There is a Season. Turn, Turn, Turn.
With a menu that thrives on seasonality, Gramercy Tavern turns to the Union Square Greenmarket located just three blocks from the restaurant. It not only supplies the produce but inspires new dishes as new ingredients become available. Chef Michael Anthony shares that the restaurant "has always treated the Greenmarket as its most precious resource." Bounty from the Greenmarket is transported by wheelbarrow.
It Grows On You
When Gramercy Tavern debuted in 1994, Ruth Reichl wasn't so impressed, giving it only two stars in her first New York Times review. "Mr. Colicchio's style combines big flavors with very pretty presentations. Too pretty sometimes; these dishes occasionally give you the sense that in contemplating the requirements of luxury Mr. Colicchio has sacrificed flavor to finesse."
But she did see the restaurant it was trying to be and noted that "every meal I have eaten has been better than the one before; a year from now, Gramercy Tavern may well have turned into the restaurant of its owners' dreams." Two years later, Reichl re-reviewed Gramercy Tavern for the Times and gave it three stars. More recent reviews have upheld those stars.
It Made Tom Colicchio a Star Before He Starred on TV.
Most Americans know him best as the head judge of Top Chef, but Tom Colicchio's notoriety was forged as founder, opening chef and co-owner of Gramercy Tavern when he and partner Danny Meyer created the restaurant in 1994. By 2006, Colicchio sold his share and went on to create his own empire that includes Craft, Craftbar, Craftsteak and 'wichcraft.
Otherworldly Food Starts With Worldly Travels.
Executive chef Michael Anthony gets around. Armed with degrees in Business, French and Japanese, Anthony sought a more working knowledge of Japanese by moving to Tokyo. A restaurant stint under the direction of Shizuyo Shima awakened a passion for professional cooking and an appreciation for the importance of seasonality that’s evidenced in Gramercy Tavern's menus today. Anothony subsequently moved to Paris, where he trained at L’ecole Ferrandi and worked in several high profile kitchens. After returning to the US, Anthony's career made several stops – including Daniel – before taking over the executive chef reins at Gramercy Tavern in 2006.
It Takes Two.
Gramercy Tavern has two kitchens. Food is prepped in a downstairs kitchen and cooked in a separate kitchen upstairs. The downstairs space also houses a temperature-controlled chocolate room, the wines for a 500+ bottle wine list and an ice cream maker that churns savory as well as sweet creations.
No, It Takes Five.
While most restaurants have an executive chef and a single sous chef, executive chef Michael Anthony has five sous chefs, responsible for training the line cooks and tasting nearly every dish that gets served.
It’s Two Restaurants in One.
Never forget the “tavern” in Gramercy Tavern, because more than most restaurants where you can eat at the bar, the Tavern menu is an entirely different experience. In fact, it’s an entirely different menu: instead of the prix fixe dinners and tasting menus offered in the dining room, everything’s a la carte. This keeps things approachable (appetizers all under $20, entrees all under $30) without sacrificing sophistication. And walk-ins are more than welcome, because the front Tavern room doesn’t take reservations.
No Meat? No Problem.
Vegetarians need not settle for that one obligatory dish earmarked for them as an afterthought. On the contrary, Gramercy Tavern is a vegetarian's paradise. There's a 6-course vegetarian tasting menu as well as hearty meatless fare like parsnip soup (broccoli, cheddar and zpple), beet salad (almonds, fregola and radish), squash and grain salad (mushrooms, sesame and pecorino) and spinach fettuccine (pumpkin ragu, beets and shiitake mushrooms). As evidence of the vegetable focus, look no farther than Chef Michael Anthony's newest cookbook, V is for Vegetables.
Tipping is So 2015.
Forget about tipping in 2016, because owner Danny Meyer announced in the fall of 2015 that tipping would be eliminated from Gramercy Tavern and all of his restaurants over the coming year. The new paradigm, called Hospitality Included, strives to reward teamwork and compensate the kitchen staff – who aren’t legally able to receive a share the tipping – “more equitably, competitively, and professionally.” Even though the practice seems revolutionary, Meyer insisits that "the total cost you pay to dine with us won’t differ much from what you pay now" and that "there will be no need to leave additional cash at the table, the coat check, or the bar."
What’s in a Name?
Located across Park Avenue from Gramercy Park, the restaurant probably borrows that name, which in Dutch means "crooked little swamp." We prefer to think Gramercy Tavern based its name on the Archaic expression of surprise and gratitude, taken from the Anglo-French "grand merci" ("many thanks").
And that’s just what diners are looking for, as Frank Bruni suggested in a 2007 New York Times review: “a kind of unstrained graciousness and unlabored sophistication that Gramercy Tavern has pretty much defined.”