PLEASE SUPPORT W42ST

W42ST runs on limited resources to keep Hell’s Kitchen connected, updated and upbeat. Access is totally free. Please consider supporting what we do so that we can continue our work!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and whether you’re a hopeless romantic, a conscientious objector, or somewhere in between, there’s never been a better time to celebrate the people and the neighborhood you love. We’ve curated some expert reader tips and our own ideas for ways to make your Valentine’s Day (or Valentine’s Day weekend, Mondays are hard!) a bright spot in a cold month.

Westway Diner is ready for VDay, are you?? Photo: Phil O’Brien

RESTAURANTS AND BARS

While food is technically not one of the five love languages, here at W42ST we would like to make a case for it. Head to our picks and wine and dine your significant other, or gather some foodie pals for a night of charcuterie and shared dating horror stories at one of the neighborhood’s many intimate and charming eateries.

As reader Jacqueline Martin aptly put it, “Show your sweetheart AND all our local HK establishments your LOVE by starting off at a bar for a pre-dinner cocktail, then on to any one of our fabulous HK restaurants for dinner, then end the evening at another restaurant for dessert and after-dinner drinks. Our HK bars and restaurants really need our love this year!”

So where should you go if you want to show Hell’s Kitchen (and your date) some love this VDay? Reader Kevin McAnarney has a great itinerary for you — “Becco (355 W46th St— on Restaurant Row) is always so good (and a great deal), and they have a special Valentine’s Day menu. Upstairs has a cozy vibe, and there is that small enclosed area in the bar section. A good meal and wine is a perfect combination.” Becco releases their Valentine’s Day menu closer to the day, but you can always enjoy their whole roasted fish or veal chop!

And McAnarney’s dessert rec? “On your way home just around the block go to Schmackary’s (362 W 45th St — west of 9th Ave)  for a selection of their cookies to continue the wonderful feelings for the next couple of days.”

Cookies = true love. Photo: Schmackary’s

Fellow reader Jamie Brown also recommends Schmackary’s — their rotation includes “dinner at Da Tommaso (903 8th Ave bw 53/54th St), then head to a show at 54 Below (254 W 54th St bw Bway/8th Ave), followed by a late-night cookie at Schmackarys!” Here at W42ST, we would never turn down a box of Schmackary’s famous Schmacker-doodles.

If you’re headed to Da Tommaso, be sure to split a plate of their spicy penne ala vodka or spaghetti al pesto followed by pollo piccata and tiramisu for dessert. 

54 Below has a star-studded Broadway cabaret.

Over at restaurant and performance venue 54 Below, you’ll find a star-studded Broadway Valentine’s Day cabaret, showing at 7pm and 9:45pm and featuring the likes of Gerard Canonico (Be More Chill, Spring Awakening) and Devon Meddock (The Imbible), Joey Contreras (Love Me, Love Me Not, In Pieces) and Brian Russell Carey (Red Roses, Green Gold), Charlie Franklin (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, The Book of Mormon) and DeLaney Westfall (Kinky Boots, Sweeney Todd), Laurel Harris (Wicked, Jagged Little Pill) and Rob Marnell (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical), Peter LaPrade (The Lighting Thief, This Ain’t No Disco) and Ian Fairlee (The Underclassman), Elliott Mattox (Beetlejuice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and Michael Damian Fasano (Jersey Boys), Sydney Morton (Netflix’s “She’s Gotta Have It”, American Psycho) and Preston Truman Boyd (The Play That Goes Wrong, Les Misérables), Kirsten Scott (Rock of Ages, Jersey Boys) and Matthew Scott (An American in Paris, Sondheim on Sondheim), Alexandra Silber (Fiddler on the Roof, Indecent) and Alec Silver (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Amy Spanger (Rock of Ages, Chicago) and Brian Shepard (Something Rotten!, My Fair Lady), Emerson Steele (Violet) and Matt Gumley (Elf, The Addams Family), Stephanie Torns (Waitress, Wicked) and Benny Elledge (Waitress). If you’d like to dine while enjoying the show, 54 Below is offering a three-course $85 prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu. Need to stay in? The venue is also live streaming the 9:45pm showing!

