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Welcome to SoHell

The flea market has settled in for good, the High Line park is on its way, and while there are still a lot of desolate blocks, SoHell is becoming more than a grungy corridor for commuters to rush through. Gourmet-food bargains, avant-garde arts, a bird refuge tucked below the Javits Center, friendly bars, and abundant river views make this a neighborhood you might want to spend some time in.

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Map by Jason Lee; Photographs Courtesy of Artisanal Premium Cheese Center (Cheese); New York Magazine (Cart and Statue)  

1. International Grocery
543 Ninth Ave., nr. 40th St.; 212-279-1000
Turmeric and paprika for $4 a pound. Fresh salads and a multitude of olives. Arab orange blossom and rose waters on one shelf, Greek almond cake on another, and superlative taramosalata, hummus, and baba ghannouj, all at $5 a pound.

2. Sea Breeze Fish Market
541 Ninth Ave., at 40th St.; 212-563-7537
Fish so fresh it’s still winking, at prices about a third less than fancier gourmet markets. Organic tilapia fillets run $7.50 per pound, wild striped bass is $4.49, Mako shark $3.50, and tuna a very respectable $6 to $10.


3. West African Grocery
535 Ninth Ave., nr. 40th St.; 212-695-6215
Outside Harlem, this is Manhattan’s resource for painfully hot Scotch Bonnet peppers, cassava couscous, Gori flour from Ghana, palm-oil paste, dried senna leaves, and a particularly thick peanut butter used to make Ghanaian soup.

4. Artisanal Premium Cheese Center
500 W. 37th St., at Tenth Ave., second fl.; 877-797-1200
Terrance Brennan’s cheese sanctuary, on the second floor of an anonymous building, isn’t a walk-in store, but you can take tasting classes, or get a group together and book a tour. Peek into the caves, filled with boxes of ripening goat, sheep, and cow products, and ask for a taste of the French banon.

5. Trio French Bakery
476 Ninth Ave., nr. 37th St.; 212-695-4296
Crisp apple turnovers, Irish soda bread, dried-fruit-and-nut biscotti, and dense semolina rolls are all fresh and satisfying, but the pumpernickel-raisin loaf, which has the sweetness of brioche and the plump-fruit density of strudel, is what people line up for.

6. Café Andalucia Tapas Bar
533 Ninth Ave., nr. 40th St.; 212-736-9411
The bartender says first-time visitors wonder why they aren’t regulars. A 300,000-song digital jukebox, a sizable menu of under-$10 meals (try the patatas bravas with house-made garlic sauce), and art by owner-chef Guillermo Vidal on the walls usually convert them.


7. Sahara Grill
558 Seventh Ave., nr. 40th St.; 212-391-6555
A broader, better selection than the usual gyro-grab hut. The baklava is flaky, the sandwiches generous, and there are delicious Uludag sodas (try the strawberry) from Istanbul hidden amid the Mountain Dew.

8. Burgers & Cupcakes
458 Ninth Ave., nr. 36th St.; 212-643-1200
Caterer Mitchell London’s retail outpost makes mean scrambled eggs with jalapeño that fortify Saturday flea-market shoppers; the burgers and cupcakes hold their own, too.

9. Hudson Yards Café
450 Tenth Ave., at 35th St.; 212-239-4606
Jimmy Reardon, who pioneered West Chelsea with the bygone bar Chelsea Commons, has resurfaced here with the same generous pours, deep jukebox (Cesaria Evora, Fountains of Wayne B-sides), and beloved blackened-steak tidbits from the old place.

10. Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill
408 Eighth Ave., nr. 30th St.; 212-244-4049
The jerk-chicken platter with a side of plantains plus free wi-fi make this a warm refuge from the Garden’s chaotic schlockiness.

11. Midtown Comics
200 W. 40th St., nr. Seventh Ave; 212-302-8192
You’ll see cops stocking up on manga at the long queue at the cash register, Beatles and Kiss cartoons on DVD, and back issues of everything from Green Lantern to Frank Miller and Alan Moore. Upstairs, with the talking Scarface action figure and porn racks, is a bit more disturbing.

12. The Drama Book Shop
250 W. 40th St., nr. Eighth Ave.; 212-944-0595
There’s a comfy lounge upstairs where would-bes hang out between callbacks. Browse the regional cost-of- living guides and books on dialect practice. A sign directed at the aspiring but strapped states, if you can’t afford the plays, please read them here.


13. 37 ARTS
450 W. 37th St., nr. Tenth Ave.; 212-560-8912
This arts compound houses the three theaters that are part of 37 ARTS and the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Its silvery façade echoes the ridges on the steam towers by the Hudson.


14. Chelsea Garden Center
499 Tenth Ave., at 38th St.; 212-727-7100
An eruption of greenery on a particularly bleak block that looks more like an English garden in full bloom than a city plant vendor. The spectacular selection of upscale outdoor furniture (lots of teak) upstairs is a good place to lounge and dream of having a worthy terrace.

15. Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association Bird Park
39th St. bet. Ninth and Tenth Aves.; 212-501-2704
The neighborhood’s loveliest surprise: a flower garden and mourning-dove refuge inside the tiny triangle that forms the Javits Center parking on-ramp and the Lincoln Tunnel access road.


16. Waterway New York Overlook
38th St. and Twelfth Ave.
Recline on sculpted aquamarine chaises longues and gaze at the Palisades. Perfect for tanning while watching sightseeing helicopters buzz upward from the heliport eight blocks south, and for watching the sunset over Weehawken, New Jersey.


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