The new, hottest corner on the Manhattan restaurant scene isn’t in NoMad or Tribeca, but in the heart of reviving Midtown.
Leading eatery operator Simon Oren is taking over the long-vacant Wayfarer space in the Quin Hotel — a breakthrough for the high-energy intersection of Sixth Avenue and West 57th Street, where Oren’s yet-unnamed place will hold down the northwest corner.
The location at 101 W. 57th was once home to Wolf’s Delicatessen, which closed decades ago and was succeeded by one flop after another. Oren’s lease signing further energizes the corner where two other busy, big-league eateries are duking it out for tourists and returning office workers — Marc Packer’s Rue 57 on the southeast corner and the Stillman family’s Quality Italian just north of the intersection.
Oren is the managing partner of Tour de France Group (Nice Matin, L’Express, Cafe d’Alsace), as well as Dagon, Barbounia and the Five-Napkin Burger chain. He and his partners also recently launched Monterey at the former Maloney & Porcelli site on East 50th Street.
He said the new place will be Middle Eastern with a focus on modern-Israeli cuisine and the eastern Mediterranean — which is missing from the Midtown mix.
Oren said the asking rent was $1 million a year but, “We paid less.” The highly visible space has 3,800 square feet at sidewalk level, 2,500 on the second floor and 2,500 more below ground. The site was most recently Wayfarer, which closed at the start of the pandemic.
The Quin is a brand of Hilton Grand Vacations, which is the landlord of the restaurant space. Lee & Associates’ Brad Schwarz represented Oren and CBRE’s Jared Lack and Andrew Goldberg acted for the landlord.
The just-signed lease “was a year and a half in the making,” Oren said. “I don’t want to say they were picky, but they were more concerned about finding the right tenant than the rent.”
“Quite a few groups were interested, including from out of town,” Oren added. “But they really wanted a local operator with a track record. Their due diligence was very long but no one was in a rush.”
The new venture will have 120 dining room seats on the ground floor and 30 more upstairs, where there will also be private rooms.
The opening probably won’t happen for around nine months.
“You take over a spot that used to be a restaurant, so you think it will be easy and only take four or five months,” Oren said. “It doesn’t work that way. Monterey took me a year to build even though it had been a restaurant before.”
Oren’s cautiously optimistic about the future.
“To be in this business, you have to be optimistic — and naive,” he laughed.
He acknowledged that all the bad news everyone has heard about the restaurant scene “is correct,” including inflation, customer hesitancy and labor costs that rose 25% in the past 12 months. Even so, “It’s been a good season for us.”
Unlike some other restaurateurs, Oren isn’t expanding to Miami or anywhere else.
“I love New York, that’s my town,” he said.