Best food: Hell's Kitchen

Look beyond the glut of tourist-trap eateries and you'll find that Midtown West is rife with restaurants to rave about.

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Soft tacos at Tehuitzingo

Soft tacos at Tehuitzingo

Ask a dozen New Yorkers to name the best ’hood for food and you’ll get a dozen answers—15 if you want dessert suggestions, too. When we canvased the city’s tastemakers for opinions, we got a raft of mouthwatering suggestions, each with a credible case, and most with a soupçon of local bias.

But there had to be a winner, and the accolade went to the oft-overlooked, comestibly valid Hell’s Kitchen. Zach Brooks, editor of the food blog Serious Eats: New York, has lived in HK for several years. “It’s the perfect storm,” he says. “The rent is not as expensive as the West Village, but you have a growing neighborhood combined with extra business from the Times Square tourists and the more-savvy theatergoer who won’t settle for crappy Italian restaurants with prix-fixe menus.” Though there are plenty of those eateries as well.

Daisy May's
Daisy May's

In terms of destination restaurants, HK boasts such distinctive draws as Casellula (401 W 52nd St between Ninth and Tenth Aves, 212-247-8137), which offers a creative take on wine and cheese (plus snacks like salted caramel popcorn to accompany your fromage), smokin’ rib joint Daisy May’s (623 Eleventh Ave at 46th St, 212-977-1500) and modern Mexican food spot Hell’s Kitchen (679 Ninth Ave between 46th and 47th Sts, 212-977-1588), where the rack of lamb with blueberry mole is delicious enough to carry the whole neighborhood to culinary victory. Brooks also recommends the tacos from the back window at Tehuitzingo bodega (695 Tenth Ave between 47th and 48th Sts, 212-397-5956). “I moved from L.A., and to have that around the corner was a godsend,” he says. “It was like the tacos I had off trucks in L.A.”

What’s more, Hell’s Kitchen has what is possibly the city’s greatest concentration of Thai restaurants, from unassuming but spicy Wondee Siam (792 Ninth Ave between 52nd and 53rd Sts, 212-459-9057) to the Thai-French fusion joint Breeze (661 Ninth Ave between 45th and 46th Sts, 212-262-7777).

For a heavenly baked-goods crawl, swing by the headquarters of Ruby et Violette cookies (457 W 50th St at Tenth Ave, 718-728-6250), the Sullivan St Bakery (533 47th St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves, 212-265-5580) and H&H Bagels (639 W 46th St between Eleventh and Twelfth Aves, 212-765-7200), the home base of the bagel empire. “Two minutes out of the oven and still warm,” Brooks says of our city’s famous breakfast round. “If I ever moved out of New York, I would miss that the most.”

The Sullivan St Bakery goes through 25,000 pounds of flour every week.


RUNNERS-UP

Convivio, Tudor City
Convivio, Tudor City

Flushing
“Following rezoning and lots of investment several years back, and the continued influx of immigrants, Flushing has flourished into a hub of exciting Asian culinary fare.”—Spencer Chan, owner of Sweet n Tart

Greenwich Village
“The Carmine-Bedford neighborhood in the south Village is like an incubator for chefs. The Grey Dog is still a center of activity for the neighborhood; there’s also ’ino and some great Asian places like Do Hwa and Noodle Bar. And the whole thing is capped off with dessert places. It’s like a mall—only good.”—Rob Kaufelt, owner of Murray’s Cheese

Tudor City
“I recently had the meal of a lifetime at the new Convivio (pictured, left). In walking distance is Sparks Steak House. It is an NYC favorite and besides prime steaks, it is the best source of my most favorite meat dish in the world, Colorado lamb rack chops.”—Pat LaFrieda, LaFrieda Meats

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