Lost in the shadow of a sidewalk shed, you could blink and miss the Starlite Deli. The unassuming storefront — a staple of W44th Street since 1984 — doesn’t stand out among the bright lights of the Broadway houses it’s sandwiched between. The Starlite, however, has been running longer than any Broadway show. And while the deli’s proprietor, Jung Min Kim, known by his stage name “Mr M”, has cultivated a cult following from the theatrical community, he’s decided to retire and set the closing notice on one of the Theater District’s longest-running productions. 

Jung Minh Kim at Star Lite Deli
Jung Minh Kim, known to friends and patrons as “Mr M”, opened the Starlite in 1984. Photo: Naty Caez

“My favorite show? I loved the A Chorus Line — it was very, very impressive to me,” said Mr M, recalling his first years on W44th Street across from the Shubert Theatre, where the original production of the long-running dance musical once played. Still going full force until the business closes on April 28, he told W42ST that his favorite part of being stationed amid the world’s most prestigious theaters and the legendary Carmine’s was getting to know the cast and crew of each show, adding that Starlite was known as the go-to lunch caterer for “load in” and “load out” of each show. “My favorite people are the stagehands — we’ve become friends,” said Mr M, as one longterm Wicked crew member stopped by to pay his respects and leave his phone number — “so we can stay in touch.”

“Mr M is the nicest man — he’s been taking care of us for 30 years,” said Mark, a stage veteran who has been with the company of Wicked for 18 years. “He has a sunny disposition that is honestly really unusual for Times Square.” He added that stagehands and theater professionals across the industry — including his brother who works at The Lion King — consider Mr M to be the best of the best, and a true friend who they’ve been lucky enough to visit for the better part of four decades. “Mr M is like a brother to us — he’s just a good man,” said Mark.

Mark and Mr M smiling
Wicked crew member Mark credits Mr M and the Starlite with feeding industry professionals on long work days. Photo: Naty Caez

Mr M gracefully accepted the compliment, demurring from taking any additional credit for the gargantuan task of keeping a Midtown business open through the area’s highs and lows, recessions and of course, COVID-19 shutdowns. “We were lucky,” he says of managing to survive the pandemic and close on his own terms.

Having seen momentous change wash over Midtown over the course of his career, Mr M wryly observed that the biggest trend he’s observed over time is the rising cost of attending a Broadway show. “When I came in, there were a lot of people enjoying Broadway, because the prices weren’t that high. Now, it’s much, much more expensive. I hope that everyone can still enjoy a show, but the pricing is different.” 

Mr M will miss his favorite Starlite sandwich (“the special Chicken Cutlet”) and the vibrant Midtown energy that flows through a deli that hosts everyone from tourists to Broadway stars to the Naked Cowboy, who popped in briefly during our visit to grab a snack in a semi-disguised fur coat and trademark boots — but added that he was ready “to relax” for a change, and will retire permanently to Long Island. “I loved getting close with the community,” said Mr M as he wrote down a delivery order for the still-busy late-lunch crowd. “I’ll be back before your last day!” called out a patron as they grabbed a sandwich from the counter and Mr M shouted back, “see you!”

Starlite Deli
The Starlite Deli next door to Carmine’s photographed in 2011 (one of the few times it was not shrouded in scaffolding). Photo: Google Street View

The Starlite Deli (212 W44th Street between 7/8th Avenue) will close on April 28. 

Join the Conversation


  1. Some years ago, I used to work around the corner from the Star Lite and picked up a toasted bialy every morning. Mr. M was always so friendly.

  2. That damned scaffolding obliterates the signature signage of so many places. Thanks for the 2011 photo! I’ll visit Mr. M’s place before 28 April, and wish him well.

  3. They truly don’t come any finer. I truly feel blessed to have had Mr. Min his family and crew in our corner. Always a “go to” destination for lunch. He always made you feel valued and it was more than lunch. It was like a visit with an old friend. The clock moves forward as the hands of time pass. So happy that you are moving on to enjoy the joys of life that lie ahead. Blessings to you, your family and loved ones.

  4. I feel surprisingly sad. I haven’t lived in ny since 1996. But remember working on shows and living on 43 street and visiting the starlight often. All things must come to an end, I suppose.

