Gwyn McAllister, a native New Yorker, shares her West Side Story: from her first job at McDonald’s to becoming a produced playwright, her love for Hell’s Kitchen, and her antics in Times Square. Join her and her dog Sylvester for Yappy Hour at Worldwide Plaza.

Gwyn says she’s here in Hell’s Kitchen “for good this time.” Photo: Naty Caez

So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
Native New Yorker. I actually spent the first few years of my life in this neighborhood. After dropping out of college, I moved back to Hell’s Kitchen and stayed for over ten years, then adventured elsewhere before returning to my home in HK. Here for good this time!

What was your first job? What do you do now?
My very first job was at a McDonald’s (of course). My first NY job was at the Metropolitan Museum, which was amazing. Now I’m a produced playwright and author. (Any theater producers out there?) Just published a book of short stories and plays called, You Can Make This Sh*t Up (avail on Amazon). As a writer, I may be going back to my roots and take a job at McDonald’s to pay the bills. All you fellow artists know that story all too well!

What’s your favorite New York minute (or moment) so far?
I experienced my own 15 minutes of fame right after Biden’s victory was announced. I ran over to Times Square with a sign that read “Hallelujah” and my picture made it into media outlets around the world (literally). Gotta love living this close to the epicenter of the world. Aside from that sort of personal accomplishment, I really enjoy talking to unhoused folks and hearing their stories or just offering a sympathetic ear. 

Share with us why you love Hell’s Kitchen
I like to say that I’m the only New Yorker who likes Times Square. I really do and, as for Hell’s Kitchen, the neighborhood has changed so much since I lived here in the 80s/90s. I love the community feeling and the fact that there is such a great mix of open-minded, interesting folks. Also love the neighborhood dogs. I think I know them all by name — although I can’t remember very many owners’ names.

As a playwright, I love living in the theater district. I like to say that I live on the corner of Hadestown and Leopaldstadt. I thought maybe if I moved close enough to Broadway, the fates might get the idea! A girl can dream anyway.

What’s your superpower or hidden talent?
Well, I’m pretty fearless when it comes to potentially making a fool of myself in public. A friend and I did a spontaneous performance of a short original Christmas play in Times Square. We only had one engaged audience member and I got shoved out of the way by a well-known Times Square character but all of that really made the experience more memorable. For me, at least. Hoping to do some more guerilla street theater if any actors out there are interested. 

Gwyn selling her book “You Can Make This Sh*t Up” at the 9th Ave Food Festival. Photo: Phil O’Brien

What else should we know about you?
I’m pretty silly and I own a silly-looking dog named Sylvester/Sylvie/Sly. My dog friends and I have a sort of informal gathering every evening at Worldwide Plaza. We call it Yappy Hour. I’m a member of the Actors Studio Playwrights Director Unit and I attend the theater ALL the time. You can also often find me trying to sell stuff on the street (vintage clothes, hair accessories, art, etc) — generally unsuccessfully. 

Gwyn’s Favorite Hell’s Kitchen Places

Fountain House Gallery — 702 9th Avenue (bw W48/49th St)
You can find some really great art here by members of Fountain House (a national mental health non-profit) at a variety of price points. I was able to afford a painting that I absolutely love, but I also enjoy just stopping in to chat with some of the artists manning the front desk. Really great, very welcoming folks. 

Gwyn enjoys stopping by Fountain House Gallery to chat with the artists at the front desk. Photo: Naty Caez

Thonglor – 789 9th Avenue (bw W52/53rd St)
Best Thai place in a neighborhood that could be described as Little Bangkok. They have some really interesting dishes. This place is tiny so go on a weekday. 

Le Sia — 651 9th Avenue (bw W45/46th St)
A very different type of regional Chinese. You can order all types of shellfish cooked in a variety of sauce choices which you peel and eat with your hands (gloves provided). I’m in love with the shrimp in hot and numbing sauce. 

Hold Fast — 364 W46th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
Great local watering hole with a really interesting bar food menu — bone marrow, anyone? Lots of amazing vegetarian dishes are also on offer.

Gwyn at Hold Fast with her dog, Sylvester. Photo: Naty Caez

Domus — 413 W44th Street (bw 9th/10th Ave)
Great selection of housewares, jewelry and all sorts of unique items from around the world. The best place to go for a special gift. 

Don Antonio — 309 W50th Street (bw 8th/9th Ave)
If you’ve never had fried pizza you don’t know what you’re missing.

Break Bar — 458 9th Avenue (bw W35/36th St)
After you down your drink, you can go into a special back room and smash the glass against the wall. Buckets of bottles for smashing are also available. 

Gwyn enjoying a cocktail at Break Bar. Photo: Robin Riley

DD Soup Dumpling — 690 9th Avenue (bw W47/48th St)
One word — hibachi. Just makes me happy. 

Poseidon Bakery — 629 9th Avenue (bw W44/45th St)
This place has been around forever. When I’ve had a bad day, I treat myself to an apricot pastry. All of their filo dough options (Spanakopita, etc) are outstanding. 

Holey Cream — 791 9th Avenue (bw W52/53rd St)
I know ice cream and this is the best in the world. You can get a donut ice cream sandwich there, but that’s overkill IMHO. I make regular pilgrimages to this Holey shrine. 

Gwyn says Holey Cream is the best ice cream in the world. Photos: Naty Caez

Anything else you’d like to tell us?
Vote. Just vote. For anyone but a certain ex-POTUS who will remain unnamed.

If you know someone who would make a great West Side Story (or you would like to nominate yourself), please fill in this form —

You can check out more West Side Stories and reader recommendations on W42ST’s Hell’s Kitchen Local App.

Join the Conversation



  2. Gwyn is the best – thanks for recognizing her, Phil.
    Her many Hell’s Kitchen friends are all hoping a talent agent / moneyed dilettante reads your story, buys her book & she gets another play produced!

    1. Tilly – please join us sometime. We’re usually there around 6/6:30 every evening. All welcome. Dog optional.

  3. Gwyn is a lovely neighbor. I would say she was one of the first to engage with my fiancée and me on our dog-walks. We had attended to their Yappy hours and all the members have been very welcoming.
    It is great to meet this part of Gwyn through your article, thanks for sharing her story.

    Ps. Her food recommendations are great! I have gone to some of these places because she had recommended, and all of them are ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    1. Thanks Dan! For other dog owners, I should mention that the Yappy Hour is around 6/6:30 most days. Will see you and Rocke and Leo
      there soon!

  4. Gwyn is a great writer, theater lover and delightful conversationalist. If you can’t find her for a chat, get her book.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *