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New Jersey born content creator Naty Caez had a dream of living in New York — and nowadays she calls Hell’s Kitchen her home. As social media editor of W42ST, Naty has got to know the neighborhood pretty well. Here’s her West Side Story.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
I’m originally from Bergen County, New Jersey but have always been a city girl at heart. I spent a lot of time in New York throughout my 20s. It was always a goal and dream of mine to move here. It took a little longer than expected, but finally at 34 I was able to make it happen! I’ve been here for five years now.
What was your first job? What do you do now?
My very first job was a sales associate at a clothing store called Joyce Leslie. I’ve had so many different kinds of jobs since then. I even worked in finance after college. That’s a story for another day! For the past 11 years, I’ve worked for myself as a full-time content creator. I’ve been able to partner with so many different brands over the years and it’s been such an incredible opportunity. It’s actually what helped bring me here to New York. And now, I’m working with W42ST as social media editor and taking photos for the majority of our stories (like at The Friki Tiki Bar below). I love that it’s gotten me more involved with the community. I have met so many wonderful people here in Hell’s Kitchen because of it. I love that in some small way I am able to help shine a light on the small businesses here and help tell their stories.
What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
There’s been so many! It’s really hard to choose. One of the things that I love most about living in New York is seeing how much can actually happen within 60 seconds. I’ll share a favorite moment that happened quite recently. I was walking home from the train after making my weekly trek over to Trader Joe’s. I had a huge tote of groceries over my shoulder and a backpack on. A guy yelled out to me, “Damn girl! You’re strong!” It made my day.
Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
I’ve always had a little bit of a connection to Hell’s Kitchen. Back in my 20s, I took vocal lessons over on W54th St and dance classes at BDC for several years. I also had a few friends who lived here, so I spent a lot of time in the neighborhood because of that. On some nights out, I remember we would end up at Empanada Mama for some late night food! In 2015, a close friend of mine moved into the apartment that I’m living in now. I ended up moving into it in 2018. Last year, I started working with W42ST and now I get to help share all the stories from our neighborhood. It’s wild how things happen and how everything is connected in some way — at least, that’s been my personal experience.
I love this neighborhood. It’s been the perfect location for me in terms of getting to other areas in Manhattan and heading back to NJ to visit my mom. I’m able to take the ferry often to see my sister and nieces in Hoboken. I have everything I need right on 9th and 10th Avenue (except Trader Joe’s!) We have some of the best restaurants here. There are so many gems. There’s also never a dull moment! It’s home.
What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
My superpower is probably my empathy. It really allows me to connect with others on a much deeper level.
What else should we know about you?
My full name is Natalie, but everyone calls me Naty. I have a degree in Journalism. I’m a very creative person. I love connecting with others. Hope to meet some of you in the neighborhood! I enjoy traveling alone and taking myself out on solo dates. What else? I started running the summer of 2020 and it really helped me get through those dark days at the beginning of the pandemic. I will finally be running my first race in NY this April in Central Park. I love running down by Hudson River Park. That’s another one of my favorite places in the area. Oh, and I have the cutest 12-year-old dog named Kiko!
MORE WEST SIDE STORIES
Naty’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places
Bird & Branch — 359 W45th St (between 8th/9th Ave)
I love getting a latte with their homemade almond macadamia milk. So good! I’ve come here to work a few times and I also enjoy their outdoor seating during the warmer months.
Briciola — 370 W51st St (between 8th/9th Ave)
I used to come here before I ever lived in the neighborhood. It’s such a cozy and intimate spot. When I first moved to HK, I would bring my mom and all my friends here – so it’s a special place to me. It’s also the first place I ever tried octopus! A few of my favorite dishes to get here are the fettuccini al funghi, melanzane e Caprino and gnocchi Sorrentina. Oh, and their cheese boards are yummy!
Yuri Sushi — 374 W46th St (between 8th/9th Ave)
They are take out/delivery only but it’s been my go-to sushi spot since I moved here. My sushi has always been fresh and delivery always quick. I don’t even want to think about how much money I’ve spent there over the past five years! Their Rainbow Roll and Spicy Green Tuna Roll are my favorites. OK, now I want sushi.
Nizza — 630 9th Avenue (between W44th/45th St)
I’ve come here so many times over the years. One of my favorite dishes is their cacio e pepe. I usually order this with a glass of red in the fall/winter and an Aperol spritz during the summer. They also have a great Strawberry Mocktail Mule.
Alfie’s — 800 9th Avenue (between W53/54th St)
I’ve only ever come for brunch or lunch, but have always enjoyed it. I’ve had many solo dates here! Their buffalo chicken salad is so good. Love their high top tables outside.
Wine Escape — 405 W44th St (between 9th/10th Ave)
I love taking myself on little solo dates and have come here a lot for wine at happy hour. It feels so cozy and welcoming. I always meet new people and have really enjoyed my conversations with the bartenders. And their cheese cigars are yummy!
Chalong — 749 9th Ave (between W50/51st St)
Incredible Thai food! There’s such a warm, inviting energy here. It’s a newer place in HK — which I photographed for W42ST — but it immediately became one of my personal favorites in the neighborhood.
You can follow Naty on Instagram @natymichele. If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself) please fill in this form — w42st.info/WSSnominations
You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.