If you decide to check out 54 Below over Valentine’s Day weekend, the program includes Surface Pleasure from Encanto’s Jessica Darrow, Love Songs from cabaret and opera artist Ben Jones, a midwinter celebration of life and love in Anne Bobby and Friends: I’m Still Standing…And Streaming!, and a late-night pop and Broadway bacchanal in Boy Bands vs. Girl Groups!

Looking for more of a low-key meal? Reader Dana Lech recommends enjoying food by the fireplace at Irish pub Gossip (733 9th Ave bw W49/50th St), known for their draft brews, cocktails (try the Gossip G&T made with Gordon’s Pink Gin and Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic Water), and burgers (we recommend the Gaelic Burger, made with a Grass Fed Angus Burger, Irish Bacon, Sautéed Onion, Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Seeded Bun and Hand Cut Fries). 

Reader Angelique F. recommends trying fellow HK Irish pub Landmark Tavern (626 11th Ave), “since Valentine’s Day falls on a Monday, which means beautiful live Irish music and a delicious meal!”  Have a few pints of Guinness and try to sing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” to your date.

And if you’d like to give your Valentine the gift of a break in their workday, try a coffee or lunch date — sometimes nothing is as life-affirming and romantic as a bit of daylight (or caffeine) on a Monday. Reader Francesca Iacovacci’s pick is women-owned, single-origin coffee shop “Romeo & Juliet Colombian Coffee (555 W42ST — corner of 11th Ave) — even the coffee shop name is romantic!” Guarantee yourself a happier outcome than in the play by ordering two cortados and some waffles!

Another jaunty daytime date is lunch at 9th Ave’s Lilly’s Craft and Kitchen (675 9th Ave bw 4/47th St). Reader Al Lech says, “the pan-seared salmon and shepherd’s pie are great!” We also recommend trying the crab cake burger (8oz homemade crab cake, arugula, tomato, and lemon caper aioli served with sweet potato fries) or splitting the braised short rib sliders!

If you’re more intrigued by the romance (and flattery) of soft evening lighting, head to one of the neighborhood’s chicly outfitted wine bars. Reader Juliana Mead recommends “having dinner at Ardesia or Casellula, I’m a sucker for a great wine bar!” Ardesia (510 W52nd St — west of 10th Ave), a fan-favorite for their hip ambiance, selection of over 20 wines by the glass and 100 by the bottle, and indeed, soft lighting, is the perfect place to split a bottle of Syrah and small plates of ricotta crostini, garlic shrimp skewers, and shishito peppers. 

Over at Casellula (401 W52nd St — west of 9th Ave and voted W42ST’s Best Wine Bar of 2021) the focus is on cheese. At Casellula, “our philosophy is simple: to share our passion for hand-made cheeses with as many people as possible.” Don’t know where to start? Casellula’s menu helpfully breaks down the provenance and flavor profile of each cheese, from the “decadent, intensely buttery” Swiss Screamer to the “savory, floral, complex” Spanish Roncal. And don’t worry, we didn’t forget about wine! Casellula provides the same analysis for their selection, from the “Eucalyptus! Pine! Black Cherry! Spearmint!” of their Flying Cloud Cabernet Sauvignon to the “Subtle, flirtatious” Ponzi reserve Chardonnay. Casellula’s menu would also serve as solid inspiration for writing your next dating profile: “W42ST. Age: Timeless. Location: Hell’s Kitchen. Subtle, flirtatious, decadent.”

An ideal spread from Casellula.

Another excellent local option is Aria Hell’s Kitchen (369 W51st St — east of 9th Ave), a lively wine bar and restaurant ideal for meeting up with your palentines. Order a few bottles of wine and baked clams for the table and try some gnocchi sorrentina or linguine vongole!

