Good morning and welcome to the weekend. Yesterday was spent walking around the neighborhood and taking time to chat with readers and local business owners.

Just when we thought normalcy was around the corner, Omicron popped up and caused havoc. Last night we saw Hamilton canceling more performances and the Rockettes ending their Christmas Spectacular at Radio City for the season.

On the streets, lines are snaking around the block for emergency care clinics as locals try to get tested. Restaurants and bars are reinforcing their protocols and gyms are getting stricter on masking. Here’s what we know so far (and let’s emphasize that this is changing hour-by-hour):

Here’s what’s been happening this week in Hell’s Kitchen…

This Hell’s Kitchen gift shop marked its 25th anniversary in September, now it has a second reason to celebrate — Delphinium Home was voted Best Retail Store 2021 by our readers in the W42ST Best of Awards (sponsored by Wells Fargo and supported by HYHK Alliance and The Durst Organization). Find out the runners up and watch the awards video here…

We asked about your holiday tipping habits. Peter Shankman updated us on a new trend: “Two of my doormen have specifically mentioned they’d gladly take their tips in cryptocurrency.”

Ryan Brodsky offered us his two cents on the thorny subject — and how his love of gadgets gave him the idea of a tipping money gun. “Tipping is very personal and people that do what they can are appreciated,” he said. Here are the details of how Ryan tips at his luxury building in Hell’s Kitchen…

How do Broadway stars spend their time between matinees and evening shows? Stephen Carlile, who plays Scar in Lion King, shared this picture on Instagram of his chosen form of R&R. “Next time I nap between shows I’m locking the door,” he said. He has a good excuse for his snooze as he and his wife, Emily, have a two-month-old daughter, Phoebe Anne. Congratulations!

It’s been lovely to surprise business owners with their awards over the past weeks — especially when the person is genuinely not expecting to be a winner. Thanks to all our readers who took the time to cast votes and make the day of these hard-working neighborhood folks!

“I’m really surprised because we didn’t expect to win. We’re kind of in-between the categories as a wine bar, a cheese bar. We’re not really a restaurant, not really a bar. I just expected, we would slip through the cracks — somebody else would win bar and somebody else would win restaurant,” said Brian Keyser from Casellula, as he received the award for Best Bar. “We were happy to have been nominated.”

Casellula took 9% of the readers’ voting for the Best Bar category of the 25 shortlisted venues — and was 15 votes ahead of the nearest runner up. The bar, like many in Hell’s Kitchen, has won many hearts for the fight it has made to survive the pandemic. More details + runners up list…

There’s no doubt that you’ve seen the iconic “I ❤️ NY” logo on everything from T-shirts to bumper stickers and highway signs. But where did New York’s most ubiquitous branding come from? What many don’t know is that the legendary logo was the creation of graphic designer Milton Glaser, who passed away in June 2020 at the age of 91 — and is now the subject of a new exhibition at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in their tribute, “SVA❤️Milton: The Legacy of Milton Glaser”. Details here…


Wednesday marked the finale of our W42ST Best of Awards 2021. Thousands of readers took part in the nomination and voting process. More than 580 different places were nominated across the 7 categories — and we cut those down to a shortlist of just over 100 Hell’s Kitchen’s businesses.

We used that shortlist to form the header of our award certificates. When we presented Scott Hart and Bruce Horowytz, owners of Hell’s Kitchen restaurant 44&X, with their Best Place to Eat Award, Bruce joked with Scott: “That acronym name, 44&X, was the best thing — we are always first.” Check out more on their story and who were the runners up this year…

You can find all the winners, runners up and shortlisted businesses on your mobile by downloading W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local app. You can also discover all the businesses recommended by folks who have told us their West Side Stories and reader recommends for our lists (like Best Pizza and Best Burger) on the app.

With up to 2 million people expected at the Crossroads of the World on New Year’s Eve, Times Square Alliance and New York Police Department shared their plans for handling the big event yesterday. Here are the details if you want to join the throng (or know where to avoid).

