What to Expect:
This West Side neighborhood is dotted with shiny new condos and happening restaurants but still retains some of the grit that recalls its rough and tumble past.
Hell's Kitchen got its name from a local gang that ran its tenement-lined streets in the late 1800s. Speakeasies dotted the area throughout Prohibition. And there were brothels in every back alley during Times Square's sleazy and prostitution-filled era.
But most of that has changed now as the neighborhood has drawn younger and more affluent residents. Condo developments, rezoning of industrial areas and an explosion of restaurants along Ninth Avenue have smoothed Hell's Kitchen's rough edges.
Bringing a touch of culture is the new Alvin Ailey dance center, a sleek, modern structure at 55th and Ninth Avenue.
The neighborhood has always drawn the late-night theater crowd and as Chelsea development creeps northward, there is now an active social scene for the gay community.
Where you'll find it:
The neighborhood runs from the Hudson River to just west of Eighth Avenue. The southern boundary changes depending on who you talk to but starts at either 34th or 40th Street with 59th Street at the north.
To Rent or Buy:
To rent a decent-sized studio, you'll have to shell out between $1,600 and $2,600. One-bedroom apartments range from slightly less than $2,000 to $3,000. And a two-bedroom place begins at $2,300, according to listings on Dwellingquest.com. To buy a studio-sized condo, you'll pay between $380,000 and $560,000.
Clinton or Hell's Kitchen?
Real estate companies seem to use neither name for this storied neighborhood, and glaze over the area's history with the title Midtown West. But some brokers will use Clinton. Clinton is the area's name denoting its home to mayor and governor of New York, Dewitt Clinton. The Clinton family owned land in the neighborhood and Mayor Clinton once lived on 46th Street. But the edgier name for the area, Hell's Kitchen, is possibly the more popular name. With certain areas retaining the gritty atmosphere, the Hell's Kitchen moniker still sticks to the western parts of 34th to 59th Streets.
Places to See:
-Bar 9 building, 807 9th Ave. Once a carriage house when the area was farmland, even this nightspot's shape harkens back to the past. On Ninth Avenue, the facade is slim. From there, the building fans out into a "V" shape. Locals believe the shape saved the original owners' taxes when street-facing windows were counted to determine what was due to the government. With less front windows, the owner saved money but didn't lose in space--the back end spans about three times the width of the front. Another unusual feature for a drinking hole is a plaque honoring engineers who fought during World War I on the bar's northern wall.
-Home of Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker. Ross lived in this nondescript townhouse at 412 W. 47th St. when he founded the magazine in 1925. The only key to the cement and brick building's history is a small plaque on the facade, which notes the famous 1923 housewarming attended by Harpo Marx and George Gershwin.
-Balsley Park. Named after its architect, Thomas Balsley, this urban plaza at 57th Street and Ninth Avenue is an interesting mix of mod and art deco. A coffee can-shaped caf sits at the park's northern end. Trees and waves of lime-green corrugated metal fan the park's length. This public space is dotted with tables and chairs, a small play area for children and is Wi-Fi-equipped.
-Joan Weill Center for Dance building, 405 W. 55th Street. Home to the famed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, this brand new glass and metal building is the largest dance facility in the country. As one example of the neighborhood's theater and dance culture--with Theater Row just 13 blocks away--the center holds performances and the Ailey School for Dance. As one of the newest neighbors in Hell's Kitchen, the center is quite inviting and offers untrained wannabes dance lessons or dance-infused fitness classes.
Places to Eat:
Head down to Ninth Avenue and you'll be hard pressed to find a restaurant that won't suit your palate. Each block is crammed with restaurants from greasy joints to upscale eateries. Here are some with locals' seal of approval.