We start on 43rd Street (actually between 9th and 10th Avenues), where the Hell’s Kitchen Farmers Market is open weekends between May and December. At the stalls, you’ll find some absolutely spectacular produce, and – my favorite – a gorgeous variety of olives (please please please try the lemon-rind stuffed green olives). Head east towards 9th, and there’s Mario Batali’s Esca on your right, where you can grab a light lunch of grilled branzino paired with a delicious sparkling wine and orange liqueur cocktail (I forget what it’s called, but it’s unbelievable).
Now turn onto 9th and head north; you’ll pass Coup de Coeur on your left and the Thrift & New Jewelry & Antiques shop on your right. A little further up is Ajisai, a new spot that has – at last! – brought excellent Japanese food to Hell’s Kitchen, and the Westway Diner, the site of my very first date with Kendrick. Cross 44th Street, and there’s Rudy’s Bar & Grill, which serves wonderfully cheap pitchers and free (!) hot dogs (mind the crunchy bits), and the Poseidon Bakery, where you can pick up fresh Bruno Ravioli products (try the pumpkin ravioli).
On the corner of 45th and 9th is Zanzibar, where I briefly bartended after I moved back to NYC in 2007; the cocktails are fairly bizarre (and seriously annoying to make, I’ll have you know) but very delicious, and the music on Saturday nights is often complete cheeseball fun. Just a few steps more and you’ll hit Delphinium Home, possibly the best place in the city to stop by for a last-minute gift (my recent purchases have included obscure cookbooks, weird drain-stops, and cups adorned with 3-D images of kittens), and Mercury Bar, always an excellent place for a sunny-afternoon beer.
Maybe skip over the four (yes, FOUR…I don’t know why, either) Yum Yum Thais that are located on 9th between 45th and 46th, because on 46th and 9th, you’ll find two excellent lunch/brunch destinations: The Galaxy Diner, where I often drowned my teenage sorrows in chocolate milkshakes, and Riposo, which offers up a fabulous Benedict Siciliano: hollandaise-soaked poached eggs served atop prosciutto, melted mozzarella, and garlic-rubbed bread for just $7.95 (!). If you go on a Sunday, you’ll probably see my parents sitting at the counter eating just that, so be sure to say hi.
(P.S. If you’re willing to venture a bit further south, you’ll find some totally passable pizza for just 99 cents a slice on 41st Street & 9th Ave, and just past the Port Authority is the 39th Street Flea Market, which often has some quite remarkable jewelry and furnishing finds.)