There might not be a fancy, schmancy, in-person ceremony this year — thanks, COVID — but the W42ST Best of Awards 2021 (sponsored by Wells Fargo and supported by HYHK Alliance and The Durst Organization) are underway. We will be out on the streets surprising and delighting our category winners over the next week…
Hell’s Kitchen lost businesses during the pandemic — but many managed to hang on and survive. W42ST’s readers paid tribute, with their votes, to the brave folks who took a chance on opening a new business during COVID.
The 2021 winners demonstrated their resilience as they committed to a second New York location during such uncertainty. Their planned April 2020 opening was delayed, but the votes and reader comments tell the story of how this business has made such a difference to Hell’s Kitchen.
Norma — 801 9th Ave (corner of W53rd St)
Salvatore Fraterrigo and his wife, Emanuela Pacifico, originally planned to open their 70-seat trattoria, Norma, in spring 2020. The Italian eatery took the place of Giorgio’s Country Grill on the corner of W53rd Street and 9th Avenue.
After success with their first restaurant — Norma Gastronomia Siciliana — on 3rd Avenue, they decided to open a second Norma in Hell’s Kitchen, with the interior all shipped from Sicily.
Construction completed in the fall last year, the restaurant opened — and it has won the hearts of W42ST readers. It has also drawn culinary acclaim from the Italian food press. La Cucina Italiana said: “When creating the menu, Chef Fraterrigo made sure to include the classic Sicilian specialties, such as arancini, caponata, panelle, pizza and cabbuci. And Fraterrigo’s pastas represent the quintessence of Sicilian tradition. Whoever gets the chance to taste one of his dishes always makes the same comment — ‘It tastes just like Sicily’.”
Here’s what our W42ST voters had to say:
“Love this authentic piece of Southern Italy in our neighborhood. Great food and service!” ~ Angelo W. Apollos.
“Norma knocked my socks off — a new favorite in the city, let alone Hell’s Kitchen!” ~ Taylor Pullinger.
“Food is amazing but the pizza is even a step above that if it is possible. Just brilliant,” said Michael-Vaughn.
There have been so many great new businesses starting up in Hell’s Kitchen since the pandemic kicked in. The ones featured below are very worthy runners up. We featured Dolly Varden back in October 2020, when it initially opened; Grind Coffee has made a real impression on the corner of W43rd Street and 9th Avenue (we especially love their colorful mural); The Q Club has reinvigorated the Hell’s Kitchen gay bar/club scene; and Taco Mahal became a favorite haunt of NYC Mayoral candidate Andrew Yang this summer.
Dolly Varden — 302 W51st St (west of 8th Ave)
“Elegant inside, love the outside seating in a train car, stylish cocktails and tasty food. Perfect after the show spot. The team is so welcoming!” said Kathleen Spinelli.
Grind Coffee — 602 9th Ave (corner of W43rd St)
“You can actually SIT down and have a cup of coffee with a friend. On the sunny side of the street too, with lots of sweet treats!” said Joanne Lotsko.
The Q Club — 795 8th Ave (bw W48 /49th St)
“A fun new club that has a solid variety of high quality events, there’s always something interesting to do there,” said Tim Koch.
Taco Mahal — 653 9th Ave (bw W45/46th St)
“Mixing cultures shows both culinary imagination and cultural awareness. I like to eat where I feel people are thinking in and out of the kitchen,” said Charles Bloom.
We’ve featured many of the shortlisted businesses on W42ST in the past year. Afficionado Coffee Roasters founders told their tale; Jasmine shared her vision for her new eatery on Restaurant Row; Preston Konrad became a stylish addition to the neighborhood; and Swift Eats took their ghost kitchen concept to 9th Avenue.
Here are the businesses that our W42ST readers shortlisted:
Afficionado Coffee Roasters — 750 11th Ave (corner of W53rd St)
“The overall atmosphere of the cafe brings a new style to the coffee of New York, the coffee itself is out of this world. All the employees have great knowledge of the product and make anything to perfection,” said Chris Scibor.
Jasmine’s Caribbean Cuisine — 371 W 46th St (east of 9th Ave)
“They really made an impact during the pandemic and provide a warm and welcoming experience to the area,” said Dimitra Diggs.
Kausa — 745 9th Ave (bw W50/51st St)
“Delicious food with something unique to offer that we didnt already have in HK!” said Jamie Brown.
Omakase By Korami — 400 W50th St (corner of 9th Ave)
“The best dang omakase in the city, and the absolute BEST people. Never have I felt more welcomed and at home at a restaurant. Thanks, Alex and Allen!” said Lu Han.
Preston Konrad Studio — 461 W49th St (bw 9/10th Ave)
“LGBT-owned by the sweetest, most generous person. Best collection of curated items and the scents are out of this world!!! The store front is gorgeous and the windows are always so well designed and inviting. This is the most charming and happy place,” said Marissa C.
Swift Eats — 609 9th Ave (W43/44th St)
“The neighborhood needed a place for a quick bite, and the selection is great,” said Bill Hayes.
The Spot — 599 10th Ave (bw W43/44th St)
“New but already feels like I’ve been going there for ever,” said Ian Fox.
Valla Table — 641 10th Ave (bw W45/46th St)
“Food is super tasty and always ready quickly!” said Maria Zanoff.
Some new businesses didn’t make the shortlist — but still have made an impact on the neighborhood over the past 20 months. Bulbap Grill has only just opened on 10th Avenue; Rubber N’ Road caters to a specialist bike and coffee audience; Kochi grabbed a Michelin Star; Craft+Carry opened “For Beer Lovers, Not Snobs” in Hell’s Kitchen; Coddiwomple brought us tasty sandwiches filled with farm-to-table ingredients, artisanal flair and international flavors; and Seguidilla Empanada is kicking at the heels of more established local empanada dynasties.