TCQ&A: Roya Shanks

Photographer Claudine Williams has, as a passion project, shot a few of our local hosts — folks who are known to many of us, even if we are not regulars, because they have a true neighborhood presence. When I spotted the shots on Claudine’s Instagram, I asked if I could run them with an adaptation of the TCQ&A. And I am so glad I did.

This first edition is from maître d’ Roya Shanks, who is starting her third decade at the Odeon. Be sure to check out her Instagram, where she models her amazing collection of vintage dresses while on the job. 

How long have you been at the Odeon? And what brought you here?
I have worked at the Odeon since December 2001 and oh my goodness, that means it has now been 20 years. I was fresh out of college and newly arrived in the city. I started as a very green server and became a manager after about two and half years.

I came to the Odeon because I was an actor and needed a job. I had a three-month sublet in Brooklyn to get me started, and my temporary roommate, whom I did not know I could in fact trust with information that would shape my life for the next decades, told me The Odeon was a good restaurant, when I saw a classified in The Village Voice. I went in for an interview the next day.

Where do you live?
I live in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a rich and diverse neighborhoody neighborhood, but also right next to all the grit and energy of the Port Authority and Times Square. I can see down 42nd Street from our balcony. It’s not where I thought I’d end up…Even in a pandemic, life there has not been dull…

Married? Partnered? Kids?
I am married and have a two-year-old daughter.

If this is your night job, do you have a day job? Passion project? Thing that makes it all worth it?
I am an actor with a background in theater and have a steady career in voiceovers. I just lost my voice for a week and it was just about the most stressful thing ever. The vocal burden on the maître d’ of a booming restaurant, voiceover artist and mother of an active toddler who likes books above all other things can not be overstated. My doctor has encouraged me to start seeing myself as the vocal athlete that I am and train accordingly.

But the version of me that is “on” at the restaurant is also an authentic self. Maybe my most authentic. The Odeon is my home.

What are you known for on the job?
I am known for making everyone feel like regulars and doing it in an excellent dress. I am known for steadiness and longevity. Yes, I have long and hard days (the service industry is draining!) but I still get genuine pleasure from making people happy. And I think guests are savvy and appreciative of sincere hospitality.

What’s your order?
Very rare tuna burger with sautéed onions and a pickle. I always get salad instead of fries. Odeon house dressing is the best! And I follow it with a scoop of chocolate ice cream.

What’s the most satisfying part of what you do?
Turning bad dining experiences into good ones (sometimes it doesn’t take much more than a small dose of human empathy and care — people just want to be seen and listened to — and suddenly everything turns around). Watching staff grow and develop. Bearing witness to and contributing to neighbors’ lifecycles: I have watched kids grow, partner, have kids of their own. And still they come to The Odeon!

I am a community witness to birth, courtship, marriage, divorce, illness, death. At the restaurant we bring comfort and a sense that some small things can be counted on, even as everything always changes. And suddenly those small things become big.

The Odeon has brought comfort for decades — it’s why we are still around — such a wide swath of the community feels at home in the dining room — but the pandemic has certainly brought it even more clearly to light. People have been thronging back to the restaurant since we reopened for outdoor dining, summer 2020. I’ve never seen it so busy! It’s been more than a year and a half of near universal uncertainty and pain and people are craving comfort and community like never before. The Odeon offers that comfort, and the familiarity of my face and my presence does too.

What’s your best celebrity sighting? (feel free to interpret “celebrity” any way you like)
The celebrity traffic is fairly constant but really my priority is making sure that steps of service are followed and that celebrities aren’t bothered. While I’m vigilant about the comfort of all, it’s really our regulars that I prioritize in terms of my time and personal interaction. The artist who comes almost every day for an omelette and a long think — that’s who I’m telling the server he/she better not forget to VIP! But I won’t soon forget those Chanel parties, the movie premieres, the 90th birthday party for Alex Katz.

What do you love (or hate) about Tribeca?
I love the wide sidewalks, the space. Church Street may be grungy, but it’s got nothing on Hell’s Kitchen. I don’t eat/drink/shop much in Tribeca — I’m not much of a consumer and do a lot of my non-Odeon eating in the comfort of home. BUT, I do love walking and being outside in the neighborhood. When I lived in Brooklyn I walked to work sometimes across the Brooklyn Bridge and I still do it when I can now. City Hall Park, Silverstein Family Park [in front of 7 WTC and designed by our own Ken Smith], Duane Park and the new Bogardus Plaza, the water by Chambers Street. There are so many wonderful places to sit outside and read a book.

Also, the walls of my apartment are covered with art framed by Larry at L&O Frames on Duane. A true artist in his own right.

I also love the neighborhood character that endures, even as the population of Tribeca swells. When I’m at Taste of Tribeca I know everyone and they all know each other.



  1. Great Q&A and photos. And, wow the vintage dresses!

  2. The Odeon is our happy place. Roya undoubtedly sets the mood the minute we arrive. She’s professional, welcoming and goes above and beyond. And, of course, I love her vintage dresses.

  3. Great interview. A true gem and comforting presence at the door. And those outfits……

  4. Roya, you are so beautifully unique and a master at making everyone feel important and valued.

  5. Thanks for the article. Roya is the epitome of grace, beauty and competence. I’ve been coming to The Odeon since my first child was a baby (she’s about to turn 40!). I don’t know what I or this neighborhood would do without it.

  6. What a gift Roya is to the community. She is half the reason to go to the Odeon!

  7. Roya, what a beautiful description of your experience at the Odeon! You have made me so welcomed there for decades with your wonderful charming manner, fantastic dresses and friendly professionalism…. and helping me to retrieve my forgotten items after a lovely meal and a couple of drinks. You are the best!

  8. My son grew up pampered by Roya and delighted seeing her on stage. She predates my new husband but ended up doing a stellar performance for him in The American’s. Roya makes everyone feel important and uses her electric grace to make The a Odeon a place where you can arrive in a bad mood and leave feeling like a VIP. She is also not too hard on the eyes. We love you Roya!

  9. Pam, as always, you highlight the gems of our community – and Roya (and the rest of the Odeon team – shoutout to Mary K as well!) are truly in that category. My husband, and I have the honor and privilege of having the stylish, thoughtful, intelligent Roya, her amazing and talented husband and bright as a whip daughter (both names withheld for privacy) as our friends (and yes, Roya is just as chic when not at the Odeon!) – not to mention a very talented actor and boy can she read a children’s book outloud. Thank you for the profile and thank you Roya for being the incredible woman Brian and I have grown to love. (pB)

  10. Speaking of chance meetings, Roya was there to witness the meeting of my now longterm love, Jim, for 19 years now and we are going strong ❣️❣️❣️ Love Roya’s sweetness and on point style. ALWAYS a consummate professional and embodies the Odeon hip DNA 😘

  11. What a great article!
    I love this place and it’s my favourite restaurant in NYC!
    I lived in Manhattan for a few years but now live back home in Scotland. When ever I’m in the city and also plan a dinner at The Odean with my close friends. We’ve had the best nights there and Roya has always looked after us so well. She always makes us all feel like regulars even though we may only come once a year! I can’t wait to get back!
    Best Wishes,

  12. Roya & Odeon. The classiest of class acts. Beautiful always. Essential New York heartbeats. Wonderful piece here, thank you!

  13. There is no one better-she is the whole reason for going to the restaurant. A lady-a fashionista-an all round class act.

  14. In 2002 on the first evening of my first trip to NYC to visit my new love interest (we’d met in New Orleans) and now spouse, we went Odeon for a late night dinner. I was hooked immediately and nostalgia for that beady night washes over me every time I walk through Odeon’s door. Roya’s lovely, sunny presence and her always warm and welcoming greeting are such an important part of the experience. Thank you Roya!

  15. Well we just love her… simply just love her

  16. I had so much fun photographing Roya in the beautiful and iconic Odeon. She is a class act! Thanks for publishing!