My Hell’s Kitchen story …
I moved from Florida in 1995. I’d be hard-pressed to find another place that ticked off all the boxes like New York does. A lot of that has to do with landing in Hell’s Kitchen.
The best thing about living here?
I’m sandwiched between the Hudson River, Central Park, Lincoln Center, and the Theater District. What’s not to like? Hell’s Kitchen is sort of like the bedroom community (or at least after-hours hangout) for the actors, actresses, and creative people who are the working backbone of the Broadway world. It seems to buzz all the time with energy.
The best place to tap into that, hands down, is Broadway Sessions, at the Laurie Beechman Theater. It’s the biggest showbiz bargain there is, with a tiny cover charge (proceeds benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS), staggering talent, a high-energy crowd, all hosted, hilariously, by beloved Broadway cutie Ben Cameron. I’d go every Thursday night if I could.
The Green Room, in the Yotel, is really making a mark, too. It’s like a kicked-back version of 54 Below (which I also love). Daniel Dunlow, the charming director of programming, makes you feel like you’re in his living room that just happens to be full of Broadway singers. There’s no drink minimum, an almost unheard-of policy in cabaret spaces.
I’ve also seen some great readings and events at the Irish Arts Center (like last season’s haunting Rooms) and the Signature Theatre Company. You don’t need to cash in your 401K to have an energizing night of music or theater in this neighborhood.
On top of it all, I love that Hell’s Kitchen is such a safe space for the LGBTQ community, of which I’m a card-carrying member. (Well, we don’t actually get a card. But there is a secret handshake.)
And – um – the worst?
Ask me again the day after I pay my rent! I do wish there were more design and furniture stores in the neighborhood, although I love Delphinium Home, that I’m one block from the city’s only outpost of Williams-Sonoma Home, that the ever-improving Architectural Digest Home Show and DIFFA’s Dining By Design makes their yearly visit, and that the annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair is in walking distance.
I’m constantly inspired …
I get to the Museum of Arts and Design as often as I can, and I was thrilled when the AIPAD Show came to the neighborhood piers last year. I’m also inspired by people who find ways to give back, to think bigger than their own pocketbooks. It’s led to some amazing things, like using my design skills to raise money for Housing Works at their Design on a Dime event. I’m inspired by anyone who can mix beauty and community benefit like they do, and I love Fountain House Gallery for the same reason, showcasing great work by artists living with mental illness.
My go-to places …
When we’re talking gay bars, I’ve been a longtime fan of Therapy, an HK institution and still one of the chicest cocktail spaces around. I also love the neighborhood feel of Barrage, especially on snowy weeknights. Some of the city’s best drag is happening up and down 9th Avenue, too … gorgeous Peppermint from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 does a hilarious weekly show at Rise Bar, which is dangerously only a block away.
I love the interior, vibe (and croquettes) at Ardesia, drinks at the lobby bar of the Empire Hotel or the LeGrande Lounge in The Time Hotel, which got an amazing remodel from David Rockwell. And I love bringing out-of-town guests to The Press Lounge for the jaw-dropping view.
And if W46th St is known as Restaurant Row, 9th Avenue is totally Cuisine Canyon. So. Much. Food. The neighborhood is also great for guilty pleasures like Lucky’s or Melt Shop, that has maybe the best fried chicken sandwich in the entire city.
Shh … it’s a secret…
If you go on the right night when Eiichi is working at the cozy little bar at Sushi Damo, ask him to make you a matchatini, which isn’t on the menu. It’s got matcha in it. So it HAS to be good for you, right? It’s practically salad.
Patrick J Hamilton is an interior designer, writer, blogger, and activist. You’ll find him at:
A version of this interview previous appeared in the September 2017 issue of W42ST
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