Whether you're choosing from the a la carte menu at the front tavern, or the fixed menu in back dining room, Gramercy Tavern's high-end, yet informally New American food is sure to win over both your tastebuds and your heart.
If there is one anecdote to summarize the experience of Gramercy Tavern, it is this: at a meeting the day after a recent dinner, I mentioned offhand to a group of colleagues that I had eaten at Gramercy Tavern the previous night. For the next 10 minutes, nearly every person in the room shared a story about the last meal they enjoyed there, be it for a special occasion or a lovely meal with close friends.
Gramercy Tavern is a restaurant where memories are made, where everyone in the dining room has something in common. It is a restaurant that nearly every New Yorker seems to look upon with fondness, relishing perhaps not the best meal ever had, but the most enjoyable one. Yes, in New York, Gramercy Tavern may not be the most fiery, groundbreaking, adventurous restaurant, but it is indubitably the most loved.
This year, Gramercy Tavern celebrated its 22nd birthday, and it's clear that the classic, accessible dishes coming out of the kitchen haven't lost any of their luster, or appeal. In the Dining Room, Chef Michael Anthony's straightforward, exquisitely cooked food can be experienced with a $98 3-course prix fixe, or a $125 6-course tasting at dinner. Anthony works best with ensembles of vegetables, all reflective of the season and sharply complementary, so the $110 vegetable tasting is not to be overlooked either. Carrots, fennel, green olives, and orange are thrust together in one dish, while cucumber, melon, and dill balance with light-handed finesse in another, true testaments to Anthony's classically light, New American style of cooking.
Though the food at Gramercy Tavern is often more soft and low-key than it is vivid and passionate, it is anything but tame. At a recent dinner, wagyu beef tartare was served with mushrooms, pine nuts, and turnips, a subtle, nutty, yet somehow rich elevation of the meat. Anthony doesn't rely on much salt, and in another pasta dish, creamy, garlicky flavors played off of crunchier, more vegetal ones for an elegant, approachable bite.
True to his gentle style, Chef Anthony also excels in poaching and braising meats, particularly naturally light flavors like pork and chicken. A pork loin and belly dish sat in a delicate, Asian broth, its vinegar and kimchi flavors brightening the entire plate. A braised lamb loin and shoulder with squash, sunflower seeds, and lots of herbs was also excellent, full of hearty, but still clean flavor.
Desserts are slightly less strong and sometimes a little formulaic, but a quenelle of carrot ice cream atop a slice of carrot cake was some of the best I've ever had. Every ingredient seems to be treated with a wholesome respect, a sentiment that the staff applies to service as well. Of course, this is a Danny Meyer restaurant, and graciousness and unpretentiousness reign supreme, despite the fine dining surroundings. In this sense, this unlabored sophistication is the essence of Gramercy Tavern, a vibrant, blended, quintessentially American classic. It's no surprise its appeal is so broad, and so deep.