In Hell’s Kitchen, rents are lower than in the rest of midtown. Hell’s Kitchen is the area between Eighth Avenue and the Hudson River, and between 30th Street and 59th Street. The vast area is home to DeWitt Clinton Park, from which the replacement name was taken. It can be argued, though, that the park was the setting for the “rumbles” in the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story. The plot of that show revolves around fighting between Anglo and Puerto Rican gangs, resulting in death and ironic sorrow some believe the equal of that in Romeo and Juliet.
From Farmland to Urban Melting Pot
Hell’s Kitchen was once farmland and woodland, like most of New York City beyond the original Dutch settlement at the lower tip of the island. During the first part of the nineteenth century, the farms were divided into lots. Before long, factories and slaughterhouses filled the space not taken by cheap housing for immigrants, first Irish, then German and Italian. Later, blacks and Puerto Ricans migrated to the neighborhood.
Slums Cleared for World-Class Performing Arts Complex
In the 1960s, much of the housing at just north of the neighborhood was razed to make room for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, today a premier world cultural destination, although it is located in the area known as the Upper West Side. Some buildings in north Hell’s Kitchen were razed, as well, for appearances.
Later, mainly in the 1970s, mid-rise apartment buildings (which in New York means up to 20 floors) appeared; in the 1980s, true skyscraper apartment buildings, of 30 floors and more and often topped with swimming pools and health clubs, appeared. Today, the area is a mix of super-tall, super-expensive apartment housing, mid-rise units, and much older brownstone and tenement buildings, mainly below 55th Street.
Only Local Shopping, but Department Stores Nearby
No one goes to or lives in Hell’s Kitchen for the shopping. There are supermarkets, copy shops, and the odd gas station beyond Ninth Avenue and close to the old West Side Highway. In short, it offers what the very mixed economic population needs, and not much more. Fifth Avenue, with its good midtown shopping, is only a seven-minute walk from Eight Avenue, however.
Good, Inexpensive Restaurants Abound
On the other hand, there are many inexpensive restaurants. Joe Allen on 46th Street near Eighth Avenue is a well-known Broadway hangout, and a little pricier than the ethnic restaurants nearby. While you may not see superstars there, the ambience is showbiz, and producer’s assistants and such fill the place with theater talk and attitude. The hamburgers are pretty good, too.
Ralph’s, on Ninth Avenue at 56th Street, is one of the last of a dying breed, an old-style Southern Italian restaurant. Get ready for lotsa pasta.
Try middle-eastern food at Ariana Afghan Kebab at Ninth Avenue and 52nd Street, or Latino cuisine at Old San Juan, Ninth Avenue at 51st Street. Hell’s Kitchen remains home to many Latinos, Puerto Rican and otherwise.
Restaurant Row and the Hudson River
Chief among these is Theatre Row, 42nd Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, followed by Restaurant Row, 46th Street between Eight and Ninth. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum occupies a disused pier at the end of 45h Street across 12th Avenue. If you have the time and inclination, Hudson River Park offers green space right on the Hudson River; one can view the remains of the cruise ship piers of romantic memory, when people went to Europe by boat, or arrived as immigrants the same way.