Gay bars in Hell's Kitchen: where to drink in the city's gayest neighborhood
Gay bars in Hell's Kitchen offer something for every taste, from grungy neighborhood dives to swank lounges.
Tue Mar 5 2013
Photo illustration: Nate Sprecher
Hell's Kitchen has been the gayest of the city's gayborhoods for a decade, and the scene keeps growing and evolving. In addition to gay-bar pioneers including Ninth Avenue Saloon and Posh, stylish boy bars such as Industry, Therapy and Vlada draw locals and tourists alike to the West Side ’hood.
Even the old gay-bar guard is moving in: In 2012, superpopular Chelsea sports bar Boxers opened an outpost here, and the owners of downtown institution Pieces launched Hardware. Quirky newcomers like Fairytail Lounge and Flaming Saddles offer an oddball (in a good way) alternative to the fashionable, buttoned-up drinkeries in the neighborhood.
Whether you're entertaining out-of-town guests, going bar-hopping with pals, or just want to enjoy a cheap happy hour, Hell's Kitchen has got you covered.
Recommended: Hell's Kitchen neighborhood guide
Gay bars in Hell's Kitchen
- Critics choice
This Hell's Kitchen watering hole packs a lot of glittery, pseudo-Victorian personality into a small space. Patrons can sip cocktails off the backs of sexy centaur mannequins, or park at the bar while bopping their heads to tunes from various DJs during weekly theme nights.
- 500 W 48th St, (between Tenth and Eleventh Aves)
This sultry, cozy bar—with a small stage, DJ booth, pool table and couches for lounging—is the newest venture from Bob Pontarelli and Stephen Heighton, the men behind Barracuda and Elmo Restaurant.
- 355 W 52nd St, (between Eighth and Ninth Aves)
This friendly midtown drinkery comes to you courtesy of the guys behind the Village institution Pieces. Nightly drag shows, theme parties and DJs keep things lively.
- 697 Tenth Ave , (between 47th and 48th Sts)
- Critics choice
City folk can party honky-tonk-style at this country-western gay bar. The 74-seat spot is outfitted to look like a Wild West bordello, complete with red velvet drapes, antler sconces and rococo wallpaper. Throw back a shot and wrangle yourself a mate, or chow down on hearty grub like Texas red chili or Angus beef burgers. Don't miss the entertainment—performances by bartenders dancing in cowboy boots add to the raucous vibe.
- 793 Ninth Ave, (at 53rd St), 10019
Formerly known as XL, this midtown megaclub contained in the OUT NYC hotel is brought your way by NYC nightlife vets Susan Buckley and Stuart Black. Expect big-room boy-dominated parties soundtracked by an mix of local and international DJs.
- 512 W 42nd St, (between Tenth and Eleventh Aves), 10036
Vlada von Shats (who runs Russian Samovar) has stocked this stylish gay lounge with Soviet-style spirits. In addition to the 15 kinds of vodka infusions on the menu, the space features padded leather banquettes; a long, sleek bar; works by local artists; and on select evenings, drag shows.
- 331 W 51st St, (between Eighth and Ninth Aves)
The 30-year-old Hell’s Kitchen fixture (once known as Cleo’s) is practically a clubhouse for the area’s gay population. Though beloved in-house drag-queen-cum-barkeep Ginger has left her post, other entertainment comes in the form of karaoke (Wed 10pm–1am). During happy-hour (Mon–Fri 4–10pm; Sat, Sun noon–8pm), well drinks cost $4.50, so seats can be hard to come by.
- 656 Ninth Ave, (at 46th St)
Drinks like the Freudian Sip (Ketel One Citron, fresh ginger and lemonade), served in a nice big tumbler, are sure to leave you feeling blissfully worry-free at this cocktailcentric space. But it’s the impressive venue that draws young neurotics: two levels of slate floors connected by a dramatic staircase, crowned with a massive skylight. Mellow pop, house and techno play at the perfect level, allowing for both conversation and grooving.
- 348 W 52nd St, (between Eighth and Ninth Aves)
Gay and Latino is the dominant culture, the energy is infectious, the dance floor is hot, the drinks are weak and the lines to the men’s room are curiously long. You say you’re not into go-go boys, papi, but you’ll change your mind after a few moments in front of these platforms. On Freedom Fridays, everyone gets in free. Saturdays bring dance and live shows (2am), and such quality acts as La India and Dana International. You can’t not have fun.
- 301 W 39th St, (at Eighth Ave)
This Restaurant Row staple is the place to belly up to the bar with locals and theater queens for happy hour or nightly themed soirees.
- 369 W 46th St, (between Eighth and Ninth Aves)
This down-to-earth bar with a cozy back-room lounge draws an attitude-free crowd, especially post-theater and when DJs spin. A seat at the bar provides a view of the frozen-margarita machine and the mixed bag of kitsch that makes up the decor. DJs, drag shows and/or cheap drink specials can be found most nights.
- 405 W 51st St, (between Ninth and Tenth Aves)
Advertised as a sushi restaurant (with a bamboo garden to boot), this Hell’s Kitchen eatery feels more like a bar with an extended raw-fish menu: There’s loungy seating—patrons nestle on low banquettes and nibble off knee-high tables—a DJ and a thriving drinking scene. The fun (if slightly immature) spirit prevails on the menu. Don’t be surprised to see ingredients like buffalo chicken in the specialty rolls, though the naughtily delicious spicy sushi sandwich—a triangle of seasoned rice layered with spicy tuna, avocado, eel and American cheese—is preferable.
- 344 W 52nd St, (between Eighth and Ninth Aves)
The booze flows at this Hell's Kitchen martini lounge serving variations on classics, like the vitamin-infused B-12 Mojito; combined with a weekly drag show and daily happy-hour specials, you're sure to feel your best in no time.
- 642 Tenth Ave, (between 45th and 46th Sts)
The interior decor of this bachelorette destination evokes a tawdry Chinatown pleasure dome. Dishes include a steamed whole flounder cooked with ginger and lemongrass and tamarind-glazed won ton dumplings.
- 240 W 52nd St, (between Broadway and Eighth Ave), 10019
The popular gay sports bar stakes a claim on Hell's Kitchen with a three-level spin-off, featuring a 1,500-square-foot roof deck. Head downstairs to catch deejayed techno sets on the weekends, and go for one of the 13 beers on tap (Guinness, Budweiser). Watch the latest game—playing on the 20 TVs—from a brown-leather banquette, and look for the Michelangelo-inspired mural.
- 742 Ninth Ave , (at 50th St), 10019
Hell’s Kitchen’s most popular gay bar is a regular pretheater stop, and it offers $5 martinis during Friday’s happy hour (5 to 9pm). The walls are lined with fashion ads featuring gorgeous male models who make the patrons seem a little longer in the tooth than they actually are.
- 401 W 47th St, (at Ninth Ave)
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