Gramercy Tavern has morphed into my family's favorite restaurant in New York City. Every time my parents come to visit, we plan the rest of their trip around our reservation here. This restaurant is broken up into two areas; the dining room and the tavern. The dining room is upscale, with tasting menus and white table clothes. The tavern takes no reservations, and has the bar. No matter which atmosphere you choose, the service and food is some of the best you can receive in New York City.
The Dining Room
The first time we ate at Gramercy Tavern, it was by accident. While I was walking on 5th ave with my parents, my Dad got hungry and went on Opentable. He noticed that the Number 1 restaurant was available and was only one block away. He reserved an 11:30 am spot.
As we walked in, and I was mortified. There I was, amongst men in suits and elaborate flower arrangements, wearing running shorts, a basketball T-shirt, and adidas slides. I hid behind my Mom as we walked through the dining room to our table.
You never would have guessed how inappropriately I was dressed from the way the servers treated me. At many high-end restaurants, I feel as though I need to please the servers; I rush to finish my food for the next course, I don't ask them to repeat themselves if I misheard, and God forbid I drop a fork. However, even though their lunch testing menu is $89, the servers at Gramercy Tavern are relaxed and humorous while still being informative.
Once we sat down, we were immediately brought still or sparkling water, and asked for our drink orders.
"A Coke please", my father requests.
"I could bring you a Coke— however, I must recommend that you try one of our house-made sodas. Passionfruit Vanilla, Strawberry Mint, Mango Lime, or Raspberry Rose".
My father proceeded to order all of four of them throughout his meal.
It is the small things, like sodas, that make Gramercy Tavern so enjoyable. Even the homemade buns with goat cheese is an elevated version of free bread. For the main courses, you cannot go wrong. The meat tasting menu, the vegetarian tasting menu, and the a la carte items are so well done. From my many visits, I have tried them all. The menu ranges from meat, seafood, pasta, vegetables, to even pre-dessert granitas and post-dessert bonbons. The chefs create and combine flavors and textures that you just cannot recreate at home. When reading an item on the menu you think you have an idea of how it will be presented, but at Gramercy Tavern you will always be wrong. There will always be something on your plate that pleasantly surprises you.
I remember before our second trip to Gramercy, we had watched Eater's video about how Gramercy Tavern makes their ice cream sundae. After we finished our a la carte meals, we searched the dessert menu but could not find the iconic sundae. We asked our waiter, but he said that it was unfortunately only available in the Tavern section of the restaurant. So, we ordered different desserts and agreed that we would come back another time to try it.
To our surprise, along with our other desserts, our waiter treated us to a free sundae. This is the type of service the employees give, even though they know they won't be getting a tip. By the end of the night, we had a free pre-dessert, our ordered desserts, the sundae, and free bonbons to end the night.
This is the type of service I want with a $100/person lunch.
To get a seat at in the Tavern you must 1) have great timing and 2) only have 2 people. If you do not follow those two rules, you will have to wait at least 2o minutes on a leather bench under a huge flower arrangement. It could be worse.
After getting seated and poured the water of your choice, a man with a platter of fresh bread with circle around to you. We have only ever gotten Rosemary Focaccia, but trust me, I'm not complaining.
The food in the Tavern is slightly less fancy, but still elevated nonetheless. One of the most iconic items on the menu is the Tavern Burger. Meat. Cheddar. Bun. + Bacon. This burger contains the most meaty flavor one could ask for. Served with chips, the burger is begging to be served with a Black and Tan.
However; my favorite thing is the Fisherman's Stew. The assortment of seafood and chorizo is a match made of heaven, and the broth adds so much flavor to the golden rice. This entree is comforting without being heavy, something that is quite hard to achieve.
For dessert you cannot go wrong with chocolate pudding cake or fruit pie; but once again, the sundae is divine. Although the components of the sundae change seasonally, you can count on a some sort of cake, brittle, sauce, and fruit that pair beautifully together.
Whether you go to the dining room or the tavern, for lunch or dinner, or for a special occasion or casual Tuesday — you cannot go wrong with Gramercy Tavern. Make sure to grab a custom Match box on your way out!
Thank you Chef Michael Anthony, Danny Meyers, and Union Square Hospitality Group!
Check out Gramercy Tavern on 42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003