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Meet The Former and Present Residents of Manhattan Plaza: Steve Olsen

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Steve Olsen began working in the restaurant industry at age 16. He started in the kitchen and worked his way through every position in the business. Steve opened the West Bank Cafe when he was all of 24. A passionate wine collector, he has amassed over 250 labels and holds vinification, viniculture, and blind wine tasting certificates from the American Sommelier Association. In keeping with West Bank Cafe’s close ties to the theater and film worlds, Steve has nurtured young actors, writers, and directors—including Lewis Black, Sean Penn, and Side Man playwright Warren Leight—many of whom appeared in and staged performances at the downstairs Laurie Beechman Theater, on their way to accomplished careers.

Steve and Bruce

T2C: When did you move into Manhattan Plaza and how did you get into the building?

Steve Olsen: I moved into Manhattan Plaza in 1980. I applied for an apartment and moved in almost immediately, like within a month. 

There was no waiting list and nobody wanted to live in Hell’s Kitchen because is was too run down and dangerous. I had opened my restaurant, West Bank Cafe in 1978, so for me it was totally convenient to “live above the store”.

T2C: Were you there during the AIDS’s crisis? Tell us about that time.

Steve Olsen: When the AIDS crisis hit, it hit Manhattan Plaza hard.
The Manhattan Plaza AIDS Project was established by Rodney Kirk, the Director of Manhattan Plaza, and I served on the committee along with several community leaders, merchants and MP residents. We raised money and awareness in several ways, including producing an annual fundraiser event which featured a cabaret show at the Westside Theatre followed by a post show reception, which my restaurant, West Bank Cafe, catered every year (pro bono). 

T2C: How did the West Bank Cafe Come to be?

Steve Olsen: I opened West Bank Cafe on June 29th. 1978. I was the first commercial tenant at Manhattan Plaza. I met with Richard Hunnings and Rodney Kirk and signed a lease. I was 24 years old but had been working in the restaurant business since I was a young teenager at my uncle’s tavern, Gleason’s and other restaurants as well, so I had a few years experience in the business and thought I knew what I was doing. 

One year later, in 1979, I opened the Downstairs Theatre in the basement of WBC and started presenting shows.

T2C: What have been the biggest changes to the neighborhood and your business?

Steve Olsen: My mother and father both were born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen and moved to NJ after WW2, and my father was a longshoreman on Pier 90. I had a lot of relatives who lived on the West Side. As a kid we were in the city all the time visiting the cousins and I have a lot of memories about what the neighborhood was like in the 1960s and 1970s. It was really run down and the people were poor. It always seemed hotter in the Summer (nobody had AC) and there were no trees. The biggest change in the neighborhood in the 42 plus years that I have been operating my restaurant is that Hell’s Kitchen has gone from being an undesirable neighborhood to being a desirable one. Hell’s Kitchen was never featured in any tour guide books, except to warn tourists to stay away because it was dangerous, and there were no attractions to see. Nowadays, for the last 15-20 years or so, over 30 hotels have opened in the area and it’s still striking to me when I see tourists with suitcases walking around looking for their hotel. Also, there’s been an explosion of bars, restaurants and many other attractions that have opened up around us. 

T2C: What has living in the building allowed you to accomplish that you’re the most proud of?

Steve Olsen: Living at Manhattan Plaza has given me the ability to run a restaurant without having to commute to work everyday. Therefore, it’s a quality of life issue where I can come and go all day long. Also, I have shared history with so many friends, neighbors and customers through all the highs and lows, triumphs and disappointments of life. Also, being that our restaurant is located in the heart of the NY Theater District, I think we have the best clientele in the city; a real cross section of customers from all walks of life. 

T2C: What has been your biggest triumph?

Steve Olsen: I have had so many triumphs throughout the years both personally and professionally. I guess surviving two very serious illnesses (kidney disease and cancer) and surviving in an industry that has a 80-90%  fail rate are high on the list, but forging the friendships I have made throughout my life is the best accomplishment of all.

