Jim Lahey has been living in Hell's Kitchen since 1999, long before his no-knead baking technique became a part of every home baker's repertoire or the opening of his popular pizza restaurant Co. took off. He actually lives above Sullivan Street Bakery, which is located in the former space of Greenberg Desserts, and has been working to get other chefs to open businesses in the area. On October 19th you can find Lahey teaching pizza-making at the New York Wine & Food Festival.
Lahey describes Hell's Kitchen as the "last vestige of unpretentious, gritty New York." And while there are countless restaurants, he considers any place "even semi-edible in the neighborhood is a godsend." Here are Lahey's picks below.
Breakfast: I've been to some of the trendy spots, but I have to say Market Diner is my favorite. It's a good diner but nothing extraordinary. They have the eggs, omelets, pancakes and all. I keep going back. They make me feel very warm. I get lots of love when I go with my children.
Coffee: Until Blue Bottle opens at Gotham West, there's nothing now. Kahve is a viable coffee joint but there's no exquisite coffee there.
Burger: I've had decent burgers at 5 Napkin. The rosemary aioli is good. But I make the best burger in the world. I would challenge any chef.
Mediterranean: Taboon is very dated in terms of service. It's somewhere between formal and informal. It's very well executed, though, and I've never gotten sick there. I usually order the meze and lamb. All the food is really tasty.
Mexican: Initially, the food at Anejo was amazing. But the dishes have been different all the time now. I go there but only for the tequila and guacamole.
Ramen: Totto Ramen is popular, but I'm not going to wait an hour for a bowl of broth. I go to Tabata. It's gritty but nice. It's not pretentious and it's got charm. They do a really nice job with the ramen. It's just as flavorful and good as any of the other hot places.
Thai: Pure Thai Shophouse. No one writes about it but it's really, really good food. It's more like a stir fry joint than all the other Thai places in the neighborhood. They're not as heavy on the curry or noodles. I love the sauté of beef with turmeric and chili—it's the bomb! It's spicy like the way it's supposed to be. The restaurant is always packed and it's never written about.
Barbecue: I haven't been back to Daisy May's since Adam [Perry Lang] left. They had very good barbecue. It was very reliable.
Wine bar: Ardesia. It's a whole different climate than Casellula. I like the wine selection there. It's best when you grab your own table and chair outside. The small plates are good, too.
Shopping: The Westerly Market is very, very nice. It's like a mini Whole Foods. They don't have crazy lines. The quality of everything is really good.
Pizza: I go to my bakery. I don't know of any slice joints that I like around here. I'll save the day with my own slice of pizza.