dogs and Hell’s Kitchen’s treasure!” said Joanne Lotsko.

@rudysbar

SHORTLISTED

Wow! There are some amazing bars in the shortlist… all voted as favorite places by so many W42ST readers. Congratulations — and keep on doing what you are doing in 2022! Cheers.

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

“Great wine; excellent service. The staff is amazing, the wine is always new and interesting and delicious,” said Verna Serra.

@ardesiawinebar

As Is — 734 10th Ave (corner of W50th St)

“As Is has just the perfect Hell’s Kitchen vibe — neighborhoody, understated, excellent bar food to go along with their expert selection of libations,” said Sarah Curtin.

@asisnyc

Back Pocket Bar — 462 W49th St (east of 10th Ave)

“A uniquely Hell’s Kitchen experience unlike any other I have found in NYC. Small and intimate with a curated playlist that always gets everyone singing along. It can feel like vortex that makes you want to stay all night!” Xavier Cano.

@backpocketbarnyc

Bar Nine — 807 9th Ave (bw W53/54th St)

“Bar Nine is a great place to unwind and make memories with friends!” said Xanekai Roxas.

Bar Nine is famed for its dueling pianos. Photo: Phil O’Brien

@bar9ny

Barcelona Bar — 923 8th Ave (bw W54/55th St)

“Great FAMILY. The vibes are unparalleled. Once you become a regular here, you never leave,” said Sarah Hoyt.

@barcelonabarnyc

BEA — 403 W43rd St (west of 9th Ave)

“This was the first place I went to when I moved here and I was so happy to see them return last summer. It is what you imagine your neighborhood bar to be when you move to New York: good food, interesting character, and always a solid crowd of people,” said Max Haraldsen.

@bearestaurant

Dalton’s — 611 9th Ave (bw W43/44th St)

“Great assortment of drinks, nice staff, vegan options, and lots of room! ” said Carmen Lamar.

@daltonsbar

Flaming Saddles — 793 9th Avenue (bw W52/53rd St)

“Have you been to Flaming Saddles? It’s the best time you’ll have in HK, no matter if you’re a tourist or a local,” said Anthony Colon.

The Flaming Saddles team with owner Jacqui Squatriglia. Photo: Phil O’Brien

@flaming.saddles

Hellcat Annie’s Tap Room — 637 10th Ave (corner of W45th St)

“It feels like home, thanks to Jess and Kevin behind the bar, good music, good beer selection and great food,” said Kevin Hickman.

@hellcatannies

Hibernia Bar — 401 W50th St (west of 9th Ave)

“The best souls gather here to be served by the best bar staff ever,” said Adam Farquharson.

@hiberniaforone

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

“The Caribbean vibe and drinks make me feel like I’m on vacation on an island and I leave feeling happy and good,” said Dimitra Diggs.

@jasminecaribbeancuisine

Mr. Biggs – 596 10th Ave (corner of W43rd St)

“Drinks at an unbeatable price and excellent Buffalo wings,” said Rikard G.

@mrbiggsbar

On The Rocks — 696 10th Ave (bw W48/49th St)

“Intimate and awesome, with very knowledgeable staff and a fabulous selection of spirits,” said Rita Jakubowski.

@ontherocksnyc

Patron — 608 9th Ave (bw W43/44th St)

“Patron is always such a good vibe, amazing staff, great food and drinks,” said Damani Colorado.

@patronmexicangrill_hk

Pocket Bar —455 W48th St (east of 10th Ave)

“It never fails to feel inviting and intimate. The perfect spot for a date or a nightcap,” said V.P. Walling.

@pocketbarnyc

Rise Bar — 859 9th Ave (and W56th St)

“Such a nice ambiance, people and diverse shows throughout the week, every week,” said Jesus Rodolfo.

@risebarnyc

Ritz — 369 W46th St (east of 9th Ave)

“Always have a great party and the bartenders are so nice,” said Rodrigo F.

@ritznewyork

The Gaf — 401 W48th St (west of 9th Ave)

“Cool, relaxed neighborhood feel. Great bartenders,” said Jim Sharton.

@gafwestnyc

The Spot — 599 10th Ave (bw W43/44th St)

“It’s my version of Cheers. Where everyone knows my name and literally hands me Brooklyn Lager before I reach the bar,” said Michael G.

Game night at The Spot.

@thespotbarnyc

West Bank Cafe — 407 W42nd St (west of 9th Ave)

“This is a center-of-the-action spot, with a great clientele, good Scotch and bourbon selection, and great live music on many nights. Super friendly,” said Bill Hayes.

Whiskey selection from West Bank Cafe.

@westbankcafenyc

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