T2C: What would you change from your time in Manhattan Plaza?

Steve Olsen: I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. 

Steve Olsen

T2C: What is the restaurant currently doing during the coronavirus to help people get food?

Steve Olsen: West Bank Cafe is offering curbside pickup and delivery service Wednesday-Saturday from 2-7 pm. serving our Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea neighbors. We are taking orders on the phone from noon-6 pm. The menu is discounted and specials change weekly. We offer an additional 10% discount for senior citizens. There are no service fees. 

T2C: What would you like us to know that we haven’t asked you?

Steve Olsen: My proudest achievement is being the founder of the annual  “Steve Olsen Run For Rogosin 5K”, which has raised over $1 million since 2009. for the Rogosin Institute Kidney Center.

The documentary Miracle on 42nd Street, is available on Amazon and will soon be available to stream. 

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

Events

Raising Cane’s and Ice-T Make National Iced Tea Day Even Sweeter

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Don’t mess with Ice T perfection!

June 10 is National Iced Tea Day, and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than with this sweet combination.

Iconic musician and actor Ice T is mixing up an incredible batch of delicious fun with Raising Cane’s and making this National Iced Tea Day twICE as nICE!

It’s the national holiday celebrating me – and Cane’s iced tea – and it’s great to be working with Cane’s again on one of my favorite holidays,” said Ice T. “There are two versions of iced tea: one is sweet, and one is unsweet. Both are great at Cane’s, but you only want the sweet version of Ice T!”

During a recent surprise guest appearance as a Raising Cane’s Fry Cook & Cashier at the Astor Place location in New York City, unsuspecting fans and customers got a special treat when he popped up with a perfectly filled cups of iced tea. The Big Apple got some crisp love from the star and it made for a memorable moment that will forever be frying in the minds of those who got to see him action on this date.

Today only, Caniac Club members craving the perfect summer beverage can enjoy a free 22 oz. iced tea at Cane’s locations nationwide. The offer will load to Caniac Club accounts automatically and is redeemable by swiping the Caniac Club Card or scanning the QR code within the Raising Cane’s mobile app.

For more information visit raisingcanes.com.

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Events

Eli Marcus Throws One Of The Best Networking Events in The City at Fushimi Time Square

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Kiril Mihajlov owner of The Consulate, Suzanna Bowling, publisher of the Times Square Chronicles, Theatre Marketing pro Keith Hurd, Doria Lee from the Time Hotel. Jeffrey Pai from The Beekman Hotel. Eric Papanikolas from the Time Hotel.

Eli Marcus otherwise known as “The Mayor of Times Square” is the king of fabulous networking events. Last night over 300 people gathered together at Fushimi Time Square, 311 West 43 St (8th/9th Aves) from 4:30 til 7pm.

Eli Marcus and Chef Sal Scognamillo of Patsy’s Italian Restaurant

It was one of the largest networking events in the city, filled with people in the hospitality, theatre and media industry’s.

Errol Rappaport, Producer Craig Horsley, Producer Pat Addiss, Singer Quinn Lemley

Gerard McKeon publisher Black Tie International Magazine and Chuck Armstrong producer and owner of Wonderama TV Show

There was a three piece jazz band, door prizes, happy hour prices with passed hors d’oeuvres

hors d’oeuvres

May Pang, companion to John Lennon in the 70’s, helped give away an 18″ Beatles Sergeant Pepper’s luggage, courtesy of Marty Singer, from Rocksax licensed Rock band products.
May Pang is featured in the best documentary I have seen in years: The Lost Weekend: A Love Story. See it on Amazon Prime, Roku, YouTube, etc. Also, check out her one-of-a kind photos with Lennon…not available anyplace else, at www.Newyorksbest.nyc.

