Finding Heaven in Hell’s Kitchen on our Hell’s Kitchen Tour
There’s no place quite like New York City, and right within its concrete heart is Hell’s Kitchen – a neighborhood steeped in rich history and culinary excellence. But what truly makes Hell’s Kitchen stand out? Its ability to surprise you with a medley of delectable desserts, paired with stories that are equally rich and enticing. And our Hell’s Kitchen Dessert Tour promises just that and more!
A Slice of Hell’s Kitchen History
To truly appreciate this neighborhood, we must first take a step back in time. So, let’s delve into the intriguing past of Hell’s Kitchen. This neighborhood occupies the stretch between 34th and 57th streets, bounded by 8th Avenue and the Hudson River. In the mid-19th century, the area began its transformation with the influx of Irish immigrants, many fleeing the Great Famine. They were drawn to the abundant job opportunities at the nearby slaughterhouses, gas plants, railroad yards, and factories. However, the neighborhood soon became notorious for its squalor and lawlessness. The streets were dominated by fierce gangs, most notably the Hudson Dusters and the Gopher Gang, leading to frequent and violent clashes.
Prostitution, gambling dens, and speakeasies added to the area’s infamous reputation during the Prohibition era. Such was the neighborhood’s infamy that even the police approached with caution, with many precincts reportedly accepting bribes to turn a blind eye to its ongoing criminal activities.
The moniker “Hell’s Kitchen” has sparked numerous tales regarding its origin. While some attribute it to Davy Crockett’s colorful descriptions of its gritty inhabitants, others recount tales of local policemen, overwhelmed by the area’s chaos, likening its intensity to that of a kitchen in hell. And yet, despite its tumultuous past, the area underwent significant transformations in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Urban redevelopment, the rise of the arts; especially with the nearby Theatre District, and increasing property values have reshaped its identity. Today, while the name Hell’s Kitchen evokes its fiery past, it stands as a testament to the unwavering spirit and resilience of a community that remains a vital part of New York City’s rich culture.
The Sweet Side of Hell’s Kitchen
Fast forward to the present, and Hell’s Kitchen is now a community celebrated for its rich culinary fusions and culture that offers New Yorkers a variety of foods across the globe. And nothing represents this fusion better than the desserts you’ll encounter on this tour. On our Hell’s Kitchen Dessert Tour, the area’s storied past intertwines with a sweet present.
To start off, the tour begins with a deep dive into the captivating history of Hell’s Kitchen. As you stroll through the charming streets, you’ll uncover the neighborhood’s past, where gritty stories and culinary wonders converge. It’s the perfect introduction to what makes Hell’s Kitchen so special.
Then we will proceed on the 9th Avenue of this neighborhood, which is regarded as the Culinary Mecca of Hell’s Kitchen. Witness the evolution of New York City’s diverse food scene. Learn about its historical significance while tantalizing your taste buds with delicious treats. But the best part of this tour is what comes next.
The main highlight of the Hell’s Kitchen tour is the food stops or as we like to call it the “Sweet Stops”. This is where your taste buds will truly rejoice! From the timeless pies, whimsical cookie flavors, to the Greek delight of baklava. Your taste buds will thank you as you indulge in a curated selection of the neighborhood’s finest sweet treats!
- Little Pie Company: Experience New York with a slice of pie that’s as iconic as the skyline. Born out of the theater district of Manhattan, the Little Pie Company was founded in 1985 by Arnold Wilkerson, a former actor and student of London’s esteemed Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, this establishment is a delightful blend of Wilkerson’s theatrical past and cherished memories of his grandmother’s home-baked pies. Taking center stage in the “theater of baking”, bakers craft pies behind large picture windows, offering onlookers a heartwarming slice of Americana. From the hand-pinched crusts to the locally sourced ingredients, every pie speaks to the dedication to quality and tradition. With accolades from food critics and loyal patrons alike, the Little Pie Company has etched its name not only in the history of New York’s culinary scene but also in the hearts of those who taste its timeless creations. Whether it’s the Mississippi Mud pie, pecan, or the classic apple, every bite evokes a sense of nostalgia and pure joy.
- Poseidons: Travel to Greece with baklava that’s rich not only in flavor but also in their beloved tradition. Even as many Greek establishments migrated towards Astoria, Poseidon stood its ground on Hell’s Kitchen, firmly anchoring its legacy since its inception in 1923. Founded nearly a century ago, this tiny gem offers an array of authentic Greek delicacies, from the savory spanikopita with its hint of dill to the tantalizing fruit strudels and the luminously golden baklava, stands as a testament to time-honored Greek tradition. Notably, the bakery’s phyllo rolls, crafted with dedication in a historic century-old confection oven, the third-generation owner, Lili Fable, once earned to have a coveted guest appearance alongside Martha Stewart. During the spring when Lili and her son Paul go above and beyond to prepare kouloura, sweet breadcakes adorned with red-dyed eggs, for the Greek Orthodox Easter. While they ship hundreds of these cakes nationwide, New Yorkers have the privilege of savoring the freshest ones, provided they place their orders in advance. Poseidon Greek Bakery is not just a bakery; it’s a voyage into Greece’s rich culinary heritage, all while standing steadfast in the heart of New York.
