While the theater community (and Midtown at large) may mourn the Starlite Deli’s closure, there’s a morsel of good news for Broadway foodies — longstanding family-owned health food cafe Green Symphony has reopened.
The W43rd Street stalwart was originally opened in 2003 by Jay Shim, and had remained closed since 2020 and Shim’s death. His son, Kyle, who had helped at the deli over the years, is now taking up the mantle of keeping his father’s Midtown legacy alive.
Kyle’s memories of Green Symphony stretch back to 8th grade, when “the New York Times building was right next door” and people would refer to the deli as “a hole in the wall back in the day,” he told W42ST. Tucked in between the historic Times Square Hotel building (now a Common Ground residence) and a psychic, the unassuming deli “caught traction through the course of the years,” said Kyle. Although his father shied away from traditional marketing, he knew how to turn a dramatic moment into an opportunity – as this New York Times article about the 2003 Blackout demonstrates. Green Symphony became a Theater District household name through straight word of mouth, Kyle added, “One customer at a time, he built relationships. We ended up with a bit of a cult-like following, where we’d see customers every day. It’s been a pretty good run.”
Kyle recalled regulars lining up for the twice-weekly fresh salmon, a health food novelty in the early 2000s. He also remembered streams of industry insiders who quickly came to consider Green Symphony their mandatory between-show stop. “We’ve had a lot of actors, producers and stage crew from the theaters that we knew by name,” said Kyle. “We've had a few celebrities come by too — I remember a while back that Daniel Craig used to come and order food from us,” he added. “I tried to treat them like regulars. I guess I got pretty immune to being starstruck.”
Health-conscious performers made a beeline to Green Symphony, one of the first wellness-focused delis in the area. “We always try to innovate and experiment on some funky stuff. I remember my dad used to serve shots of Oregano oil to actors who wanted to cleanse their sinuses,” he laughed. “I can't say it cures anything but they found it helpful!” He’d also get to see their work over the years: “I've seen lots of shows. I remember during Spider-Man, I used to get comp tickets from the customers — they would come in at the last minute and say, ‘Hey, I got a couple tickets — you want to go see the show?’ And then I would see some of the customers onstage and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, I know that guy!’”
Some things have changed since their reopening — for example, the self-serve buffet is now staffed, “Chipotle-style”, said Kyle, but the popular salmon is back, along with newly rotating items. He added. “My dad used to say, ‘people have one tongue — we can't be serving the same stuff every day.’ So we try to switch it up here and there.”
Kyle is also happy to see his neighborhood regulars: “I feel like the area is coming back stronger than ever,” and he's happy to be back in the midst of the action. “It's such a diverse area, where you meet all sorts of people and everyone's friendly and we're all just trying to be positive. And it's just so good to see theater business back and bustling.”
One key element is still missing, however, and reopening has been bittersweet, for Kyle. “It’s very welcoming to see a lot of old faces and people coming saying ‘Oh my gosh, you’re back!’ But, you know, it's not the same without my dad,” he said, “He had that energy. I had some customers say ‘If you're half the man he was, you'll be fine.’”
“I shadowed my dad for all these years,” said Kyle, “I feel like I took for granted certain life lessons that he would teach me.” But as he prepares to steward Green Symphony into its next era, Kyle is ready to try. “It's not going to be easy, but I'm positive we can do it. I want to build relationships with the neighborhood one customer at a time and provide the best service.”
* This story by Sarah Beling was originally published on W42ST.nyc.
Original Post from 2015 by Betsy
Though not large in size, Green Symphony is a health food store with a comprehensive assortment of bars, granolas, trendy munchies and tasty drinks. When I visited in the summer of 2015, there were at least nine different kinds of seaweed related snacks, each enticing. Dairy-free smoothies, juices, and baked goods are available in addition to appetizing prepared dishes.