The luggage winner Jayson Colon, May Pang, Marty Singer and Eli Marcus

There were also tickets to the 78th annual Theatre World Awards and Mercer Labs: Museum of Art and Technology.

Eli Marcus and yours truly

If you missed this amazing event, Eli’s next event will happen Thursday June 20 in Little Italy at Baby John’s Pizzeria with The Cannoli King himself John DeLutro. Also on Friday June 28, from 4:30 til 6:30 Kiril Mihajlov will host Eli’s third Networking event at The Consulate Midtown at 44 West 56.

This is definitely the place to be, especially if you are looking to connect.

 

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Food and Drink

Château Minuty While Make You Blush on National Rosé Day

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National Rosé Day is on June 8.  Celebrate in blushing style with the joyful sips found in Château Minuty.

Minuty Prestige wines have been showcasing the terroirs of Provence for over 25 years. Subtle finesse comes with this crystal-clear cuvée with a delicate nose. This cuvée was born over 25 years ago out of Jean-Etienne and François Matton’s desire to offer a wide audience of Provence rosé lovers a wine combining aromatic expression and lightness on the palate with a thorough mastery of Provence’s terroirs.

Enjoy the tart red fruit dominate with a refreshing following of hints of Apricot. The meticulous blending of a selection of grapes from the Appellation with those from the estate make this magic happen.

The lovely earthy aftertaste is ideal for seafood, with salty oysters making a match made in heaven as well as whelks, clams and anything on a seafood platter. Fish ceviche and sushi, California rolls and grilled sh work just as well. Let’s not forget Italian cuisine with classic trattoria dishes including veal Milanese and spaghetti alle vongole or delicious Provençale specialities such as stuffed vegetables or vegetable stacks.

For more info, please visit HERE or purchase via ReserveBar.com

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Food and Drink

Heritage Grand Bakery Offers Some Of The Best Baked Goods and Food In NYC

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Heritage Grand Bakery, 8 West 40th street is across from Bryant Park and the New York Public Library. Before you even walk in the windows call to you with delectable treats.

There are two sides to Heritage Grand Bakery. First the retail side with with freshly baked breads, pastries, viennoiseries, Grab and Go breakfast items, and lunch sandwiches both hot and cold, salads as well as premium coffee and teas. If you are a fan of sourdough and have been searching for it in New York…..great news it is at Heritage Grand Bakery and it is fabulous!

Patrica and the head chef

The restaurant feels like you stepped into Tuscany. Patricia has designed this oasis like eating in the Mediterranean. The walls are made from the stone of a mountain, the wood sourced and it is truly beautiful. The Grand Bar features comfort and a place to relax.

There is an open kitchen, open mixing room, and Pizza ovens that offers customers a glimpse into our restaurant’s theatre.

There is also a dinning room for private and corporate parties that is spacious, graceful and stylish with old world charm and modern touches.

I met my friend Craig here for lunch because Craig spends a lot of time in Dubai, loves to eat and knows his food. To start with, we tried the mocktails ($12), that were so refreshing, tart and made the meal special. First up was the Pink Lady done with seedlip grove 42, blood orange, simple syrup and lemon.


Seedlip Raspberry Spritz was made with seedlip spice 94, rosemary, ginger syrup, club soda.

and the Cucumber Basil Fizz took seedlip garden 108, lemon, honey, club soda for a decadent twist on a classic.

We started with the Mediterranean Mezze Platter ($19) served with hummus, baganoush, tzatziki, olive tapenade and charred pinsa flatbread. Both Craig and I will be back simply for this dish. It was one of the best Mezze Platters I have ever had and I have eaten this a lot. For $19, it is a steal and with a drink is a perfect lunch for two. Best part the bread is freshly baked and warm.

Their vegetarian dishes sounded so fabulous, for the most part we went this route. The Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($15) could make a vegetarian out of anyone. Served in a tahini yogurt, mint, dill, lemon sauce, these bites were delectable and again great pricing.

