West Side Story: Scott Bromley’s Neighborhood

I live in a loft on West 36th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, at the south end of a neighborhood  that’s variously known as Hell’s Kitchen, Clinton, or Midtown West. The name Hell’s Kitchen dates to the 1800s, when the neighborhood, which traditionally stretched from from the lower 30s to 59th Street, west of Eighth Avenue, was a hotbed of gang violence. The moniker Clinton was introduced in 1959 in an attempt to distance the area from its gritty reputation, which was still deserved as late as the 1980s. These days the only type of gang you’ll see in the streets is a colorful array of friendly kooks in all sorts of attire riding bikes and skateboards, even walking on stilts, doing their thing. The proximity to the Theater District means that the area is home to lots of actors and show people, and because of its central location, Clinton is a community of walkers: Midtown, Broadway, Times Square, the High Line, Macy’s, Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, Chelsea, and the West Village are all close enough to be reached easily on foot.  I particularly like the shopping on Ninth Avenue, which adjoins the Garment District, so there’s a lot of great energy around. Here are some Hell’s Kitchen highlights.

9th Avenue at 36th Street, New York, by Christopher Woodcock
Scott Bromley lives on West 36th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues—at the south end of a neighborhood known variously as Hell’s Kitchen, Clinton, or Midtown West—shot here by the fine photographer Christopher Woodcock.

West 37th & 8th Ave., New York, 2003, photographed by Christopher Woodcock

Another great Christopher Woodcock image, this one of West 37th Street at Eighth Avenue, where the 28-block Garment District, with its signature brick and terra-cotta factory-type buildings, overlaps with Hell’s Kitchen South.

Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC), 450 West 37th Street,photographed by Francis Dzikowski/Esto

Opened in 2005, 450 West 37th Street is a six-story, 46,000-square-foot, concrete-and-glass building designed by the late architect John Averitt to be a versatile, column-free performing-arts hub. It houses the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) and the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, home to the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Photograph by Francis Dzikowski/Esto.

Jerome Robbins Theater at the Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) at 450 West 37th Street, Hell's Kitchen, photographed by Alexander Severin/Razummedian

The Baryshnikov Center’s main performing space is the 238-seat Jerome Robbins Theater. The renowned Wooster Group is its resident theater company, creating and performing work in the venue three months out of the year. Other programming in the theater emphasizes multi-disciplinary work, emerging talent, and international artists who might not otherwise have the opportunity to perform in the United States. Photographed by Alexander Severin/Razummedian. 

Main New York Post Office, Eighth Avenue and 33rd Street

One of Scott’s favorite neighborhood buildings is the 1913 main New York post office at Eighth Avenue and 33rd Street (ZIP 10001). Designed by McKim, Mead and White to complement the classical design of the old Pennsylvania Station, now demolished, it has a stunning collonade of 53-foot-high Corinthian columns. There are plans to transform the building into a new rail terminal to replace the warren-like Penn Station under Madison Square Garden across the avenue.

The Ninth Avenue Food Festival, Hell's Kitchen, New York

The 39th Annual Ninth Avenue International Food Festival will take place between 42nd and 57th Streets on May 19th and 20th. A large sampling of local merchants will serve an array of ethnic foods representative of the different cultures in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

Tabata Noodle Restaurant, 540 Ninth Avenue

Tabata Noodle Restaurant, a cheerful storefront at 540 Ninth Avenue, is a Scott favorite. Since the owner and most of the staff are Burmese, the ramen at Tabata is made using traditional Japanese procedures combined with Chinese, Indian, and Thai flavors—the primary influences of Burmese cuisine. Delicious!

Staghorn Steakhouse, 315 West 36th Street

If Scott is looking for heartier neighborhood fare, he heads to the Staghorn Steakhouse at 315 West 36th Street, which is right on his block.  Along with the expected steakhouse classics, it serves fantastically good onion rings.