As you may have noticed, 2014 is shaping up to be a big year at ChezCateyLou. In addition to making some aesthetic changes to the site, we’re going to be posting a weekly restaurant review. New York City is home to some of the best restaurants in the world and Cate and I try to get to as many of them as possible. We’re going to post a review each Friday to give our readers some dining suggestions for the weekend. First up in our Friday Dinner Series is one of our absolute NYC favorites – Gramercy Tavern (Tavern Room).
Those familiar with the New York restaurant scene are likely well aware of Gramercy Tavern. It’s the flagship restaurant of famous restauranteur Danny Meyer and their Dining Room is consistently ranked as one of the top restaurants in the city (and the country). Gramercy’s Dining Room is great and definitely worth a visit; but it’s very much a special occasion spot. It’s pricey ($92 Three Course Prix Fixe, $120 Tasting Menu) and a tough reservation to get (be sure to call exactly 28 days in advance!).
The “Tavern Room,” on the other hand, features the same high level of service and food as the Dining Room but in a more casual and relaxed environment. It’s definitely a perfect spot for anything from a romantic night out to a leisurely weekend lunch. The bar menu features some great cocktails, wines, and a small but impressive list of draught beers for only 8 bucks (yes, I’ve now lived in Manhattan long enough where an $8 craft beer is a deal, especially the Evil Twin Imperial Porter with 12% alcohol). The rustic decor is very homey – especially in the winter – and the finishing kitchen is in open view and provides the restaurant with great smells (and an occasional burst of flame). They also have a dedicated interior stylist who only focuses on their floral and foliage arrangements. Obviously I’m not an expert on foliage (shocking, I know), but the restaurant looks great.
There are two ways to order in the Tavern Room – a tasting menu that changes daily ($48) and an all-day a la carte menu. The a la carte menu heavily features locally sourced and seasonal ingredients and is relatively reasonable price-wise. Most of the appetizers are around $14 and the entrees range between $18-24. Although the a la carte menu changes every few weeks; there are some standbys. The cheese kielbasa, served with crispy buckwheat spaetzle, sauerkraut, and stone ground mustard, has been on the menu for awhile and is outstanding. There is also always a house made vegetable lasagna (Cate’s favorite, the mushroom, has been replaced by a still very good butternut squash lasagna). They have a burger special that is off-menu and is only available until they sell out (usually by dinner), but it is great and definitely worth ordering if you are there for lunch. The food is consistently comforting and delicious.
Unfortunately, I do have to close this review on a sad note. They say it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Maybe, but whoever said that never tasted Gramercy Tavern’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Semifreddo. As of late 2013, Gramercy Tavern is no longer serving the world’s greatest dessert. It’s truly a national tragedy.
Gramercy’s pastry chef returned home to the Midwest and took with her the recipe for her Chocolate Peanut Butter Semifreddo. I don’t even know how to describe the dish. There’s a chocolate macaroon, carmel sauce, candied peanuts, hot fudge, and of course, the peanut butter semifreddo itself. Gramercy Tavern no longer serving this dessert is like Michael Jordan walking away from basketball in 1993. One can only hope that after a brief retirement, this dessert, like MJ, makes a triumphant return.
- The Tavern Room does not accept reservations. So get here early or be prepared to wait an hour or so. But don’t worry, as long as you can carve out some space at the bar you’ll be fine.
- There is a separate waiting list for bar stools. This makes the wait a bit more democratic – and less frustrating if you get stuck standing behind a couple who is having their third cup of espresso. Also, if you don’t mind eating at the bar, you’ll likely get seated quicker than if you waited for a table in the dining area. And even if you’re just there for drinks, be sure to ask for some of their bar nuts.
- No restaurant is more amenable to having guests split dishes than Gramercy Tavern. So if you want to split a pasta, or a burger, or even the kielbasa (really…), just ask and they will bring out the dish on separate plates for all diners at your table. It really is a nice touch and is a great way to sample even more of the menu.
42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 477-0777