Celebrating a milestone Valentine’s Day? Planning to pop the question (good luck!!!)? Local favorite for bespoke cocktails, wine, beer, and bites Dutch Fred’s (307 W47th St — west of 8th Ave) is offering complimentary glasses of their signature prosecco with the order of an entree. Toast your love with seared ahi tuna sushi and some bubbly!

Try Dutch Fred’s very own prosecco.

A block away at Amarone (686 9th Ave bw 47/48th St), enjoy a special Valentine’s Day menu inspired by the classic Italian fare that they’ve delighted the neighborhood with since 1997 — try a lobster ravioli in pink brandy sauce, followed by branzino, all capped off with some berry panna cotta for dessert!

The Marshal (628 10th Ave bw W44/45th St), known for its sustainably sourced, farm-to-table cuisine, is also offering an exclusive 3-course, prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu. Save yourself a trip upstate and enjoy appetizers like the Hudson Valley duck confit salad or Greenane Family Farm Pork Meatballs, seared New Jersey diver scallops, or butternut squash lasagna for entrees, and maple marshmallow s’mores for dessert!

Speaking of taking a vacation, Jasmine’s Caribbean Cuisine (371 W46th St — east of 9th Ave) is the perfect place to enjoy tropical, traditional Caribbean flavors without needing to brave EWR. Jasmine’s Valentine’s Day menu includes delectable choices like stuffed shrimp with crabmeat or strawberry avocado salad, marinated roasted jerk leg of lamb, and blackened chilean sea bass. Try the coconut rum-raisin ice cream for dessert and you’ll almost forget that you need to wear 6 layers to walk home!

Extremely date-friendly Italian enoteca Bocca Di Bacco (828 9th Ave — corner of W54th St and 635 9th Ave bw W44/45th St) has come up with a sumptuous, luxurious prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu fit for you and your favorite person — from Wagyu beef carpaccio to Fagotini al Tartufo with truffle butter to olive oil cake, eat like royalty in a warm and welcoming rustic ambiance. 

If you’re hoping to beat the crowds on the day of, check out the prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu at modern Italian joint Sesamo (764 10th Ave — corner of W52nd St), which is also available all weekend. This six course (!) menu includes gems like gochujang seasoned burrata, uni bucatini, NY strip steak, and (my ride or die) Chicken Parmesan, and is sure to be a meal you won’t soon forget. 

Tucked away between 11th and 12th Aves is Hudson West (629 W57th St), a sleek, Greek and Mediterranean-influenced spot also serving up an exclusive Valentine’s Day menu. Enjoy tuna tartare or Japanese miso eggplant, grilled hanger steak or roast chicken, puff pastry soufflé and complimentary sparkling wine toast, all for $70 a person. 

A few blocks south on 11th Ave is PRINT (653 11th Ave bw W46/47th St), a stylish, seasonal, and very sustainably sourced New American restaurant housed in a repurposed and reimagined printing factory. Try their six-course chef’s tasting menu featuring the likes of Oysters Rockefeller soup, Heirloom Roasted Sasso Chicken or Whole Roasted Branzino, and chocolate soufflé. And if you’d like to explore the rest of PRINT’s carefully crafted menu from Executive Chef Aaron Tomczak and Executive Pastry Chef Jaime Sudberg, they are also offering an a la carte selection on Feb 14!

Any holiday is made better by visiting Chez Josephine (414 W42nd St — west of 9th Ave), the veritable beating heart of W42ST. This longtime neighborhood crossroads and meeting place for elevated French cuisine in a lively Parisian-salon setting (complete with live piano!) offers a three-course prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu that includes foie gras, filet mignon au Poivre, and of course, créme brulée. Spend an evening at Chez Josephine and again, you’ve taken a European vacation sans airfare prices (can you tell we’re on a staycation kick?!). 

Celebrate with Josephine’s friends.

Still longing for France? Cure your ennui with an evening at Le Privé (626 10th Ave bw W44/45th St), also providing a Francophile-friendly Valentine’s Day menu. Warm yourself with a french onion soup or indulge in escargots, try a pan-roasted salmon, filet mignon, or vegetarian médaillons d’automne, and be sure to sample a beignet! And in an added deal, for every two prix-fixe orders, couples will receive a complimentary bottle of sparkling, white, or red wine. 

