I think this is the best meal I’ve had all summer. It definitely made me smile the most and it wasn’t just the summertime rose. The bar/tavern area at Danny Meyer’s renowned Gramercy Tavern might be even more enjoyable and memorable than my fine dining experience with my parents in the back with the tasting menu. I’ve never sat down at a restaurant (especially one I’ve already semi been to) and thought I already can’t wait to come back while scrolling in my head for the next time I can come early enough to get a table. All of the tavern tables are first come, first serve giving everyone a fair chance to snag a nice table in the room full of color, plants, flowers and what feels like a garden full of fresh ingredients and herbs (they get most of their ingredients from the Union Square farmers market around the corner). These tables start filling up around 6:30 p.m. on a weekday, so if you have someone that can hold one for you around 6 p.m., you’re golden. Reserving a table in the back main dining room gets you a 3-course dinner for $92 pp (that smoked trout is the jam) or a 6-course is $120. Nothing too crazy compared to some other restaurants in the city.
Barely Touched Vegetables
To be clear, the menu in the more casual area is a la carte and you can order whatever you want sans tasting menu. It’s more laid back, louder, a walk-in policy, fun yet still offers the same quality of food and impeccable service. I’m going to start with the burger. It’s crazy how everyone grows up eating burgers, most probably a little too well-done, but people go wild and even pay up to $30 these days for pattys made with Black Label Beef, Brisket, Short Rib, Lamb, etc. Well, I’m joining in and saying this $26 Wagyu Beef burger with a perfectly buttered and crisp around the edges kind of bun is one of those that’s worth fighting for. Not to mention, they even cut it up into four even pieces for the three of us proving that Danny Meyer is in fact the real definition of hospitality. Always making dining easier, meaningful and unforgettable. I also was impressed that they waited until my friend’s wine glass was empty before they poured another glass from the same brand of rose but a different wine bottle. I mean who would even notice or care about that besides another sommelier? However, it truly stood out and meant something because it shows they care about you.
A good route to go is to order a bunch of the appetizers. They are all mouth-watering, $14 and under and enough to share for a few buddies. The Barely Touched Vegetables with Smoked Tomato, Herbed Ricotta and Zucchini Almond Pesto Dipping Sauces looked like a board game of Candy Land for vegetables. All delicately placed and grilled atop a black board included the brightest greens and yellows of squash, shishito peppers, carrot, radish, tomato, potato and snow pea. Screw all those already assembled veggie trays from grocery stores you bring to parties. This is the real deal and tastes like a pot of gold. I liked the pesto sauce the best of the three. The next appetizer I fell head over heels for was the Grilled Zucchini Flatbread with Duck Andouille and Ricotta. Apparently, the key here is order the dishes with the most vibrancy and color because they are outstanding. Each veggie and meat on this flatbread appears placed so purposefully with the good ‘ole TLC (tender, love and care). The Octopus with Corn was just fine, but the corn mixture underneath stood out more than the eight-legged sea creature. If you choose to go the entree route, they aren’t too upsetting either for about $18-$24 each with several fish options, a seasonal lasagna (I’m waiting for you, fall butternut squash), Chicken and more.
Bottom line, the food no matter what you order here even if it’s a burger all tastes clean, green and healthy. It won’t give you a food hangover, stomach ache or guilt trip the next day. This one experience made me want to come back once a week- if that is at all possible at some point in my life. Gramercy Tavern and Chef Michael Anthony create magic in the dining room, in the kitchen, on your plate and in your mouth. They don’t hide their food behind mounds of butter or cheese. They make vegetables sparkle and dance, and that is what it’s all about. You can tell this feeling will hover over you no matter what day or time you go as two weeks later, I’m still feeling it.