Getting into the Holiday Spirit @ Gramery Tavern

Name: Gramercy Tavern

NGM Rating: A/A-

Restaurant Inspection Rating: A

Website: http://www.gramercytavern.com/

Location: 42 East 20th St., NY, NY 10003

Cuisine: Seasonal Contemporary American

Owner/Chef: Danny Meyer and Michael Anthony

When did it open: 1994

Ambiance: There are two rooms at Gramercy Tavern – the Tavern and the Main Dining Room. The Tavern is bustling with walk-in patrons trying to get the more casual, relaxed experience in the bar room, but what’s nice about Gramercy Tavern is that you almost don’t notice a difference between the atmosphere there and the dining room.  The dining room is slightly more formal, with its white table cloths and elegant decor but pretension and snobbery are left at the door. The other major difference between the two is that the menu is completely different in one from the other other. You will experience fine dining at Gramercy Tavern but even in the dining room you feel more at ease in this warming environment than you might at some establishments where a coat-and-tie dress code is strictly enforced. I went for lunch but I am assuming even at dinner the restaurant tries to keep the pomp and circumstance to a minimum. Also, being that I was at Gramercy Tavern right smack in the middle of the holidays I got to see the restaurant in its most festive form. There were awesome planters hanging from the ceiling like over-sized green and red ornaments, and a giant tree lit atop the far side of the bar that surely caught everyone’s eye. The hospitality is what you would expect from Danny Meyer and Union Square Hospitality Group – friendly, attentive, insightful and the people there seem like they genuinely enjoy being part of the restaurant. Some at my table clamored that the lunch dragged a little, but it was fine with me since I enjoyed not being rushed for once and extending my stay. … I didn’t really want to leave when it was over.

Menu highlights: Let’s start with the cocktails. … since that’s where this particular lunch began. The seasonal cocktails were Mm Mm good, and I would highly recommend the Fall Classic before it gets rotated off the menu. There’s also a great wine list and the sommelier was very happy to assist in pairing our meals with the appropriate red. Now the food. At lunch, you get the good fortune of choosing either a tasting menu or a la carte. For this reason, I think lunch is the best way to get good bang for your buck at Gramercy Tavern. The pricing is actually pretty reasonable on the a la carte menu considering the quality of food that’s presented on your plate. The beet salad and squid ink spaghetti were fantastic. The lamb and snapper were the other table favorites. For dessert, the chocolate option won my favor (I am biased towards chocolate in general though).

What I didn’t get to try: When I was deciding on dessert I implored my server for a suggestion. She exclaimed that the pecan was her favorite, so I was anxious to try it. Unfortunately, she quickly came back to me with the bad news that the restaurant had just run out. Womp womp! I also would have liked to try the ruby red shrimp, chicken noodle soup and pork loin.

Constructive criticisms: As mentioned above, there was some murmuring at the table about the pace of our meal. It didn’t bother me so much, but I could see how the drawn out lunch in the middle of a workday would cause angst for New Yorkers.

Best for: Festive occasion, special occasion, business dining, splurge, date, dining on someone else’s dime and celebrations.

Dress Code: Business casual. Jacket and tie are optional.

Average Pricing: Lunch tasting: $58 for 5 courses, Dinner Tasting: $92-120, Tavern appetizers: $13, Tavern entrees: $22, Tavern dessert: $11, Dining room appetizers: $15, Dining room entrees: $24 , Dining room desserts: $12 , Cocktails: $14 , Wine by the glass: $17 . Keep in mind Gramercy Tavern only offers a tasting menu for dinner seatings.

Reservations: Reservations are available on OpenTable. This is a tough table to get so I strongly suggest logging on 30 days in advance to snag a spot.

 

Chinatown’s Little Brunch Gem: Dimes

Name: Dimes

NGM Rating: B+/A-

Restaurant Inspection Rating: Grade Pending

Website: http://dimesnyc.com/

Location: 143 Division Street, NY, NY 10002

Cuisine: Eclectic and Health-conscious

Owner/Chef: Alissa Wagner and Sabrina DeSousa

When did it open: September 2013

Ambiance:  This tiny restaurant gem on the edge of Chinatown attracts the ‘cool’ hipster crowd of the LES. You have to pay attention as you turn the corner on Division Street or you’re likely to miss it. … I pretty much did. The signage is discreet and you wouldn’t think to see a popular restaurant among the other storefronts lining the street. When you walk into Dimes, you’re immediately immersed in the close-knit community of this restaurant. … whether you want to be or not. The dining room is very small and the tables are cramped together to accommodate a modest crowd. It’s difficult to ignore other table’s conversations or notice the plates being passed around – acai bowls, chia pudding and eggs in a variety of eclectic preparations. Each table I noticed was either filled with laughter, people entrenched in some deeply intellectual conversation or a twosome simply enjoying afternoon brunch with a friend they hadn’t seen in a while. Very pleasant vibe even given the lack of elbow room.

Menu highlights: Navigating the menu here was fun. I basically didn’t recognize three-quarters of the menu and used the advice of my server to guide me. I mean. … do you know what to expect from an acai bowl? Well now I do, and I urge others to try one of four options at Dimes. The eggs any style were simple – mine served over easy – but came with savory roasted tomatoes and greens that were pretty darn tasty as garnishes. I also added half of a sliced avocado for $2.50. … why not, right? The seven-grain toast here is also spot on – thick, grainy, healthful goodness. Love it when restaurants get bread right. I don’t really think you can go wrong with much of what Dimes has to offer in the Brunch department. It’s not your typical NYC brunch, but it’s darn tasty. … and apparently healthy too!

What I didn’t get to try: I ate at Dimes for Brunch so missed the opportunity to sample any of the dinner options. I didn’t hit most of the brunch menu too and at a place like this you kind of want to sample all the options. I am still curious about the chia pudding, quinoa porridge, egg sandwich, Sayanara Summer Tacos and the assorted chilled beverages (those looked particularly interesting.

Constructive criticisms: It would be nice to have a little more space when eating, but I don’t think that’s what Dimes is going for. The restaurant is meant to be cozy and collegial, with the humming of people’s conversations heard throughout the room.

Best for: Brunch for two. … or any meal for two (groups are tough), hipster hang out, going off-the-beaten path and a healthy food fix.

Dress Code: Vintage tees, over-size sweaters, leggings, jeans and booties

Average Pricing: Brunch items: $10, Juices: $4, Cocktails: $9, Appetizers: $11, Entrees: $18. Very reasonable!

Reservations: No reservations. Tables on a first-come-first-serve basis.