While it isn’t technically a Valentine’s Day menu, HK newcomer Mari (679 9th Ave — corner of W46th St) offers a thoughtfully curated omakase prix fixe meal of Korean handrolls and innovative dishes. Enjoy Wagyu, spicy tuna, mackerel, and caviar salmon handrolls followed by their signature choco pie — a chocolate sponge cake filled with black sesame marshmallow and strawberry jam, an elevated take on a popular Korean snack. 

Are you now thinking only of dessert? Stroll over to try reader Gwen Baker’s rec, Bar Veloce (862 9th Ave — corner of W56th St) “the vanilla and coffee bean Nutella is delish!” Reader Paula Jaslow favors the wine and homemade chocolate pudding at Etcetera Etcetera (352 W44th St — east of 9th Ave). And if your favorite dessert is bread, quite a few of our readers are passionate about Amy’s Bread (also voted Best Coffee Shop in our 2021 W42ST awards!). 

Kathi Iannacone recommends the “Heart-shaped breads from Amy’s!!  There’s nothing better!!” while Angelique F. says to “grab a croissant and coffee Valentine’s Day morning at Amy’s Bread.” Henry Johnson has an Amy’s-themed Valentine’s Day tradition — “Valentine’s Day is also our anniversary (46th this year). We like to cook together and share the evening. BUT we always order a cake from Amy’s, always a pink frosted cake, we call it our ‘Happy Cake’, Amy’s IS our hot spot!” Happy anniversary Henry! Here’s to many more pink frosted happy cakes!

Kendall Jacques prepares Amy’s for Valentine’s Day. Photo: Phil O’Brien

If you’re inspired to make your own cake (or an entire Valentine’s Day meal!), why not sign up for a virtual or in-person cooking class with your date or friends? Hell’s Kitchen-based chef Raquel Rivera offers at-home in-person or virtual group cooking classes through her business A Pinch Of Salt. Taking a virtual class with your long-distance love is an excellent way to share a tangible experience that transcends miles and wifi bandwidth. 

Over on W57th, popular specialty store and culinary center Sur La Table (307 W57th St bw 8/9th Ave) offers in-person Valentine’s Day-themed classes such as the family-friendly Valentine’s Day Sweets making course, Date Night: Cooking with Wine, and Artisan Chocolate. Spots are still available for February 14 as well as during the weekend!

Overwhelmed by the vast amount of Valentine’s Day culinary choice in our fair Hell’s Kitchen? Intrepid reader Lu Han has created an entire itinerary focused on food, fitness, and furry friends — “Hot chocolate and delicious pastry (kouign amann!) from Bird & Branch (359 W45th) to fuel a walk along the Hudson. Head over to MPHC (482 W43rd St bw 9/10th Ave)  for a quick rock climbing session. Pick up some squash pizza from Sullivan Street Bakery (533 W47th St bw 10/11th Ave). Shop for some goodies at Delphinium (353 W47th St bw 8/9th Ave) and Domus (413 W44th bw 9/10th Ave). Take a stroll on 43rd st between 9th and 10th and enjoy the dog watching. Cap off with wine and cheese at Casellula. Before calling it a night, pick up some wine from Veritas Studio Wines (527 W45th St bw 10/11th Ave). This sampling of HK has something for everyone — beauty, views, delicious food, adventure, quirkiness, and intimacy. It’s a true neighborhood with some excellent people. And dogs. So many adorable dogs.”

Be sure to thank her in your vows!!

…AND A SHOW

Curtain up! Light the lights! It’s opening night for reader Leanne Buckley’s ideal Valentine’s Day entertainment: 

“Picture this: White tablecloths, candles glowing and sweet jazz filling the air. You’ll find this oh so romantic ambiance at Birdland Jazz Club (315 W44th St bw 8/9th Ave). What a great way to spend Valentine’s Day! Enjoy some expertly made cocktails, a delicious meal and leave room for their homemade desserts. A night at Birdland will spark romance.  Flying solo? Sit at the bar and enjoy all the club has to offer without feeling alone.”

