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Steak 'n Shake Seeks Sidewalk Cafe Near Letterman Theater

By Mathew Katz | February 2, 2012 2:06pm

MIDTOWN — Steak 'n Shake, the popular Midwest fast-food chain with a Midtown outpost, is looking to add a sidewalk cafe.

The burger joint, which opened its first New York location at Broadway and West 53rd Street in January and has had patrons lining up down the block during lunch hours ever since, has filed an application to set up a six-table, 12-seat sidewalk cafe right next door to the Ed Sullivan Theater, where Letterman shoots "The Late Show."

Letterman is a well-known fan of the chain, but its planned outdoor cafe could cause locals some indigestion as the block is already crowded with Letterman's daily audience lineups.

"I have to push through crowds of tourists every day because of that stupid lineup," said Maddie Wilcox, 34, who works nearby and has been to the burger joint twice since it opened.

"Adding that patio is just stupid."

Along with Steak 'n Shake, the new Aussie-themed eatery Pie Face opened next door to the burger chain, where other long lines of hungry Midtown lunchers have formed on a daily basis, further clogging the sidewalks.

John Clarkson, 46, who lives nearby, said he has to shove his way past the crowds on his way to work.

"I know we're near Times Square, but we need a little relief," he said. "It's been even worse since [Steak 'n Shake and Pie Face] opened up."

A spokeswoman for CBS, which broadcasts "The Late Show," would not comment on the proposed cafe, but Letterman staffers who manage the sidewalk audience lines don't think the burger joint's patio would cause much commotion.

"We're not having trouble right now, so I don't know how much of an issue it would be," said one Letterman employee running Monday's lineup, who declined to give his name. "We usually line them up towards 54th Street."

Another employee, who also declined to give his name, wasn't convinced.

"I mean, it's not bad now — but I could see the tables causing some problems," he said.

The public will get its first look at the proposed sidewalk cafe at a meeting of the Community Board 5 Consents and Variances Committee on Thurs. Feb. 2 at 6 p.m. The meeting takes place at the SGI-USA NYC Culture Center, 7 E. 15th St.