Theatre Details
West Bank Cafe

407 W 42nd St

New York, NY 10036

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Theater Description:
Opened in 1978, West Bank Cafe was a pioneer of fine dining on far-west 42nd Street at a time when Hell’s Kitchen still lived up to its name. (The restaurant’s early clients even included the notorious Irish gang, the Westies.

In 1980, The New York Times awarded West Bank two stars, which increased its visibility and attracted a wider range of diners. In her review, Mimi Sheraton described the restaurant as “a spirited, attractive [place] with…a number of exceptional dishes memorable for both originality and excellence.” The original Continental menu included dishes such as crudités and sole amandine—a window into the culinary times. 

During this period, West Bank’s owner, Steve Olsen, opened the downstairs Laurie Beechman Theatre, which staged plays and hosted events nightly. A young Lewis Black was named playwright-in-residence; Howard Stern aired his third-annual live birthday broadcast from the theater; and the restaurant’s regulars included Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Bruce Willis, among others. 

Meanwhile, the redevelopment of 42nd Street spread further west, bringing new businesses and residents to the area. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, the restaurant was a leader in the growing Theater District and Hell’s Kitchen dining scenes. As new theaters opened in the area, the restaurant’s connection to stage and screen remained strong as well. The Laurie Beechman Theatre continued to regularly stage the work of emerging writers, actors, and singers (many of whom later became stars) as well as established acts: The Who even gave four live performances at the restaurant while their musical Tommy was running on Broadway. 

In May, 2005, West Bank named Joe Marcus its Executive Chef—only the fourth person to hold the position in the restaurant’s 27-year history. Mr. Olsen and Bill Telepan, a three-star chef who had been consulting at West Bank for the first part of the year, hired Mr. Marcus to bring a new level of creativity and seasonality to the contemporary American fare. Mr. Marcus has already proven himself to do just that: he has completely overhauled the menu, adding dishes that reflect his elegant-but-approachable style (winning the coveted James Beard Award), and developed an inventive late-night bar menu. 

After 35 years, the restaurant’s surrounding neighborhood and America’s culinary tastes have changed dramatically (to be sure, the crudités and sole amandine are no longer on the menu). West Bank Cafe has also continued to evolve, all the while maintaining a commitment to serving high-quality food in a unpretentious setting where both theater-goers and theatre stars feel at home.