Take Leanne’s word for it and head to Birdland for their Valentine’s Day weekend and day-of star-studded lineup. Starting on Friday February 11 and Saturday February 12, catch the “truest heir to Bobby Short,” Eric Comstock and pianist/bassist Sean Smith and guest star Barbara Fasano for a night of song ranging from Gershwin to George Harrison, followed by Billy Stritch’s Big Birdland Birthday Bash celebrating Billy, jazz, and the American songbook, and the John Pizzarelli Trio’s Tribute to George Shearing (for fans of famed guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, John is his son!). 

On Sunday 13th, check out acclaimed vocalist Svetlana’s Big Band medley of love songs, Broadway veteran and Hadestown performer T. Oliver Reid’s A Sunday Kind of Love (featuring songs by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Mike Reid and more), Arturo O’ Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble, and vocalist Regina Martin in Decades of Love Ft Paul Cuffari (covering five decades of love songs!).

T. Oliver Reid. Photo: Curtis & Cort Photography

If you’re headed to Birdland on February 14, you can check out Grammy Award-winning vocalist Catherine Russell in Valentine’s Day for Lovers, and up-and-coming jazz vocalist Ashley Pezzotti Trio in the Theatre, featuring a night of original compositions inspired by the Great American Songbook. 

Reader Susan Knipper suggests you “see Judy Kuhn at the Green Room 42 (570 10th Ave — corner of W42nd St) and follow that up with dinner at Le Rivage (340 W46th St).”  Says Knipper, “The Green Room 42 is a great venue to see performers. No seat is bad and sometimes you can talk to the performers afterward. Judy Kuhn singing about love will be very romantic. And then to Le Rivage for dinner. Nothing could be more romantic than a delicious French dinner in a beautiful restaurant.  And the staff there go above and beyond to make sure you are comfortable and have all you need. It is a perfect place for celebrating and will surely set the stage for a wonderful evening!”

Le Rivage even has its own Valentine’s Day menu, featuring the likes of baked mussels, grilled porterhouse lamb, and speculoos cheesecake. Thanks for the rec, Susan!!

And if you can’t get enough of Green Room 42, check out their other shows playing over the Valentine’s Day weekend — Tempting Mr. Lincoln,  an original romantic comedy musical that declares “Abe Lincoln is Gay Icon”, A night of conversation, performance, and sexual wellness tips from sex and mental health therapist Rachel Wright at One Night Stand, Nathan Fosbinder’s Third Annual Very Valentine’s Cabaret (originally developed as a way for Nathan to propose to his wife, the show is now a celebration of love, heartbreak, and everything between, featuring original music and guest stars), and Grammy nominee, Broadway, and West End alum Alexandra Silber: So In Love “celebrates, makes fun of, mourns, and idealizes all things romance. With songs. And jokes. And special guests. And maybe even a QUIZ…with prizes.” 

If we’re on the right track, and sweeping romantic heartbreak through song is what lights your fire, take one reader’s idea — “My boyfriend’s birthday falls on February 15, so we always celebrate his day with Valentine’s Day. This year, I want to surprise him with tickets to Hadestown. He has a Doctorate in Classics and studied Greek mythology, so it’s been high on his list for a long time!” Good luck, [NAME REDACTED FOR ELEMENT OF SURPRISE]! 

Is Greek tragedy not dark enough for you?? How about a musical where true love is crushed by a carnivorous, man-eating plant?! Take your date to Hell’s Kitchen’s own Westside Theatre (which has, by the way, a fascinating and storied history) to Little Shop of Horrors, the comically tragic/tragically comic tale of love, murder, and taking your green thumb a bit too far. 

