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George Hahn is a frugal men’s style observer, civilized cyclist, dog lover, self-made thousandaire and, by his own confession, prig.
In September 2015 he shared his “My Hell’s Kitchen” story with W42ST magazine. In 2016, he left New York for Cleveland for three years — but returned to the city and these days has a Twitter account with 250k+ followers and lives on the Upper West Side. We still love George…
How long have you lived in Hell’s Kitchen?
With the exception of an 18-month stint in Chelsea, I’ve lived in Hell’s Kitchen for 20 years.
What brought you here?
I came to New York to pursue an acting career. My first apartment was on the Upper West Side, where I lived for a year. In 1995, I moved into the smallest studio apartment in Hell’s Kitchen in the Whitby on W45th St (John Leguizamo used to live in that apartment – I used to receive his junk mail). It was the nearness to the Broadway theaters and the energy of the neighborhood that attracted me.
What has your experience of the neighborhood been?
I’ve lived in seven different apartments, I’ve had four different careers, I’ve had countless adventures and misadventures, I’ve had innumerable blackouts that I can’t tell you about because I honestly don’t remember, I got sober, I started a business, I got my first dog, I started a blog, I’ve been broke, I’ve been flush… It’s been an adventure.
How has it changed since you came here?
Rent used to be cheap. My first little apartment was $595 a month in a doorman building. And when I moved here, there were still porn theaters and street hookers on 8th Ave. Giuliani’s hose-down hadn’t taken full effect yet, and there were remnants of the gritty New York that I saw on television in movies as a kid. It was never my world, but I definitely got a charge knowing that world was literally in my backyard. It was a neighborhood with teeth and balls. I enjoyed the dark and twisted pageantry of it, and I did go to The Gaiety Theater on 46th and Broadway (now the location of American Eagle) more than once. It was the last all-nude male revue where the dancers came out fully nude and fully erect. Steven Meisel shot several images of Madonna’s SEX book there. Could you imagine that kind of thing now? And it wasn’t all that long ago. I’m glad there is less crime and things are relatively cleaner, but it’s all come at the sacrifice of a lot of local businesses that could no longer afford the rising rent. It’s been sanitized and Purelled into a family-friendly playground, stretching out its overvalued hand for the almighty tourist dollar. What used to be a rock and roll vibe is now very glossy, low-impact ultra-lounge.
What do you eat in the area?
I do a lot of cooking at home, but when I go out, I like locally-owned places with good food, a tasteful atmosphere, a music volume conducive to conversation and a reasonable price point. I’m a vegetarian who eats fish (pescatarian?), so there’s that to consider. I like Pam’s Real Thai on 49th, Joe Allen (I used to work there), Blossom du Jour, 44&X, Five Napkin Burger, HK (for lunch), The Marshal, Schnipper’s, Market Diner and Gotham West Market. When I’m feeling fancy, I like Marseilles or Esca.
What local bars or cafes would you recommend?
I’m not a drinker, so bars aren’t my domain – although I hear the Pocket Bar on 48th is a cute scene. But cafés? My favorite cafés all happen to be on one block… I like sitting at the bar for lunch or brunch at Kava Café on 42nd in the MiMA building during the day (at night, the light dimmers are jacked up way too high). I also like the cafe upstairs at the Signature Theatre. I’m also a loyal and long-time customer of Amy’s Bread.
What’s your favorite place locally?
Right now, my favorite place is FIKA. Great coffee, delicious sandwiches and wonderful pastry. It’s a nice room with free wi-fi. I go there to get out of the apartment and do some work.
What’s the best thing about HK living?
Everything you could possibly need is in such close proximity. Restaurants, cafés, Broadway theaters, public transportation, grocery stores, pharmacies, dog parks, bodegas and even two multiplexes are all within a very close radius. I also love its proximity to the Hudson River and the bike path.
And the worst thing?
Tourists, baby strollers, SUVs with Jersey plates, and Port Authority Bus Terminal. Every city’s bus terminal is its drain catch, and that place is a freak magnet.
How do you think the neighborhood compares to other areas of Manhattan?
Hell’s Kitchen doesn’t seem to have a type. It’s a great melting pot of different people. You can’t peg it. There are still a lot of creatives in the neighborhood that don’t really fit into a type. For that and other reasons, I love it.
Who do you admire in the neighborhood?
I admire the local business owners who bring something of real value with real character to the neighborhood. Scott and Bruce opened 10th Avenue Lounge in the late 1990s, which was the first gay-owned bar west of 9th Ave where you wouldn’t get robbed. (I was the first bartender they hired.) Then they opened 44&X, which was the first restaurant west of 9th Ave where you could bring a date. I admire and adore Matt and Enrique at Fine And Dandy, Boswell at Best Barber, Richie at Mr Biggs, and those two fabulous ladies who own Domus on 44th St.
Do you have an HK secret? You can trust us … we won’t tell a soul.
If it’s raining, you can get all the way from 9th Ave to the Times Square subway station at 7th Ave and 42nd Street without getting wet. Enter Port Authority on 9th Ave – 40th/41st St and walk through the terminal toward 8th Ave to the A, C, E subway entrance on the lower level. Once you’re through the subway turnstile, take that tunnel that goes to the Times Square station for the 1, 2, 3, 7, N, R, Q and S trains… without ever seeing rain. How’s that for a geeky secret?
More West Side Stories
George’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
Pam Real Thai, W49th St – 9/10th Ave (now closed).
Joe Allen, W46th St – 8th/9th Ave
Blossom du Jour, 9th Ave – W43rd/44th St (now closed)
44&X, 10th Ave – W44th St
Five Napkin Burger, 9th Ave – W45th St
HK, 9th Ave – W39th St (now closed)
The Marshal, 10th Ave – W44th/45th St
Schnipper’s, 8th Ave – W41st St
Market Diner, 11th Ave – W43rd St (now closed)
Gotham West Market, 11th Ave – W44th/45th St
Marseille, 9th Ave – W44th St
Esca, W43rd St – 9th Ave (now closed)
Kava, W42nd St – 9th/10th Ave (now closed)
FIKA, 10th Ave – W41st St (now closed)
Signature Theatre, W42nd St – Dyer/10th Ave
Amy’s Bread, 9th Ave – W46th/47th St
Fine and Dandy, W49th St – 9th/10th Ave
Best Barber, 10th Ave – W48th/49th St
Mr Biggs, 10th Ave – W43rd St
Domus, W44th St – 9th/10th Ave
You can find George’s blog at georgehahn.com — and follow him on Twitter or Instagram. This story originally appeared in Issue 9 of W42ST Magazine in September 2015.
You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.