Steven Oliver: Go-to Industry Guru

Driving up Post Street you can easily miss the turn onto the narrow backstreet of Cosmo Alley. This unassuming location is hardly the place you would expect to find the grandiose building that is Le Colonial. This sprawling urban oasis has been a landmark in San Francisco for over ten years, and General Manager and Wine Director, Steven Oliver (the man behind its storied success), has hit full stride as well.

Oliver became infatuated with the food and beverage industry while working as an accountant in the booming corporate world during the ’80s. A regular at Tim Dale’s innovative Eddy Jack’s in SOMA, Oliver reflects “I went out there a lot and it was one of those things like, this is really fun, doing it socially, so why don’t I jump into it for work?” Oliver approached Tim Dale and his sister Debra Dale who welcomed Oliver’s novice enthusiasm and energy onto their team. Dale and Oliver’s partnership has lasted 18 years—facing the challenges of several San Francisco restaurants before finding their niche at Le Colonial, which is celebrating its ten-year milestone—“a big accomplishment in such a food-oriented town,” Oliver acknowledges.

Oliver, whose passion for making his guests feel welcome deserves major props as a factor in Le Colonial’s continued success, cites the space and flexibility of its use as another contributing asset. “Because we have the club atmosphere on [Wednesday through Saturday] nights, many people will be up in the lounge, and then come into the dining room later for a business meeting or a birthday dinner and be like oh, wow! This is the same place… I had no idea it was this big!” The genius layout and easily diversified venue create endless dining and entertainment possibilities. Couple the appealing space with Oliver’s desire to “[make people] feel like they could be at a dinner party in their own house” and you have the recipe for Le Colonial’s stellar reputation. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the food has an equally established reputation for quality and excellence.

When he is not finessing the floor, Oliver extends his passion for the industry to his other “fun job” of writing a column for the Nob Hill Gazette, which recently launched online. “I think it is pretty amazing, talking about trends with food and wine, and the accessibility of the Internet is great. You can get so personal online, yet you are not there.” His witty column highlights the comings and goings in the industry, as well as new players on the scene. Oliver is also an ardent traveler, jetting to places like Paris and Barcelona in search of new inspiration and experiences to enhance his key role at Le Colonial. Though the location may be hard to find, Oliver’s infectious enthusiasm for the industry helped put Le Colonial firmly on the map.

TEXT BY Kristel Peterson
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Rhiannon Nicole Anderson