- Schmakarys: Schmakary’s, an innovative cookie shop located in Theatre District, was created by Nebraska-born Zachary “Schmackary” Schmahl. Originally with aspirations of gracing the Broadway stage, Schmahl relocated to New York at 24. Yet, instead of the limelight, he found passion in baking. Baking cookies in his modest studio apartment, Schmahl’s confections quickly caught the attention and adoration of the Broadway community. In 2012, his culinary dreams crystallized with the inauguration of his first Schmakary’s store. This shop is redefining indulgence with innovative cookie flavors. Aptly dubbed “Generation Y’s Answer to the Old American Bake Shop,” Schmakary’s ventures beyond the cookie-cutter mold, adding his own twists to conventional cookie recipes. With their award-winning cookies taking center stage at various shows and venues throughout the city, deliveries spanning nationwide, and features in prominent television shows and media outlets, Schmakary’s is one of the gems that New York City has.
- Amy’s Bread: Savor the magic of chocolate and sourdough coming harmoniously together. Amy’s Bread, founded in 1992 by Amy Scherber, specializes in creating just such a magical pairing. Amy’s Bread has become renowned for its handcrafted sourdough breads and pastries, including a chocolate sourdough loaf that seamlessly blends the flavors of chocolate and tangy sourdough. Scherber started the bakery with a passion for baking wholesome, nutritious breads from scratch using traditional methods. Over 30 years later, Amy’s Bread operates bakeries and cafes across New York City, winning numerous awards for Scherber’s culinary expertise and the bakery’s commitment to its community and employees; leading Amy to be recognized in 2005, as she was honored as Distinguished Alumni of the Year by her alma mater Wayzata High School. And in 2006, the US Chamber of Commerce presented Scherber with an award as one of 60 Blue Ribbon Businesses for her leadership at Amy’s Bread. She was also a nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s Pastry Chef of the Year award that same year. In 2003, Scherber received the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Golden Bowl award for Best Baker or Pastry Chef of the Year. Most recently, Amy’s Bread was celebrated as one of the top 10 bread bakeries in America by Dessert Professional Magazine, a fitting honor that the bakery celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2022, a testament to Scherber’s vision and the quality products that have made Amy’s Bread a New York institution.
- Huascar & Co: Munch your way to victory through a cupcake from the champion of the Cupcake Wars. Huascar & Co, founded in 2013 by Chef Huascar Marte. Chef Huascar’s culinary journey began alongside his mother. From his island origins, where he cooked for prominent hotels, he pursued his passion further in New York, refining his skills in pastry arts at the French Culinary Institute. His prowess quickly earned recognition; in 2012, he showcased his skills on Food Network’s Sweet Genius, and a year later, he not only clinched victory on Cupcake Wars (Season 9 Episode 1) – a notable first for a New York baker – but also founded Huascar & Co. The bakery, located in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan, has garnered acclaim for its delectable range of confections, from cupcakes to custom cakes, all crafted with utmost dedication to quality ingredients and flavor. Huascar & Co continues to delight patrons daily with small batches made using only the finest ingredients. Under Chef Huascar’s guidance, the bakery has become a champion of flavor, living up to its founder’s legacy of sweet success.
Why should you join us on this tour?
Well, we have presented all the sweet reasons above but the one reason that is very close to our heart is our commitment to Social Impact. Beyond the delectable desserts, this tour is also about understanding, appreciating and giving back to the community. To truly experience Hell’s Kitchen “like a local,” we believe in fostering deep connections and relationships with the community. We align with community-based organizations that echo our principles, ensuring our explorations benefit the very places we treasure.
Amy’s Bread, one of our delightful stops, is also one of our social impact partners. They donate excess bread to local food pantries and support hunger-related charities with pride. Their generous contributions to locals resonate with our belief in authentic engagement.
That’s why with every booking, you’re not just indulging in a dessert; you’re also supporting the betterment of the local organizations that make a positive difference. It’s this blend of culinary exploration and authentic community engagement that sets our tour apart.
So, if you’re eager to experience NYC’s dessert paradise, immerse yourself in a neighborhood where every street corner whispers tales of culture, and relish a variety of mouthwatering desserts, our Hell’s Kitchen Dessert Tour awaits. In a span of two enriching hours, traverse through six tasting spots with our professional guide, indulge in vegetarian-friendly options, and grasp the true essence of Hell’s Kitchen.
Don’t take our word for it! Here are some great reviews:
Then to Poseidon Greek Bakery for Hand Rolled Baklava – so good with the pastry hand rolled each and every day. The honey and walnuts inside were amazing!
Next Schmackarys where they have homemade cookies with a shot of milk. So many to choose from. I had the Oatmeal Scotchie! Oh boy, best oatmeal Scotchie I have ever had. I had to save 3/4 of it to bring home. I bought two other cookies to bring home – The Great White Way and Funfetti – both really good too, but that Scotchie!
Onto Amy’s Fresh Bread to have a Chocoate Sour Dough Twist – Another amazing treat. By this time I was stuffed.
Last, but not least was Huascar & Company Bakeshop for a cupcake. Again too many cupcakes to choose from. I got the Chocolate with Chocolate and then bought two to bring home – Carrot Cake and Red Velvet. I saved all these for home since I was too stuffed. They all were fantastic too!
Thank you for the tour guide and for these five amazing places for desserts! Will definitely find these again when I go back to NYC.