I always wondered how Hell’s Kitchen in New York got it’s name. When I came to New York and found the area was famous for it’s restaurant scene and cuisines from all over the world I presumed it was this was the cause. Wikipedia told me many different versions of the story however, of which my favourite was the story of ‘Dutch Fred’. Apparently some time in the 1880’s ‘Dutch Fred the cop’ and his young commander stood witnessing a riot on the streets between two rival gangs in the neighborhood. The young commander remarked ‘this place is hell on earth’ to which Dutch Fred responded ‘Hell is a temperate climate, this is Hell’s kitchen’.
Like many areas in New York ‘the Kitchen’ has a seedy past. In later years though, the rough, crime ridden streets made way for theaters, restaurants and penthouse apartments. It’s proximity to the theater district meant that the area has been home to several New York celebrities including James Dean, Madonna and Jerry Seinfeld.
Five blocks from the famous ‘Restaurant Row’ Briciola is a great place to eat. Last time I went the place was already filling up at 5.30, a testament to its popularity. Briciola is owned by a French couple, and serves Italian food which is cooked by very small Mexican chefs (in the tiniest kitchen you have ever seen). The menu consists of small plates, antipasti, appetizers, and entrees all of which is very reasonably priced. The wine list is extensive and the staff (all of whom seem to be French) are all very knowledgeable about the selection.
Other places to take a look at in the area are the Ziegfeld cinema which is one of New York’s oldest cinemas and still screens movies. It sits meters form the original Zeigfeld Theater built in the early twentieth century designed by famous Manhattan architect Irving Gershon then part of the firm Emery, Roth & Sons. Emery Roth who built some of New York’s iconic hotels and apartment buildings on Park and Fifth Avenue. This digression was thanks to Wikipedia. Anyway…
There is only one enormous cinema screen at the Ziegfeld which is very grand and old worldy. The seats are red velvet and the screen is surrounded in gold leaf. The displays in the entrance are also worth a look. All of the old stars of the Ziegfeld are featured and the cases include ballet shoes (so small!), costumes and original signed black and white photos. Terminal 5, a huge gig venue for Central Manhattan, is also in the area and attracts some New York’s biggest acts.
I had a few New Yorker friends who lived in Hell’s Kitchen (one recommended Briciola) which surprised me as it is so close to Midtown and all those horrible tourists. I can see why they chose it though as it has a charm about it that I hadn’t expected.