Actor and “unofficial mudlarker of the Hudson” Chris Henry Coffey has lived in Hell’s Kitchen for nine years, after arriving in NYC from Wisconsin in the mid-1990s. This is his West Side Story.

Chris Henry Coffey
Chris Henry Coffey at work in the studio. Photo supplied

So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I arrived in NYC back in 1995 to study acting — the beacon for theater, film and actor training. I had a great year of study at the Circle in the Square with some wonderful teachers — very method-oriented and somewhat old-school, which I loved. I still have some great friends from that year and it was an important step in the evolution of my career. I then spent the next three years at the Yale School of Drama, but high-tailed it back to Manhattan immediately upon graduation, and made my home in Chelsea for the next 15 years. It wasn’t until my wife and I moved to Manhattan Plaza in 2014 that I called Hell’s Kitchen my home. We’ve really grown to love the community, the neighborhood and the vibrancy and diversity of MP and the area since then. 

What was your first job? What do you do now?
My first job was as a paperboy in my hometown of DePere, Wisconsin. I’m a full-time actor here in NYC now. My first professional job as an actor was in Boston at the Nora Theater, doing a play called Carthaginians by Frank McGuinness, set in a Derry graveyard in the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday killings.

What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
I have many favorite “Only in NY” stories and memories. One of my favorites was getting married on the High Line — we did it under the radar to get around wedding fees and crowd regulations on a Monday afternoon (we were both in shows, of course!) in May in 2014, and rented out what was the Bakehouse in the Meatpacking (now Barbuto) for the afternoon as a reception. It was a glorious all-day and night celebration with family and friends — improvised and inexpensive in an iconic setting, and we didn’t miss a show. 🙂 

Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
Hell’s Kitchen is a wonderful community, full of so much diversity in every area — culturally, artistically, racially, generationally, etc… you name it, HK has it. It really is a special place, with both an incredible history and a constantly-evolving identity. You’ve got immediate access to so much, as well. The solitude of the Hudson River, the intensity of Times Square and of course all the theaters both on and off Broadway…really, you can get anywhere in the city under a half hour. It’s geographically perfect that way. As a result, I spend a lot of time walking and biking to and from on a regular basis. 

What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
I’m an excellent dumpster diver and treasure finder. I’m an unofficial Mudlarker of the Hudson. 

Chris Henry Coffey
Chris Henry (and cat) showing off his hidden talent with vintage lamps and found objects. Photo: Phil O’Brien

What else should we know about you?
I’ve been interviewed by W42ST before (Issue 60 – December 2019) to showcase HenrysHandmade — a hobby of mine that aligns with my “hidden talent” (see above) where I make Functional Art, using vintage lamps and found objects and giving new life to vintage cameras and lanterns, early auto and bicycle headlamps — vessels of all kinds — by electrifying them. 

Chris Henry’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places

Westbank Cafe — 407 W42nd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
A mainstay of the theater community, Manhattan Plaza, and HK. Westbank is a neighborhood treasure, the food is always fantastic, the service is spot-on, the bar and bartenders — perfect. 

Domus — 413 W44th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
A perfectly-curated little gem of a gift shop tucked away on 44th Street. Luisa and Nicki always greet you with a smile and are genuinely wonderful small shop owners and a gift to the neighborhood. 

Little Pie Company — 424 W43rd Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
What’s to say? You can smell the place a block away. The best of the best. 

The Salvation Army on W46th St. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Salvation Army — 536 W46th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
I love shopping here and I love giving here. And it’s a miracle that it’s survived and I hope it will always find a home here in HK. 

Marseille — 630 9th Avenue (bw W44/45th St)
How can two perfect local restaurants be a stone’s throw from each other here in HK? Well between Westbank and Marseille, dreams can come true. (RIP, Grand Prospect Hall)

Esposito Meat Market — 500 9th Avenue (bw 8th/9th Ave)
Who doesn’t love a neighborhood, multi-generational butcher who has exceptional customer service and the freshest meat around? 

Frisson Espresso — 326 W47th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
Such friendly service and the best baristas (and thus, lattes) in the neighborhood.

Westway Diner — 614 9th Avenue (bw W43/44th St)
An absolute classic that should never go away ever ever ever. 

Chris and his wife, Jennifer, enjoying drinks in Hell’s Kitchen.

Hell’s Kitchen Pet — 525 W45th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
The proprietor is friendly and has great deals — and it’s not a big box store! 

Ninth Avenue Vintner — 669 9th Avenue (bw W46/47th St)
Excellent selection of wine and liquor and beer next door. 

Anything else you’d like to tell us?
Despite being in the middle of Manhattan, my thumb gets greener the older I get.

You can follow Chris Henry on Instagram @ChrisHCoffey. 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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