Hell’s Kitchen used to be known for having so many Thai restaurants — now we keep on adding to the selection of Korean food. Welcome to Mari (from the folks behind Michelin Star winners, Kochi). Read more…

They’re usually going too quick to capture! This Amtrak Empire Service train was idling under the bridge on W45th Street between 10/11th Avenue when we walked by earlier this week.

Andy Murray mused on our Facebook page (as many of us have) as to where these trains that rumble under Hell’s Kitchen go. “This train has been a mystery for years! I call it the ghost train because I’m not sure where it leaves from and goes to! The track continues south but doesn’t look like it could turn into Penn. Thought maybe it comes in from NJ but doesn’t stop in NYC, but that doesn’t make sense. Have wondered about this for 20 years!” he said.

Andy returned to the page a little later to answer his own question. You can take the train the full 7 hours and 20 minutes from Penn Station all the way to Niagara Falls — passing through the Hudson River Valley, Finger Lakes, Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo along the way.

Over on Instagram, Steve Olsen from West Bank Cafe told us about his friend’s experience on the rail tracks. “I had a relative who got drunk on his roof and fell 5 stories, got up and walked a few steps and fell down to the railroad tracks. He quit drinking after that,” he said.

As twenty-first century citizens living in New York, it’s nearly impossible to envision Times Square without ads. Next to the New Year’s Eve Ball, the most recognizable Times Square icon is likely the outsized, electric Coca-Cola billboard. But what would the world’s most identifiable city center look like without a single advertisement? One intrepid Photoshop user decided to find out. Check it out here…

Down The Road pub is closing on 9th Avenue. We spoke with Monique Ryan about the tough times the bar has had, even before opening in July 2019. More here…

Much as we wish every new Hell’s Kitchen business luck — and we like a drink or two — it’s so sad to see the Theatre Row Diner replaced by a liquor store!

Aleta LaFargue’s comment on Instagram hit the mark: “I was just thinking — we don’t have enough liquor stores in this area 🙄”

Fred Papert, famed for helping to save Grand Central Terminal with the help of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, was also responsible for the revitalization of that block with the 42nd Street Development Corporation. He took me for lunch one day at the Theater Row Diner — it was a favorite spot and he worked to make sure Dennis, the owner, got a deal that meant he could stay there. He’d be spinning in his grave if he saw this!

Remember The Big Apple in Bella Abzug Park next to Hudson Yards? Well, now it’s got lights and we’ve added it to our collection of Hell’s Kitchen holiday lights!

Ten years ago this summer, Gary Hershorn was working as a news photographer documenting the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. “It was a summer filled with walking up and down the Hudson River in New Jersey, chasing the light, attempting to show off a New York City that was finally getting back to being itself; beautiful and majestic, a city of the world,” Gary remembers. “One World Trade Center was under construction; the skyline of Manhattan was about to change forever, once more. And I was at the center of it, making pictures to document a city, rising from its own ashes.”

Ten years on, he is a moon chaser. He is up before dawn to capture the sunrise and in the evening selecting his spot at dusk to photograph the sunset. He sees storms as opportunities for cloudscapes and lightning strikes. His camera is focused on New York City.

We asked Gary to share a selection of his images from 2021. “I hope when people look at my pictures, they feel a connection not only to the greatest city in the world, but to every human of this world, and the universe above and beyond,” he said. Pictures here to brighten your day…

What we’ve been reading

Well done to Sullivan Street Bakery for making this list with their Zucchini Pizza. (New York Times)

Javits rooftop farm gives away its first crop to good causes. (amNY)

An Englishwoman in New York’s diary of this challenging week. (The Guardian)

Here’s how the NYPD mounted cops are preparing for New Year’s Eve. (Eyewitness News)

Mourning the loss of a favorite restaurant — “I had just forgotten that cardinal rule of New York: Things can always change.” (Eater)

Freeze Frame

Thanks to Nelson Christopher Ala for tagging us in this amazing photo taken at VIA on W57th Street this week. He called the picture “Fire in the Sky” — and he’s an expert on taking stunning photos at VIA. In 2019, he produced a book on the building — it could be a special stocking filler for someone you know?

Happy birthday to iAN Llano.