Ninth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton is known for its famous Ninth Avenuve International Food Festival every May. This is its 40th year, and it will be held next weekend on May 18 & 19. There are certainly plenty of options from 42nd Street to 57th Street and every ethnic cuisine under the sun: Afghani, Indian, Thai, Italian, Mexican, South African, Indonesian, Japanese, Argentinian, Greek, Turkish, Balkan, you name it…it can be found on 9th Avenue.
However, I have walked this strip with friends and family, night upon night, up and down, down and up, past the crowds of tourists and locals, and rarely do I read a menu that appeals to me. I would say the area is hit or miss (and some of the restaurants–especially closer to 42nd Street–remind me of chains), although I haven’t eaten at many of the restaurants just because I’m not that interested. I will say there is a plethora of Thai restaurants on the avenue. However, I’m not a big fan of Thai food, so I’m usually not raring to try a Thai restaurant. A lot of the other restaurants I’ve tried were mediocre. For example, Southern Hospitality–I’ve lived in the South. I can get better in North Carolina or Tennessee. But to review it, the food was mediocre. I mean, if you can’t get grits right…need I say more? There are many others that are popular like Eatery, Vynl, El Centro that I think are just OK.
While I don’t like most of the restaurants on 9th Avenue, there are some that I love. My all-time faves are Empanada Mama, Pure Thai Cookhouse, Xai Xai, Braai, La Sihouette, and Totto Ramen. I’ll start from 42nd Street South and go North.
For excellent Argentinian food, Chimichurri Grill.
The steaks and pastas are top notch. The rice pudding isn’t too shabby either.
A few blocks up is the neighborhood classic Poseidon Bakery for Greek baked goods.
Try the strudel; it has a Greek twist with phyllo dough.
Sweet Gifts has candy and chocolates, and it also has gift items, novelties and videos for sale.
Balkanika is a favorite of mine on the 9th Avenue strip.
The atmosphere is cozy and friendly. The food is very good. Portions are large and tasty. A glass of wine from the area, some dips and bread…what a better way to end the week?
If you’re trying to eat clean or stick to a healthy diet, Fuel is the way to go. They have great juices and entrees. When you’re eating clean, you want the food to be basic, and this is, but with flavor and well cooked.
Gazala Place has very good Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food.
The labne and large, thin sheets of pita bread are delicious. The hummus plate is a good option to try different things.
Uncle Nick’s is very good Greek.
I love the octopus here.
Pure Thai Cookhouse is always busy. You’re lucky if you can snag one of its tiny seats.
Pure Thai has a stand at the food festival, and I got a delicious bun there and Thai tea ice cream. I always order the same thing from them: the roasted baby back rib appetizer and the ratchaburi.
Of course, always with a Thai tea in this cute mug!
Kahve is definitely the best coffee in the neighborhood or maybe in Manhattan!
And yes, they are not lying when they say they have the best oatmeal raisin cookie in town.
Across the street is Empanada Mama. It’s hard to snag seats here, but the empanadas are cheap and to die for.
If you don’t mind turning the corner on 9th Avenue onto 51st Street, you’ll find Xai Xai South African wine bar and down in the middle of the block, its sister restaurant, Braai. Appetizers at Xai Xai include a delicious eggplant with goat cheese.
The oxtail at Braai is wonderful.
Turn down 52nd and you’ll see the ginormous line for the world-renown Totto Ramen.
Off 53rd Street, you’ll get a wonderful high-end meal at La Silhouette, maybe the only four-star restaurant in the neighborhood. Every time I’ve dined here, the friendly owner, Tito, has welcomed me. The food is excellent here, and the desserts are highly recommended.
I want to try the surf bar, Reunion, on 44th Street. The drink and food menu looks good, and it sounds like a fun place. I also want to try Terakawa Ramen near 57th. If anyone is interested in going with, let me know.
What to Eat: empanadas from Empanada Mama, Greek pastries from Poseidon, dips from Balkanika, Thai cuisine from Pure Thai, coffee from Kahve, Druze cuisine from Gazala’s, ramen from Totto Ramen, dessert from La Silhouette.
Where to Shop: Amish Market gourmet grocer, Housing Works thrift store, Ricky’s cosmetics, Delphinium Home for kitschy housewares (on West 47th).