Joe Allen, Whose Bistro was a Broadway Draw, Dies at 87

by Mark Kennedy

Associated Press

Tuesday February 9, 2021

Joe Allen, whose Times Square-adjacent bistro which bears his name has been a decadeslong draw for theater folk and where a post-show drink is part of the Broadway experience, has died. He was 87.

Allen died Sunday in Hampton, New Hampshire, according to Jason Woodruff, a former staffer for the Allen family of restaurants who spoke to the family.

The Joe Allen restaurant had red brick walls, sturdy wood tables and chairs, a large bar and was adorned with posters from Broadway's most notorious flops. Regulars included Stephen Sondheim, Chita Rivera, John Guare and Elaine Stritch. Visitors might also see Elisabeth Moss there, sipping a vodka ginger ale.

"Strong, steady, comforting and reliable," said Rivera on Twitter. "He certainly will be missed but we will carry him with us forever." Playwright Paul Rudnick noted that Allen "created a home for the theater community, where everyone hangs out, gossips and commiserates. He'll be missed, but his legacy lives on, including the wall of posters from flop shows."

Allen opened Joe Allen on 326 W. 46th St., in 1965, at a time when opening a restaurant west of Eighth Avenue in Manhattan was a risky proposition, long before it became know as Restaurant Row. Allen himself was not overly gregarious like many restauranteurs, but coolly efficient and warm to friends. Many of the servers at Joe Allen were actors earning paychecks when not onstage.

When it opened, a hamburger cost 75 cents, and the most expensive ticket to a Broadway show was $7.50. By the time the pandemic came, dishes ranged from meatloaf ($24) to a blackened salmon ($30). The tradition of framing flops on its walls originated when the cast of the ill-fated show "Kelly" gave Allen a poster of their show, which lasted only one performance in 1965.

So attuned to the theater, the restaurant Joe Allen had a special deal for Broadway-goers: Order by 5:30 p.m. and it was its "solemn promise" to feed and wine guests and get them out the door by 6:30 p.m., with plenty of time to make their curtain. The restaurant even helpfully posted lists of shows and their running times.

Allen also owned Orso, neighbor to the theater district hotspot, and Bar Centrale, nestled above. At its height, Joe Allen had an outpost in Paris.

Allen is survived by two children, Taylor and Julie.

The news of Allen's death was first reported by The New York Times.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.