The Charred Cauliflower ($23) is a popular dish right now, so we decided to try. Served with baby arugula, shallot, tahini piccata, this is another vegetarian dish that was out of this world. I could not believe I could actually be satisfied without meat, but I was.

We also tried the Moroccan Spiced Lamb Flatbread ($23) topped with spiced ground lamb, wheat flatbread, pickled shallots, cilentro, citrus labneh. What makes their breads and pizza’s so special, is that they are made with ancient grains milled on site and used not only in the pizzas, but pastas & breads. What makes ancient grains so great, is that they are sustainable, nutritious and healthy. You will not leave the table here bloated or feeling unwell unless you over eat.

Now for the baked goods…..since we were reviewing they brought us a selection.

Macha Eclaire made with Passion Fruit

Macarons with fresh raspberries and lychee rose creme, just heavenly and what a surprise. Would order again.

Pistachio Cruffin was so delicious and filled with Pistachio Cream. It’s perfection and a must if you visit.

The most decadent Chocolate dessert ever with crunches, creamy goodness and so satisfying

Last but not least a Lemon Marshmello Tart, that was light and the perfect blend of sweet and tart. The lemon was definitely the star.

 

The service at Heritage is outstanding. We watched as the servers were friendly, extremely attentive guessing what you needed before you did.

We love the Heritage Grand Bakery so much we are going to partner with them to bring take out picnic baskets for Bryant Park’s movie and concert nights and for the Hampton Jitney. Look for that coming soon.

The Heritage Grand Bakery is definitely a welcome gastronomical treat, that not only satisfies but makes you want to return again and again.

The Heritage Grand Bakery, 8 West 40th Street.

 

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Broadway

Ellen’s Stardust Diner Celebrates PRIDE With God’s Love We Deliver

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This morning Ellen’s Stardust Diner, 1650 Broadway at 51st Street kicked off its month-long partnership for June, with special performances by Broadway stars Corey Mach, Anastacia McCleskey, and Jelani Remy.

Proceeds from the diner’s rainbow cake, rainbow milkshake, and co-branded merchandise will go towards God’s Love We Deliver.

 

Ellen Hart, Owner of Ellen’s Stardust Diner and  Stephen Covello, Chief Philanthropy Officer, God’s Love We Deliver welcome a month filled with love, acceptance, and, above all, PRIDE, by supporting God’s Love We Deliver, a NYC-based nonprofit that plans to cook and home-deliver more than 4.3 million medically tailored meals to New Yorkers living with severe and chronic illness just this year. From June 1 to June 30, 2024, guests can order two menu items, Ellen’s rainbow cake and rainbow milkshake, as well as purchase co-branded merchandise – all while showing their “pride” and raising awareness for an important cause. With each purchase of the cake, milkshake, or t-shirt, Ellen’s Stardust Diner will donate 20% of the proceeds to God’s Love We Deliver.

Stephen Covello, Ellen Hart, Owner of Ellen’s Stardust Diner and

Jelani Remy, Actor in Broadway’s Back to the Future The Musical entertained with Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes off You”. Click here to see his performance.

Jelani Remy, Ellen Hart, Anastacia McCleskey and Corey Mach

Anastacia McCleskey, Singer/Actress in Broadway’s Suffs sang “I Didn’t Plan It” from Waitress. Click here to see her performance.

With its earliest roots as an AIDS support organization, God’s Love We Deliver has evolved to serve the broader needs of the chronically ill, including individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS. Since its founding 39 years ago, the organization proudly serves over 4 million meals each year and more than 15,000 meals each weekday, a number that will continue to grow with the engagement of volunteers and donations from supporters like Ellen’s Stardust Diner who comprise 65% of all funding. At God’s Love We Deliver, each meal is handcrafted with love, always made with quality ingredients, and delivered with personalized care when New Yorkers need it most.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner is open 365 days a year from 7 am to midnight. For more information, visit www.ellensstardustdiner.com. Follow on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.

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