802 Ninth Ave., Hell's Kitchen
After chef Julian Medina scored a hit in Astoria, Queens, with his Mexican cantina Tacuba four years ago, he opened this outpost in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, with a bigger menu and more seating, two years later. The concept is classic Mexican with a few creative twists thrown in: chili rellenos filled with quinoa, mushrooms, and kale, chili-dusted fluke tacos with a kohlrabi-habanero slaw, and carne asada with a side of bone marrow fried rice. The atmosphere is generally boisterous, thanks in part to a big cocktail menu (we’re partial to the frozen tamarind margaritas), as well as the mezcal and tequila selection (there are hundreds—really, hundreds—of bottles on offer).
44 & X
622 10th Ave., Hell's Kitchen
This is a great Theater District option, as evidenced by the friendly wait staff (many of whom are cued up for their big break on Broadway) and great cocktails (hilariously named after Tony Award winners—we like the Patti Lupomegranate and the Orange Julius Andrews). The dinner menu focuses on American cuisine and changes seasonally to accommodate locally sourced vegetables, but the brunch is also really great.
824 9th Ave., Hell's Kitchen
Between bright, floral laminate booths, a wall full of shiny Mexican milagros, and a permanent crowd, the interior of El Centro is dizzying in the best possible way. There are frozen and fruit margaritas (although you'd do well to stick with the house version which is somehow only $8), overflowing bowls of guacamole, and a menu full of traditional Mexican dishes like enchiladas and fajitas. It's perfect for a quick, casual night out with friends.
402 W. 43rd St., Hell's Kitchen
Esca (the name means "bait" in Italian) is Mario Batali and Dave Pasternack's take on classic Italian seafood; the menu is full of inventive and unusual crudos and amazing shrimp and shellfish pasta dishes. Smack in the middle of the theatre district, it’s an excellent choice before a show; there are plenty of light fish entrees that won't send you to sleep before intermission.
668 10th Ave., Hell's Kitchen
Exposed wooden beams on the ceilings and plentiful bar-height tables and chairs make this a cozy, yet lively hideout on frigid nights (both the Tribeca and Midtown locations are decorated in the same warm, rustic style). With plenty of small plates like guacamole, ceviche, and tacos, the menu is all about traditional Mexican cuisine. In keeping with the theme, the beverage program offers a long list of tequilas, which can always be ordered straight.
705 9th Ave., Hell's Kitchen
Otto’s is part of the wonderful trend of casual taquerias sprouting up in NYC: Homemade corn tortillas, salsas, and marinades make it a step above your normal take-away joint (there are a few high-top seats for eating in). They also cater. There are also locations in the East Village and West Village.
321 W. 51st St., Hell's Kitchen
The NYC Ippudo locations are the only branches in the United States. The noodles are hand-pulled on-site and cooked perfectly al dente. They're known for the super-flavorful tomkotso version, but we love the Miso Ramen and pork-free Wasabi Shoyu. They have some more contemporary restaurant-style dishes here, but the traditional ramen bowls are really where it's at. Prices are low, and it's first come, first sit, so be prepared to wait. The other location is in the East Village.
Gotham West Market
600 11th Ave., Hell's Kitchen
This new development in the formerly sleepy and overlooked West 40s gathers some of the city’s top food purveyors like Blue Bottle Coffee, Jeni’s Ice Cream, and Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, under one roof, with a stand and bar-seating at each. It’s worth trekking to this desolate part of town purely for Chef Seamus Mullen’s tapas concept, El Colmado.
600 11th Ave, Hell's Kitchen
As its name would suggest, when it comes to ramen, Ivan and company know what they are doing (Ivan is actually a Jewish kid from Long Island who is obsessed with Japanese cooking). The Red-Hot Cold Mazemen is delicious, while the cold spicy sesame noodles topped with prawns are a great alternative on hotter days. If you go for dinner, they’re most famous for Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazeman and Four Cheese Mazeman, which they only serve at night—the Tokyo Shio Ramen, loaded with egg, pork chashu and roast tomato is a bit lighter. If you’re not into noodles, the pork meatballs, garnished with bonito flakes, chinese broccoli prepared in a sweet soy and garlic sauce, and the Tofu Coney Island, which is essentially an Asian spin on chili cheese fries are all insanely good. Heavy, but delicious. The original is on the Lower East Side.
Blue Bottle Coffee (Closed)
600 11th Ave., Hell's Kitchen
Blue Bottle is a top-notch coffee roaster and café with a sustainable ethos, in multiple locations throughout NYC. Our picks: The siphon filter and the New Orleans iced coffee. There are also locations in Bryant Park and Rockefeller Center.
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