Gramercy Tavern

42 E. 20th St. (between Broadway & Park Avenue Sou, New York, 10003, United States

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Why go to America to eat posh French food? If in New York, skip the flash places with the condescending maitre d’s and come to Gramercy Tavern instead. Here you get honest to goodness American cooking, using excellent ingredients and sensible flavour combinations. The char-grill features heavily, and you can even get an excellent hamburger.

As a diner you need to be aware that there are two sections within this restaurant, the (relatively) formal restaurant and the “tavern”, which operates from a separate kitchen and does simpler food in a more casual setting. On weekend lunches only the tavern operates, and this is the food I tried on this visit. It was completely packed, and the five of us we were squeezed into a table that would have been tolerable for three.

Artichoke soup looked as it it might be a little watery but it was not, with good seasoning and plenty of artichoke flavour (15/20). Mushroom lasagne was pleasant, but no more than that (14/20) while the best dish was “pulled pork”, where the meat is manually pulled from the carcass, and turned out to be very tasty. Overall the tavern food was about 14/20 or so e.g. a pleasant but somewhat bland cassoulet. It is cheaper than the main dining room but it is also a notch or two down in the cooking level, so perhaps best to stick to the more formal area unless you are in the mood for something very simple.

In recent times (based on a meal in April 2004) the cooking has become more sophisticated, and I had a superb dish of scallops with perfectly tender baby carrots with a light salad and vinaigrette, followed by organic chicken with wild mushrooms and excellent roasted vegetables. These days there is even a respectable cheese board. Coffee is excellent here and the wine list ranges from simple to the very finest. A thoroughly likeable place, with friendly, efficient service and no pretension whatever.


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User comments

  • Ewan

    I had an enjoyable tavern meal here, and while I've never eaten above one star level, it fits in with the places I've met at that level. Duck liver mousse was itself deeply flavored but I was just as impressed with the pickled vegetables that came with it, which were salty and pungent enough to offseat the mousse and buttered toast. Wagyu burger was appropriately tender and rich - I was impressed at how it was loosely packed but still came with a proper crust - but it had way too much unremarkable cheese, which threatened to dominate the beef and make it too rich. Taking a little off and adding the housemade ketchup made it a lot better. My companion's sea bass was apparently excellent but I was slightly underwhelmed by this. I've had better one star meals but this one does rank among them. I would like to go back and try other options.

  • Name unavailable

    This we tried on our week in New York in the melting heat,after seeing One Man Two Guvnors at the music box so a 10 pm meal , excellent greeting a drink at the bar in the Tavern then the "posh" restaurant , but happily not actually posh just an interesting space a bit germanic , the tasting menu, every course a little perfection , the service exceptional the ambience very New York. So a great evening .

  • Nic Moga

    I ate in the formal dining room just a few days ago. The first thing that struck me was a bit of incongruity between the "Tavern" and the dining room; in fact after reading your review it felt a bit odd ordering a tasting menu. My meal was quite good, very much a solid one-star experience with standouts of Carrot Soup with Cilantro/Lime Yogurt and Piedmontese Beef with some excellent Shallots. The staff were very user-friendly, and in the process I learned about a new micro-green (ruby streaks) and about a Long Island wine made from Pinot Noir grapes without the skin (appropriately called "Anomaly"). Overall a thumbs up.

  • Rohan

    Went for lunch at the bar in the Tavern (less formal) this week. Sweetbreads to start was precise, highly flavoursome (much more so than recent similar dishes eaten in London) with excellent mushrooms and a very deep sauce. Walnuts made an unwelcome appearance as in several other dishes elsewhere in New York this week - I have a personal vendetta on taste and texture grounds - surely there is an alternative chefs might want to use. Anyhow a delightful if solid dish nonetheless Main of meatballs, potato puree and red wine sauce was very competent. Again was simple high quality cooking. Eating at the bar was fun at lunchtime although after nipping back on an evening I can testify you might want to withdraw to a table the later in the day you get. Talking to locals lunching at the bar the set lunch at 11 Madison Park is very highly rated for value and taste (as it might be given the reviews). Previously I visited the main restaurant in Oct08 and had the tasting menu - that night it had one sublime dish (cod), some excellent and some very average courses. I actually preferred the Tavern atmosphere and food combination comparing the two.

  • Richard Chan

    I agree. This is my favorite New York Restaurant as well. Spot on my friend. While the tavern area's food is less sophiscated then the formal area, there are times that you just want this homey, warm and excellent soul satisfying comfort food. This is the Chez Panisse Cafe of the east. :)

  • Nick

    Had lunch here in December '07. Food, service and atmosphere all top notch. The tasting menu at $55 is excellent value considering UK prices- and especially considering that the advertised 5 courses turned out to be 6. Food was faultless; perfectly cooked scallops stand out in my memory along with an unusual semolina pre-desert. Also probably the slickest service I've ever encountered.

  • Andrew Davidson

    Spot on review. I've been at least three times (though not since 2002), Gramercy Tavern manages to deliver a perfect American dining experience -- knowledgeable staff lacking pretension, great food, nice setting (but not too fancy).

  • Alex Chambers

    A really lovely restaurant with a buzzing atmosphere, educated service and very strong "new American" cooking under their new head chef- Tom Collichio departed last year. A papardelle and boar ragu special was a solid start, not far off the pasta dishes served at the likes of Babbo or Zafferano. Wifey had a soft shell crab special that was enormous and remarkably well timed; I haven't eaten better softshell in the UK- this was perhaps 7/10. Mains were just as strong- a poached chicken with seasonal veg was tender and flavoursome, but perhaps a little on the bland side, lacking a sauce to pull the whole together, maybe 5/10. A scallop and pea shoot dish was real 2* cooking however, actually bettering similar dishes at WD-50 and the 3* Per Se. Although we generally avoided cheeseboards in the US, we were tempted into trying this one and it was a bit of a letdown, perhaps unsurprisingly. No one cheese was poor but all would have been far better a few weeks down the line. Desserts were strong and the wine list was most reasonable- a Francois Raveneau 2004 was on the menu at some $75 dollars less than Daniel, whilst their 1971 Pedro Ximinez was in great condition. It appears the cooking has stepped up yet another notch in terms of intent since Andy's last visit, as there were no signs of burgers unfortunately. That said, this was great quality comfort food, attractively presented. It rather reminded me of what The Ivy appears to be attempting yet never quite manages. Fantastic stuff.