A Colorful Portrait of Hell’s Kitchen
Residents of the 555TEN Midtown West apartments are steps away from some of the city’s most diverse offerings. Sunny bistros, fragrant bakeries, sleek cocktail lounges, and trendy shops are the hallmarks of Hell’s Kitchen, a place known for its laid-back vibe, intimate theaters, and exploding restaurant scene. The Hell’s Kitchen streetscape on 34th to 59th between 8th Avenue and the Hudson River is increasingly picturesque, layered with brownstones and high-rises, welcoming side streets, and bustling shops. It’s hip, eclectic, and fiercely independent, too—something that lends it a strong sense of community. All of this is to say that Hell’s Kitchen isn’t exactly the sweltering den of misery its colorful name implies—not even close.
That name has been traced to a variety of sources: a London neighborhood, a Manhattan gang, and a conversation between two police officers that pivoted on the difference between “Hell” and “Hell’s Kitchen.” At any rate, it hints at the history of an energetic and sometimes (in its youth) notorious Manhattan enclave. But even before Hell’s Kitchen was teeming with intrigue, it was a working-class community. In the mid-19th century, it was a place where Irish and German immigrants lived and worked in lumberyards, factories, docks, and slaughterhouses, and on the Hudson River Railroad. Later on, disputes between warring groups of Hell’s Kitchen immigrants became the basis for the musical West Side Story.
The history doesn’t end there. For decades, it has been a haven for actors working in and outside of the nearby Theater District, and a culture of off-Broadway plays and performances has flourished in Hell’s Kitchen. Proximity to the theaters has also made it an international cuisine scene, celebrated every year by the Ninth Avenue International Food Festival—and every day and night by hungry theatergoers and Hell’s Kitchen denizens. The street life is striking and diverse. Depending on your direction, if you gaze or walk down one of its side streets, you’ll encounter a surprising number of trees, the glistening river, or a full family of glorious Midtown skyscrapers (that appear to be watching you watch them).
Bordered by Chelsea and the exciting new Hudson Yards development on the south, the Theater District to the east, and the Lincoln Square neighborhood on the north, Hell’s Kitchen has always been distinctive and is experiencing a resurgence in the 21st century. We may never identify who first uttered the words “Hell’s Kitchen” to describe this section of the city, but one thing is certain: the people who live and work here are proud of the name. It has no negative connotations for them because this “warm” and lively place, filled with some of the best hot spots for enjoying an eternity of NYC luxury and fun, is, today, a far cry from any hint of infamy.