How Hell’s Kitchen Got Its Name

How did Hell’s Kitchen get its name? Read this article and let us take you back in time to the origin of Hell’s Kitchen’s gritty past and how this neighborhood is now one of NYC’s most visited neighborhoods.

Whether you have visited Hell’s Kitchen or not. When you first heard the name Hell’s Kitchen, you must have stopped for a while and asked, “Where did this name come from?”

To satisfy your curiosity we took our time to carry out detailed research and we made a surprising discovery about the name Hell’s Kitchen trust us, you would want to hear this. So stay with us and let’s take you on this lovely ride of what we know about how Hell’s Kitchen got its name.

Hell’s Kitchen’s location and development

Hell’s Kitchen is a popular neighborhood on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan, New York City, USA. Hell’s Kitchen is bordered by landmarks such as the 315-mile Hudson River to the west, the Eighth Avenue to the east, the 59th Street to the north, and the 34th Street (some reports to be the 41st Street) to the south.

Today, Hell’s Kitchen is a great choice and popular destination for tourists and locals. Hundreds of people find their way into the neighborhood every day to visit places like the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum, The Vessel, Jacob K. Javits Conference Center, commercial restaurants, and the Hudson Yards development which opened in 2019— a significant development that transformed the western border of the neighborhood.

hells kitchen origin
SKY view of the manhattan borough, specifically the Hell’s kitchen area.

Origin and theories. Facts and Fiction

The name Hell’s Kitchen can be traced back to the late 1800s when the neighborhood was a tenement district and was overcrowded due to the numerous immigrant groups who were trying to eke out a living. The struggle for survival made violence the way of life in the neighborhood, the block of 39th Street located between Ninth and Tenth Avenues was the most notorious area in the neighborhood and “Legend has it that one rookie cop commented to his more seasoned partner. This place is hell itself,” NYC Parks states.

Another possible origin of the name of this midtown Manhattan neighborhood— Hell’s Kitchen is that the name may have been derived from a gang operating in the area called the Hell’s Kitchen Gang. The Hell’s Kitchen Gang operated in the 19th century and their operations revolved around stealing from railroad yards, extortion, breaking, as well as “general mayhem”, a Federal Writers Project 1939 book published. Aside from this, an 1881 newspaper article referred to a tenement block between 39th and 40th Streets and 9th and 10th Avenues as “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Other theories behind the name— Hell’s Kitchen

Let us break down other theories behind the origin of the name Hell’s Kitchen. One theory is that the locals often felt intense heat in this area, this was before the invention of air conditioning and in the summer the neighborhood felt like an oven. Some believe that this unfavorable weather condition was the source of the neighborhood’s hellish nickname.

Another theory assumes that the name Hell’s Kitchen was derived from a local restaurant known as Hell’s Kitchen, the restaurant had a rowdy bar which was managed by a man called Dutch Fred. The bar was home to different types of people, most especially notorious gangs and this could have contributed to the neighborhood’s hellish name. A final theory derived from New York Architecture is that the name Hell’s Kitchen might have been borrowed from a slum district on the south side of London called Hell’s Kitchen.

The name Hell’s Kitchen is just a fragment of the old days the neighborhood experienced and it’s also a reminder of the illustrious past of the now lively neighborhood. Nowadays, Hell’s Kitchen has evolved into a vibrant neighborhood filled with fun and lively activities, the old gross reputation is no more. Instead, Hell’s Kitchen is now a tourist delight, filled with luxury stores, eye-catching buildings, Broadway shows, and delicious dining options. 

Hell’s Kitchen and Culture

hudson yards nyc
SKY view of the manhattan borough, specifically the Hell’s kitchen area.

Hell’s Kitchen has always been a crossroad of cultural diversity and development in New York City, right from when European immigrants settled down in the tenements of this neighborhood there has always been a fusion of cultures.

A variety of events like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Latin American Cultural Festival, and the Pride Festival are famous annual celebrations celebrated by the neighborhood to celebrate the community’s diversity.

Hell’s Kitchen in Pop Culture

Depictions in literature, film, and TV

Hell’s Kitchen has also been prominently featured and portrayed in diverse works of fiction and film. The working-class environment and spirited atmosphere of Hell’s Kitchen has made the neighborhood an ideal setting for tales in literature, film, and television. We have pointed out instances to catch a glimpse of how Hell’s Kitchen was depicted in pop culture.

  1. Marvel comic superheroes such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist all call Hell’s Kitchen home. Aside from the comics, the Netflix TV shows (2015, 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively) about Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist Marvel characters were largely filmed in the neighborhood.
  2. See It Now a 1950s American newsmagazine documentary series created by Edward R. Murrow’s and Fred W. Friendly profiled the constraints faced by youths growing up in Hell’s Kitchen in a weekly news show that aired from 1951 to 1958. 
  3. The franchise’s TV show, Law & Order and its spinoffs often depict Hell’s Kitchen in some of its 488 aired episodes.
  4. Finally several novels notably, 1978’s memoir The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll, and 1963’s novel City of Night by John Rechy are set in Hell’s Kitchen.

Which Places Should I Visit in Hell Kitchen

hells kitchen sky
SKY view of the manhattan borough, specifically the Hell’s kitchen area.

There is fun everywhere you go in Hell’s Kitchen. From refined restaurants, peaceful parks, theaters, and museums there’s no shortage of attractions for locals and visitors. For a start, we highly recommend that you dine at Sesamo restaurant.

Sesamo Restaurant 

Sesamo restaurant is a go-to choice for the best Italian dishes and best cocktails in Hell’s Kitchen and NYC at large. This cozy restaurant located at 764 10th Avenue, New York, NY 10015 serves mouth watering Italian-Asian cuisine which was inspired by the restaurant’s regard for Italian cuisine preparations and gratitude for their Asian heritage and home cooking. Every dish served is made from farm-fresh ingredients and high-quality imported ingredients. The restaurant is ideal for any of your desired dining experiences. 

Whenever you visit NYC, stop at 10th Avenue at Sesamo to try out their outstanding wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, their unique cocktails or any of their pleasant meals off their menu. You can also make a reservation right now to get started.  


There you have it. Hell’s Kitchen earned its ominous name not from any particular tragedy or disaster but from a culmination of factors that made it a rough-and-tumble place back in the day. While the reasons behind the name remain a bit of a mystery, we can be grateful its reputation has evolved as much as the neighborhood itself.