The Westside Theatre. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“But W42ST, what if my theatrical sensibilities are not as dark as yours?!” Good news — fellow reader Mary Jane Lech recommends a completely joyous evening “trying the fantastic selection of empanadas at Empanada Mama (765 9th Ave bw W51/52nd St) and seeing The Music Man on Broadway”. Empanada Mama’s fare is so good that you’ll want to dance all the way to the Winter Garden to say hi to the talented and versatile cast. 

GO ALL THE WAY

Ok, we’re not pressuring you or anything but…your grandma told us to tell you, it’s time to put a ring on it. She’s not getting any younger! If you’re ready and interested in really, really committing this Valentine’s Day, you don’t even have to fly to Vegas. Register for the chance to have the Times Square Alliance host your wedding — those selected will receive a ceremony near this year’s winner of the Love in Times Square sculpture contest. Years from now when people ask about your wedding photos, you can proudly declare, “no, those are not Photoshopped!” 

Photo: The Times Square Alliance

If your number one wedding priority is the food, make it easy on yourself and take the train to Brooklyn’s L’industrie Pizzeria Pop Up Chapel (254 2nd St, Brooklyn), performing 10-minute Valentine’s Day marriage ceremonies that come with 2 pizzas of your choice, plus soft serve. As Brooklyn insider and W42ST reader Rebecca Casas put it, “If we weren’t already married, I would have honestly considered this.” 

And if you’d like to design your own “short and sweet” elopement, check out Instant Elopements, offering after-work hours chapel ceremonies, “because love doesn’t end when City Hall closes”. Reservations are still available for the evening of February14! 

KEEPING IT SIMPLE

What if the idea of Valentine’s Day gives you hives? Take three deep breaths — we have ideas for enjoying the day with absolutely no stress or pressure. 

Work out your worries Feb 12th at Nicol Squash (476 W42 St — east of 10th Ave), opened in late 2021 and already a neighborhood favorite. Nicol Squash is offering an evening of playing squash (all levels welcome!), corn hole, and ping pong, all while you sip on a bit of bubbly and defy St Valentine, “even if you have no game”.

Reader Edward Love recommends that you “stay home and watch Moonstruck (available on most streaming services). It is not only a romantic film, but one that celebrates relationships in general. What a cast! Including at least one Hell’s Kitchen resident.” Edward, does Cher live here?! Can you tell her we say hi?!

If watching Moonstruck puts you into a New York-themed-80/90s-rom-com-mood (yes, it’s that specific a mood), may we suggest Nora Ephron trilogy When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless In Seattle, and for an empowering anti-rom-com, The First Wives Club

Celebrating Valentine’s Day can be as simple as buying someone you love (or yourself!) flowers, and reader Juliana Mead recommends “getting flowers from Manhattan Plaza Florist” Flowers on the Park (444 W43rd St – bw 9/10th Ave). Says Mead, “They have beautiful arrangements.” She also recommends buying Valentine’s Day cards from W42ST Best Store Delphinium Home, “they have a wonderful selection of cards.” 

Other readers prefer to craft their Valentine’s Day gifts. Says David Ochoa, “Personal cards I make first go to single friends and neighbors, or empty nested parent/s and local farmers market vendors.” Since it’s been proven that crafting is good for your mental health, this is a perfect way to keep Valentine’s Day stress at bay and spread love.

Reader Kyle Weiss enjoys “spending my day sharing the love with colleagues. Essentially our workplace turns into our second home, so I find a lot of joy in buying a paper-wrapped rose for all my female colleagues (purchased from my local bodega 49th/9th) and for the guys, I usually gift them a little candy heart box.” And even if you and your team are working remotely, a digital gift card to a local business goes a long way to show a little team camaraderie and appreciation!

And for the most peaceful Valentine’s Day around, don’t forget the option to stroll aimlessly, taking in the true beauty of the neighborhood and city — like reader Monica Carson does. She recommends “Taking a walk along Hudson River Park & the piers — the views are incredible and our pup enjoys it, too. One of my favorite things about Hell’s Kitchen!” It’s true, we’ll never fall out of love with sunset views of the Hudson. Je T’aime, Hell’s Kitchen!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.