Make a day out of 'Hell's Kitchen' on Broadway

Visit the neighborhood where singer/songwriter Alicia Keys grew up and drew inspiration for the musical featuring her award-winning hits and new songs.

Erin Cavoto
Erin Cavoto

There’s no better way to make the most of your New York City trip than seeing a Broadway show, especially if it’s one that celebrates the concrete jungle… where dreams are made of. Alicia Keys’s new musical Hell's Kitchen does just that and more, as the musician takes inspiration from her own upbringing in the Manhattan neighborhood that gives the show its name.

This coming-of-age musical follows Ali, a teenager living in Keys’s own former residence — Manhattan Plaza, a famous housing complex for artists — who dreams of carving out her own path in life. Along the way, she learns hard lessons, which ultimately guide her to her true passion: music.

In Hell's Kitchen, "we see the world as a 17-year-old Ali [...] does: alive with irresistible art," New York Theatre Guide's critic wrote of the musical's Off-Broadway premiere in 2023. To immerse yourself in Ali’s world, take advantage of the many eateries, bars, and experiences in this vibrant neighborhood before seeing the show.

We've put together a list of activities that celebrate both Hell's Kitchen and Keys herself. The neighborhoood spans 59th-41st Streets to the north and south, and Eighth-12th Avenues to the east and west — conveniently next to the Theatre District. Explore the neighborhood, then walk a few blocks to see Hell’s Kitchen at the Shubert Theatre, and enjoy hits like “Fallin’” and “Empire State of Mind” as you've never heard them before.

Get Hell's Kitchen tickets now.

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Bar Nine Dueling Piano Bar

Keys’s passion for the piano takes center stage in this musical, so it would be fitting to visit Bar Nine, a dueling piano bar in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. See the venue's signature spectacle, the Original Dueling Pianos show, which features two pianists who take your requests and play classics for the crowd to sing along to.

Bar Nine also offers themed nights, karaoke nights, and a late-night show on the weekends that starts at midnight, in case you want to keep the party going after seeing Hell's Kitchen.

Schmackary’s

A Broadway mainstay since 2012, Schmackary’s is known for its giant cookies that come in over 75 rotating and seasonal flavors. The founder, Zachary “Schmackary” Schmahl, had dreams of becoming a Broadway star and sold cookies on the side — until his confections became a sensation when he opened his store in Hell’s Kitchen.

Now, a visit to Schmackary’s is a tradition for many theatregoers before or after (or before and after) seeing a show. The store often features limited-edition cookies themed to different shows, so keep an eye out for a Hell's Kitchen flavor!

Pier 84

A central part of Hell’s Kitchen is Ali’s desire to leave the confines of the apartment she’s grown up in, where her only solace is looking out over the Hudson River. Ali even sings about it in “The River,” an original song Keys debuted in the musical.

To see what Ali sees every day, visit Pier 84. One of the largest piers in Manhattan, it stretches out over 1,000 feet into the Hudson. There is a lot to do at Pier 84, especially on nice days: Take a kayaking or paddleboard lesson with Manhattan Kayak Co, rent a bike to ride up and down the path on the Hudson River Park, visit the Pier 84 community garden, or simply stretch out and enjoy the sun. Grab refreshments at Hook’d On the Hudson, which offers waterfront dining, a raw bar, and plenty of libations.

Food tour of Hell’s Kitchen

It's called Hell's Kitchen for a reason. The neighborhood is known for its many different cuisines, including Japanese, Indian, Thai, Italian, and more. Go on a food crawl of the neighborhood by grabbing a drink and appetizer at a few different spots, or pick one restaurant to enjoy a full, multi-course meal.

Hell's Kitchen book writer Kristoffer Diaz told New York Theatre Guide he recommends Five Napkin Burger. For something sweet, cast member Kecia Lewis recommends Amy’s Bread, a beloved bakery that uses fresh, local ingredients. Other great spots for on-the-go bites include All'Antico Vinaio, an Italian sandwich shop straight from Venice, or Los Tacos No. 1, a taqueria for budget-friendly eats.

Check out our guide to Hell’s Kitchen-area restaurants for pre-theatre dining for more recommendations, or explore the area on your own. Walking down Ninth Avenue, which is lined with restaurants, is a good place to start.

Giants exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum

If you want to explore a different area while maximizing your Hell’s Kitchen day, take a trip to the Brooklyn Museum near Prospect Heights to see Giants, a special exhibition of works from Black artists curated by Keys and her husband Swizz Beatz.

The exhibit features paintings, sculptures, photography, and other mediums of art from “giants” in the art world such as Gordon Parks, Kehinde Wiley, and Esther Mahlangu. Many of the works are of colossal size too, for visitors to really feel the magnitude of both the art and the Black artists behind them.

These works are from Keys and Swizz’s personal collection, so you’ll feel more connected to Keys by the time you see the musical.

Hell’s Kitchen on Broadway

Of course, no Hell’s Kitchen day would be complete without seeing the musical itself. After soaking up the sights, eats, and culture of Hell’s Kitchen to get an understanding of Keys and her upbringing, immerse yourself in the story of Ali. Go along with her as she navigates her first love, difficult relationships at home, and ultimately, discovering what brings her true happiness.

Get Hell's Kitchen tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

Discover more spring preview content on New York Theatre Guide and learn about all the Broadway shows this season.

Photo credit: Hell's Kitchen off Broadway. (Photo by Joan Marcus)

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