  5. In November, 2007, when were standing picket duty in the cold, Minh would visit 3 times a day with carts of coffe, soda, water, bagels, rolls, etc.
    Every day …
    If you were short or forgot you wallet, it was always “next time’.
    He was a true friend of our union and of individual members.
    Minh – all my respect …

  6. I worked on Broadway from 1987 to 2009. A bartender/bar mgr. for Theatre Refreshment Co. Starlite Deli would save my life especially on matinee days when It was essential to begin the day with a breakfast sandwich from Starlite! Life without that deli would be dim. I never knew Mr. M, but knowing his deli was fine, fine, fine.

  7. I first walked into Starlite in 1989 and met Mr. Min the first time. Been friends since, through many shows for both of us. Bought coffee break for my shows when I was the road prop guy. Saw his kids graduating school. Randy’s girlfriend (if you know you know). When I was out ill last year, he kept asking after me and when he found out I was back, come to my theatre looking for me to give me a hug. During the unfortunate strike in 2007 he delivered free coffee and snacks to those of us walking picket in the cold. And don’t forget his lovely wife, who built the business along with him. I will miss my friends as they go off to their well deserved retirement.
    Thank you for everything.

  8. I worked as a cleaner in Lunt Fontaine theater. I love getting my breakfast from starlite. Mr. M and his staff we’re all Pleasant to everyone.

  9. My years on Broadway especially during Spamalot, The Starlight and Mr Ms was the place. Good Luck sir and enjoy retirement. Well miss you.

  10. I worked at 1501 Broadway for many years. My day started out the same toasted blueberry muffin with butter and an iced coffee. After the first few weeks I never had to say what I was getting again I would come in and say good morning and they would start making it as soon as I walked in the door. I’ve been gone from New York for many years now I thinking of them still brings back memories that make me smile!

  11. I can’t even think of the theater district without Mr M.
    I worked at MTV for years.
    He was always kind and friendly to all stagehands.
    He even let you slide and pay him later.
    Enjoy Mr M knowing that you made a difference in so many peoples day.
    Ed Costello local #1 Stagehands

  12. FYI, Min bought the shop from my Dad and his partners June 1984 after owning Starlite Deli for ten years. I know the store was there before 1974. Worked there as a teen.

  13. Acknowledging STARLITE’S contributions and history!
    An expression of gratitude for the tireless efforts
    keeping this performance community
    Totally Satiated,
    Well Hydrated
    Supremely Caffeinated
    over the decades!

    Simply put:
    for all you’ve done keeping Broadway
    fed, watered and buzzed
    all these years!!!

    Cheers, Mr. M and all the crew!
    Bestest wishes to all of you!

  14. I was in A Chorus Line at the Shubert Theater, and the Starlite Deli was our go-to place to pick up a quick coffee and snack before a matinee or grab a sandwich between shows. Thank you Mr. M for all those years keeping us fed. And now that you’re in retirement, pick up a copy of my newly released memoir, Third Girl from the Left, which tells all about A Chorus Line and those days on 44th Street and Shubert Alley.
    Christine Barker

  15. For the 11 bright and beautiful years I worked at Billboard at 1515 Broadway (1989-2000), I started every day with a Starlite Deli breakfast. It didn’t take long for the entire staff to recognize me, greet me with a smile, and make my breakfast exactly how I wanted it. When I went to pay, “Mr. M” was always sweet and gentle. Once I paid with a $5 bill (those were the days … LOL!) that was of a certain vintage. The next day he returned the bill to me, thinking it might be collectible and worth more than face value. I cherish those days and wish I’d known Starlite were closing shop so I could say goodbye and print a roll of B&W pictures I took of the guys behind the counter. They don’t make them like that anymore.

  16. Mr. M gave me free lunch when my daughter was born and always wanted to see pictures. I always brought her in to say hello when she visited me at the office. I’ll definite miss him and the deli. Went there every day, sometimes twice for years.

  17. I never visited the Starlite Deli, but these recollections of Mr. M are almost unbelievable. We should all have such folks in our lives! And we should all BE such folks.

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