New Yorker Damon Webster returned to his home city 10 years ago and settled into Hell’s Kitchen. “The neighborhood that was a ‘never go’ when I was a kid has become a solid home,” says the advertising executive, photographer and podcaster. Here is Damon’s West Side Story.

Damon calls himself a curious tourist. Photo: Naty Caez

So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I was raised here, left, then returned 10 years ago.

What was your first job? What do you do now?
My first job was as a messenger, then an assistant photographer. Currently I’m an executive producer in advertising.

What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
There is no one moment. In a city with zero FOMO, it’s a constant experience.

Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
Its proximity to everything. I have the ability to walk five blocks to MOMA, access to all of the transit systems easily, a wide range of food choices and some of the nicest business owners in a community. The neighborhood that was a “never go” when I was a kid here has become a solid home with so much within arm’s reach. Or a short walk away.

What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
Calm in the eye of a storm.

What else should we know about you?
I am a curious tourist, always open to exploring and trying new things. I have found that a lot of New Yorkers who are proud of what the city has to offer, don’t really take advantage of a lot. Can’t stop, won’t stop seeing all I can see.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?
As a curious tourist, it’s important to me to document our neighborhood, and the people in it. I have a podcast called Curious Tourist on Spotify, Apple and Google, based around a curated view of culture and ways to explore a particular city, starting with NYC, as seen by a curious local. It’s about the passion of discovery, and hidden gems of a city. Maybe that tiny jazz club, or the pop-up food shop. Could be that exhibition that you would have otherwise missed. Perhaps that amazing artist who is doing a concert at that club. Along with interviews with those that have obscure or privileged information. To supplement and make the info more accessible, the links to the mentioned events are in all podcast show notes.

There will be a book in the fall, also called Curious Tourist with a view of the city for natives, newcomers and visitors, to remind them of the many facets of NYC.

Damon’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places

Sacco’s Pizza — 819 9th Avenue (bw W54/55th St)
A classic slice and excellent hot subs. Any place that says we’re the third best in the city, you have to love!

Damon at Sacco’s Pizza with Vito. Photo: Naty Caez

Pure Thai — 766 9th Avenue (bw W51/52nd St)
These noodles are the best! The crab and pork noodles have been my go-to since coming to the neighborhood. Won Dee is also delicious, and when taking guests, it’s a toss-up

All’Antico Vinaio — 729 8th Avenue (bw W45/46th St)
Fresh baked bread daily, unique possibilities and each sandwich is good for two meals

Beer Cheese — 677 9th Avenue (bw W46/47th St)
High quality meat sandwiches made on local Sullivan St. Bakery bread. Winner

Gossip Bar — 733 9th Avenue (bw W49/50th St)
Not only a welcoming local pub, but the food is great as well! 

Piccinini Bros — 633 9th Avenue (bw W44/45th St)
A quality butcher shop in the neighborhood is a gift. Even in the pandemic, they offered some of the best cuts in the city. Don’t sleep on Poseidon bakery next door for your sweet and savory meal additions

El Mil Sabores — 695 9th Avenue (bw W47/48th Ave)
With homemade tamales, a range of canned goods and fresh baked delights, can’t go wrong. Plus the people who run it are some of the nicest folks I’ve met here

Mee Noodle Shop — 795 9th Avenue (bw W52/53rd St)
This place reminds me of the Chinese food I got when I was a kid. Great people working there. And a lunch special that can’t be beat!

Mee Noodle Shop reminds Damon of the Chinese food he got when he was a kid. Photo: Naty Caez

Sullivan St. Bakery — 533 W47th Street (bw 10th/11th Ave)
Amazing bread, and honestly, any place that has breakfast pizza gets my vote. True, they were mentored by Amy’s Bread, so either gives you a choice of goods.

West Side Home Center — 778 9th Avenue (corner of W52nd St)
I love most hardware stores in the city. No matter what I need, they have it. On the shelves, low down, high up, or behind the counter, all hardware store needs can be taken care of here.

You can follow Damon on Instagram @damonwebster and @photoinduced. If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself), please fill in this form —

You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.

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