Gramercy Tavern, Uninon Sq or Babbo
- Lori Myers
I have narrowed my selection for my one night per year dinner in NYC next month to Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe or Babbo. We are looking for innovative cuisine in a fun environment. Which would you choose?
well, i don't mean to burst your bubble since you seem
to have done a bit of research, but if you're looking
for innovative food in a fun environment, i don't think
those 3 should be your top choices, except for maybe
having said that, i can tell you that probably most
people on chowhound would probably tell you to go to
babbo of the 3. it's definitely a very happening spot
right now so it should be fun, especially if you're
seated downstairs. the food is definitely innovative,
with stuff like beef cheek ravioli and mint love
letters, and lots of use of things people aren't
usually fans of like tripe (surprisingly good),
sardines (also very good) and sweetbreads and calves
brains. be careful what you order. not everything
works. avoid the duck liver ravioli. the two minute
calamari doesn't work as a main dish. do a search on
chowhound and read some reviews.
as far as union square, for chowhounds, some people
love it, others don't see what the big deal is. there
was a little debate about the place a little while back
so you can look for it here and read it. i fall into
the latter category so i'm a little biased. i would
call their food the least innovative of the three
though. but i guess the atmosphere is nice and the
service very friendly.
of the three, i personally would probably go to
gramercy. their food is more innovative and better
than union square and it's a nice place to have a meal.
but if you really want to know where i'd go, just off
the top of my head i'd pick tabla or union pacific.
union pacific has great, innovative cuisine. however,
at night the place is a bit dark and serious, so i
wouldn't call it fun. if you're going for lunch, then
definitely go there. otherwise tabla, which also has
great innovative indian fusion fare though not as good
as union pacific. however, the place is livelier than
union pacific at night so probably a better bet for
you. and definitely get the vanilla bean kulfi. hope
that helps and if you have any more specific questions,
feel free to ask.
I LOVED Babbo, and eating upstairs makes it
considerably less noisy. If you want an exciting,
special treat that is also incredibly palate-pleasing,
I would go for Babbo hands down. USC is consistently
nice, but nothing outstanding. As for Tabla, other
than the vanilla kulfi dessert, I was completely not
impressed and felt the chef was trying way too hard. I
must admit, though, I've not yet been to Gramercy
Tavern, so I can't say whether I'd choose it first. I
don't think you can go wrong with Babbo if you're open
to innovative Italian food that is better than anything
you'd expect. For instance, a maple mascarpone
cheesecake didn't do much for me as a description, but
remembering the taste still makes my mouth water. If
you're willing to eat on the early side, you can watch
the light fade in the skylight and have a relatively
quiet, undisturbed meal and conversation. Let us know
what you decide!
How is Picholine. We haven't been there in a while but
loved it when we were there. However we've had a a
couple of very less than satisfactory reports from
friends who have also loved it in the past.
And now that've posted, my opinion is Gramcercy Tavern
hands down among the three originally proposed. I
Haven't been to the other two but once, and I suppose
that says something, although I don't mean to stay away
from any of them, it's just that Gramercy Tavern is
closer to the ultimate place f
re: Robert Buxbaum
Expect Picholine to undergo some changes: chef de
cuisine David Pasternak left recently. Terrance
Brennan has his name on everything, but we feel the
credit for their three star rating belonged to David.
Don't know where he'll surface but suggest you try it
where ever he lands.
Gramercy Tavern, hands down. Of the three, it's the most
expensive, but I think it's the best restaurant in New
York at the moment, and I go there whenever I can afford
to. Chef Tom Colicchio is really coming into his own--
he's adventurous, but utterly devoted to urging the
deepest flavors out of everything he touches. Claudia
Fleming is Manhattan's finest pastry chef, and the
staff--from top to bottom--exemplifies relaxed
confidence and utter efficiency.
I've lunched and dined there about 16 times, and have
never experienced one single mishap.
Union Square is very good, but it can be a bit uneven.
And Babbo is terrific, but a bit of a "scene"; however,
most would agree it's the best Italian in town right
Wherever you go, bon appetit!
One dinner in New York a year? hmmm...This is a tough
call. I really like all three but, I think I would be
a little bit more on the wild side. It sounds like
your leaning towards a Danny M. thing. Have you
thought about Tabla?
Haven't been to Babbo, so I can't comment on it. But
given a choice between Gramercy Tavern or Union Square
for dinner, I'd definitely pick Union Square Cafe.
The food is consistently excellent, the staff is
extremely pleasant and helpful, and the space is more
comfortable. Gramercy Tavern is terrific, too, of
course!, but a little more on the fussy, formal side
-- at least in the dining room. Whichever you choose,
reservations are essential and, on the weekends, hard
to get. Good luck and bon appetit!
Part of the problem answering you is deciding what
"fun" is for another person. Babbo is cetainly the
most noisy and lively of the three, but I think it's
the one place out of the three where I'd be least
likely to have fun, because it's harder to maintain a
conversation there, and the service can be so
obtrusive (usually in a friendly way) that it's hard
to carry on a conversation (I was there once for a
business conversation and we made the mistake of
ordering the pasta tasting menu -- we spent more time
telling the cheese grater guy when to stop then we did
talking to each other).
I agree with almost everything Gourmet Guide said.
The service at Gramercy Tavern is the best I've
encountered at any NYC big-deal restaurant, and there
is a consistency to the food and the service that is
admirable and innovative, but not showy; it's not dull
and formal in my book. It's comfortable and warm, and
extremely conducive to good conversation, which is a
huge element in a big-deal dinner to me. But I
certainly could see someone considering the dining
room at Gramercy "dull."
No doubt the food at Babbo is more innovative, but I
don't think it's as good and certainly not anywhere as
consistent than the fare at GT.
(By the way, if you were asking about a non-big-deal
meal, I'd suggest the bar area at GT as a possible
solution -- because that area can be fun -- to me it
easily beats the bar area of Babbo or U.S. You can do
far worse than ordering a lamb sandwich and a beer at