REVIEW #65

Union Square Cafe

Danny Meyer’s widely beloved Union Square Café has earned a fiercely loyal clientele over the years on account of its excellent food, served without pretense, in an atmosphere of charm and conviviality. It is no wonder that the restaurant consistently wins Zagat’s survey of diners’ favorite restaurant in NYC, pausing chivalrously on occasion to allow Gramercy Tavern, another of Danny Meyer’s restaurants, to enjoy the top spot. The restaurant excels at the kind of genial hospitality that is more reminiscent of a home than a restaurant. And the décor reinforces this impression, with mural-covered walls and a layout that Frank Bruni has perfectly described as “a series of rooms and nooks that impersonate a country inn.”

The juxtaposition of high quality cuisine and a casual environment is so commonplace today that it is easy to forget how novel this approach was in 1985 when Union Square Café opened. It is a testament to the restaurant’s influence that this pairing no longer seems remotely arresting. The Italian-speckled New American cuisine is often seasonally driven due to the restaurant’s proximity to the Union Square Greenmarket and features some excellent items, such as the grilled lamb chops with potato-Gruyère gratin. In our view, the food is not on par with that of 11 Madison Park, The Modern or Gramercy Tavern, Mr. Meyer’s other restaurants (or, in the case of 11 Madison Park, former restaurants) that are featured on our list. But Union Square Café is targeting a different market and fills a different void in the culinary landscape. It is a consistently sound choice for a very fine meal, served in comfortable surroundings and with bonhomie.

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INFORMATION

Union Square
21 E. 16th St.
New York (nr. Union Sq. West)
212-243-4020
Mon-Thu, noon-2:30, 5:30pm-10pm; Fri, noon-2:30, 5:30pm-11pm; Sat, 11am-2:30, 5:30pm-11pm; Sun, 11am-2:30, 5:30pm-10pm
    Carmen Quagliata, Chef
    Michael Romano, Chef
    Danny Meyer, Restaurateur

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