Ready to explore one of NYC’s most vibrant neighborhoods? Here’s the inside scoop on West Chelsea from those who know it best: the people who’ve lived there for years. — by Rima Suqi
It’s hard to imagine that as recently as 20 years ago, West Chelsea was considered a sketchy neighborhood. How times have changed. Currently, there are about 20 buildings in various stages of construction, with some heavy-hitter architects attached, including Bjarke Ingels, Norman Foster, Peter Marino, and Zaha Hadid (this is in addition to existing buildings by Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Deborah Berke, and Annabelle Selldorf). Most are straddling or adjacent to the High Line, which now draws an estimated 20 million visitors a year. Chelsea Market, the food hall that was built in a former Nabisco factory, debuted in 1997; approximately 6 million people walk/eat their way through its various culinary offerings annually.
All this development means West Chelsea (which for our purposes will be defined as 14th to 30th Streets west of 8th Avenue) is a neighborhood in flux, straddling the old and the new. We spoke with some notable residents to find out how they navigate their ever-changing community.
RICHARD LAMBERTSON, Co-Design Director for Leather Goods, Shinola
I live next to the Highline, which I love to walk to work on in the early morning.
My all-time favorite restaurants are all on 10th Avenue. There’s The Red Cat. I’ve been going for 20 years, and it’s still great! My other favorite is Bottino. It has been around forever but I still enjoy it, and both restaurants make me feel like I’m at home. If I’m up for a short walk, I love Cookshop. The food is always good, and they have a terrific selection of wines. Their wine expert Richard always has great recommendations of new wines to try.
MICHAEL JENKINS, Partner, Sikkema Jenkins & Co.
While Chelsea Market still has good shops, it has become hard to handle the crowds. So I was happy to see the new, quieter downstairs area called “Local,” devoted to food shops, including a new shop, Saxelby Cheesemongers. Everything I’ve tried there has been delicious. And upstairs in the crowds, the Lobster Place has the best fresh seafood selection in the neighborhood.
VANESSA VON BISMARK, Partner, BPCM
My life is pretty much in Chelsea: My office is on 25th Street, my kids’ school is on 10th Avenue, my gym is Equinox on 10th Avenue, and I found an amazing yoga studio on 20th called 216Yoga. I do my shopping at Chelsea Market, where I can get the best meat at Dickson’s Farmstand, the best fish at the Lobster Place, and the best vegetables at Manhattan Fruit Market. On the weekends, I take my kids to Chelsea Piers, or for a walk on the High Line, or on a bike ride all the way down the west side through Hudson River Park. The restaurants in the area have also improved, and you can find any food you want any day, whether Naoki for Japanese, or Papa Kebab for Turkish, or the new fish restaurant Seamore’s.
BENJAMIN NORIEGA ORTIZ, Architect
We live on 23rd and Ninth, and for brunch we like the Empire Diner, a neighborhood classic, which recently reopened under chef John DeLucie. After that, one of our favorite places to visit is Garber Hardware. It’s like a hardware modern art museum. Everything is styled flawlessly. We always buy something or learn about new tools and objects beautiful enough to display on our coffee table!
I have my beard trimmed by Rudy at Chelsea Gardens Barber Shop. He trims all the best beards in the neighborhood, for models, actors, and so on. I would never allow anyone else to touch my beard, especially because one doesn’t want to upset Rudy. You have to make an appointment because he’s always booked. One day I forgot my appointment and I was almost dropped from his client list. He’s a true artist!
CARLA WEISBERG, Surface Designer
On warmer weekends, I usually start my day with a trip to the Farmer’s Market (23rd St. between 8th Ave. and 9th Ave.), where I head straight to the American Pride stand—they have great fish. If I want to treat myself to breakfast afterward, I go to Sullivan Street Bakery for eggs. I try to go to the galleries if I haven’t been able to go during the week. There are so many good ones, including Sikkema Jenkins & Co., David Zwirner, and Cheim & Read. Sometimes I get a coffee at Underline, since it’s right near the galleries. El Quinto Pino and Tia Pol are both Spanish tapas restaurants and both great places to get a glass of wine post gallery-hopping. If I need to buy a present, I might go into 192 Books or My Little Sunshine, which has adorable, unusual kids clothing and toys. I cook a lot, but if we decide to go out, we might go to Jun-Men Ramen or Sushi Seki.
AMIE DRAKE, Interior Designer
Nest Interiors is a treasure chest of decorative furnishings, well edited by the owners, Lana and Henry. Every lamp, vase, dish, pillow, box, and stool is chic, chic, chic. It would be easy to accessorize your new Chelsea apartment in one stop here; just bring the right designer (me)!
Berry/Campbell gallery focuses on prominent late and mid-career artists in the modernist tradition. It’s especially strong in bringing into focus painters like the late Perle Fine, Syd Solomon, and Dan Christensen, whose vibrant work is so current yet somewhat lost to time.
I don’t even cook breakfast at home, so thank goodness for Trestle on Tenth. Their crispy, grated potato cake rösti and house-made sausage are perfectly Swiss, like the charming owner, Ralf.
For the best croissants in New York—truly buttery and flaky—go to La Bergamote, and that’s just one standout in this great pâtisserie. The almond and chocolate variations are equally lip-smacking.
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