When I mentioned to a friend that I was up to 33rd Street, she reacted immediately, "You know that this is the street that Wolfgang's is on, don't you? " I loved the description that she and her husband shared with me. "It is an old world man-cave that has incredible charm and certainly appeals to the serious eater. " Situated in the former historic Vanderbilt Hotel with magnificently tiled low vaulted ceilings, my husband and I agree that this is a splendid restaurant to dine. Wolfgang's, located in the sleek New York Times building on West 41st Street, is equally pleasant, but offers an entirely different ambiance. During the daytime, the sunlight streams in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing the steaks to glisten even more as they are being brought to the tables. The businessmen in their suits still dominate during the lunch hour; however, theatergoers and tourists fill the restaurant in the evening. Wolfgang Zwiener spent some forty years digesting the world of steak by working in the iconic restaurant, Peter Luger's. Think of it this way, Wolfgang received a veritable master's degree in meats in Brooklyn, and now has earned his doctorate in his own restaurant, where he has written a top-notch thesis. When others might have chosen to slow down a bit or even to retire, he began opening his own restaurants. Over the years, I have been to the four in Manhattan, with the 33rd Street flagship location being the one where we have chosen to celebrate many special occasions. As noted, it is a favorite of friends of ours, and when I asked them to speak to me further about Wolfgang's, the immediate response was, "Personally, of all the steak houses in New York, this is the one to go to. " They went on to describe the menu as not only having excellent steaks, but they also always look forward to ordering seafood, and then brace themselves as the kitchen presents them with a seafood platter appetizer that is "utterly outrageous. " There are jumbo shrimp (my number one oxymoron) and lobster with huge pieces to devour, and thrown in for good measure, some oysters and clams. "Even if you leave the steak out of the equation, it makes for an incredible meal. " But, who can leave the steak out? According to my husband, a man who is passionate about his meat, Wolfgang gets it right every time whether he decides on a filet or a porterhouse. And I, of course, am all about the side dishes and salads, which Wolfgang continues to deliver.
New to 38th Street in 2014, and without much competition surrounding it on the side street, District appears to be off and running. With flat screens in the booths, a mile long list of beers, and an American menu that includes appetizers of lobster sliders, buffalo quail wings and truffled cheese croquettes, people in the area seem to be ecstatic that this tap house has arrived on 38th.
Despite his Irish background, having grown up in Dublin and owning a few bars and restaurants there, Nick's bars and lounges in Manhattan are all about America. I am certain that his training abroad did him well, as he has been quite successful in New York for over twenty years. He began with a club in Tribeca and then moved uptown where he now runs four pubs. Nick admits that Stitch is showing its age as it has been around for quite some time, but he continues to try to" keep it fresh. " And Nick went on to say, "we are a user friendly venue. " We found it to be a warm welcoming place to come by for a drink and some solid American food - the hamburgers and wings are the specialty. We shared the Lingerie (the cocktails are each cleverly named for something represented in the fashion district... thus the name Stitch, the main event. ) Filled with vanilla vodka, amaretto, coco lopez, honey, pineapple juice and a touch of cranberry, our drink went down smoothly and was an interesting twist on a pina colada.
As the elevator doors open, a gust of vivacious conversation rushes to welcome every guest to the Haven atop the Sanctuary Hotel. This rooftop caters to three different spaces that gently correspond to the desired experience at hand. On the lower level, there are two bars. The first stands below geometrically alluring lights made to resemble stars. Dinner chosen from the Haven’s “French-Inspired” menu is served on this side of the roof where the mood is serene. On the other side, past the statue of a seahorse and the young trees, the volume rises and the crowd clings readily to this, the second bar. While some prefer to wind down with dinner, others are just trying to let loose. The Haven supports both pursuits. Upstairs, the uniform faded red lounge cushions fashion a more secluded setting that grants the wish for a private discussion or for the simple enjoyment of the mid-city view from a higher position. As is somewhat suggested by the name, “Haven, ” this rooftop is plainly reminiscent of a getaway, more specifically a beach house. The Haven happened to be where we stopped by the day the US was playing Belgium in the 2014 World Cup. It was a memorable moment standing beside dozens of New Yorkers as our national anthem was being played. Glass enclosed in the colder months, and serving a French-American menu both during the lunch and dinner hours, this was another great rooftop find.
“If you’re going to the theater, you go to Tony’s, ” said Dreni Kyqykaliu, the restaurant’s general manager. Those en route to a Broadway show are a good portion of their clientele, nearby office workers make up the lunch rush, and tourists pop in during breaks between sightseeing. “The blessing of being in Times Square is having all these groups come in. ”Anyone who has visited Tony’s will be familiar with their signature, massive portions of food that are meant to be shared family-style. This adherence to simple but hearty cooking is a trademark of the people that started Tony’s: the Wetansons. (They founded the now-dissolved 1950s burger chain, Wetson’s, which later merged with iconic hot dog vendor, Nathan’s Famous. ) Four generations of Wetansons have run this network of casual dining establishments that also includes Dallas BBQ. Unlike other large companies, however, Greg Wetanson, his father, Herb, and his son, Stuart, remain closely involved in the day-to-day operations and run things as a family business. Thanks to this amiable atmosphere, “Most of the management and the chefs have been here for twenty plus years, ” said Dreni, who joined Tony’s shortly after it opened in the 1990s.
When the City of New York acquired this lot to house Engine 65 in 1895, clubs and residents around the area feared it would disturb the peace. Having calls since their very first night on the job, and as the first responder to Times Square, it became clear that the service was needed and soon became wildly appreciated. One of the firemen, Chris, told me this was something he had always wanted to do. “I love the camaraderie between the guys, ” he said, a theme that seems to reoccur throughout all Manhattan fire stations.