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Aug 1, 2001 10:32 AM

A tour of our favorite restaurants

  • m

As some of you already know, my wife and I are moving to New Jersey. We’re excited to have some more space (and be closer to the golf course!), yet sad to leave NYC. Even though it’s a relatively short commute to NYC, it will be tough to go out to the front room at Gramercy Tavern on a whim at 9:00 PM on a Monday night. Thus during our last week as NYC residents we decided to go on a tour of our favorite restaurants.

Monday night we packed boxes for several hours and then decided to go out for a bite to eat. After mulling over our choices we decided to see what the wait was like at the front room at Gramercy Tavern. Luckily at 9:00 PM there was no wait. It should be noted though that we got one of only two open tables late on a Monday night in the summer. I guess New Yorkers know a good value.

We pored over the menu for a bit and then made our choices. I was tempted to go with several appetizers, but decided to get the quail stuffed with corn meal as an appetizer and the roasted striped bass for my entrée. My wife got the artichoke salad for her appetizer and the vegetable and tallegio sandwich for her entrée. The quail was glazed with something (I’m not sure what it was) that tasted wonderful. I like game birds a lot, but when I think back on some of the great dishes that I’ve had over the past year, several of them involve quail. I’ve had amazing dishes at Peristyle, Po, and now Gramercy Tavern. The striped bass was tasty as well. The chef crisps the skin perfectly. I suspect they use a salamander to do this since I have found this hard to replicate at home without setting off the fire alarm. I didn’t taste my wife’s artichoke salad, but the vegetable sandwich was great. The eggplant was marinated in red pepper and had a real kick to it.

One of the great features at Gramercy Tavern is their wine list. Not only is their list diverse and well priced, but the by the glass program is interesting as well. You can choose to have a glass or a taste (3oz pour) of wine. Also, the wines by the glass are interesting. Many restaurants serve crap by the glass and mark it up as much as possible. I had two glasses of the 91 Fonsallette Cote du Rhone. The wine had a classic nose of garrigue and earth with the Grenache fruit poking its way to the top. For a ten year old CdR is was still very tannic though. I’m not sure that the fruit will outlive the tannins in this wine.

Tuesday night started with some more packing. Will it ever end? We continued on our restaurant tour. If I had to name a restaurant that we had dined at the most over the past five years (excluding neighborhood places) it would be Po. We made our way over to Po with the intention of eating at the bar. The bar was full, but they happened to have a table for two available.

We started with the complimentary white bean bruschetta that is so simple yet so flavorful. I was still full from my meal the night before, so I just ordered an entrée. Allison had a salad with white bean vinaigrette and for an entrée she had the white bean ravioli with balsamic and brown butter. We have probably eaten at Po 25 times over the years and with the exceptions of the times that we ordered the tasting menu I think that Allison has had the white bean ravioli every time! A few years back Mario Batali showed her how to make this dish in the kitchen at Po when she popped her head into the kitchen to ask how he made the dish. I guess when you like something you stick with it. I had the porcini crusted cod with scarlet runner beans. My dish was great. The beans added a rich texture to the dish and the porcini crusted added an earthy component. I had a glass of Barbera d’Alba with my meal. It was very high in acidity and when tempered with the rich beans made a nice match.

Even though Mario Batali is no longer associated with Po, the restaurant is still run very smoothly and offers an incredible value. Bruschetta, an appetizer, two entrees, and glass of wine came to $51 with tax and tip.

We decided to walk over to the Magnolia Bakery for some dessert. As we got closer we noticed the crowd that was outside the bakery. There must have been twenty people milling around outside the bakery and at least another 20 crammed inside. What a business this place was doing! We picked up a couple of cupcakes and walked home.

Stay tuned for tonight’s installment…

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  1. c
    Caitlin McGrath

    As it happens, last Thursday at GT, my SO had the quail appetizer, and I had the striped bass entree. Both were much enjoyed, as were my grilled sardines with panzanella and his filet mignon with onion confit.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Caitlin McGrath


      I've had the filet mignon with the onion rings and mashed potatoes many times in the front room. Great stuff! Last night we went to Tartine (I'll write my review soon). It's arguable that GT, Po, and Tartine offer some of the best value in Manhattan. Especially if you don't consider Indian, Korean, Chinese, etc.


      1. re: Mike C
        Caitlin McGrath

        Where is Tartine?

        Oh, and how could you pass up dessert at GT? We never can, and also sometimes go just for dessert. (At our dinner last week, we had the blackberry-cornmeal cake w/sweet corn ice cream and the peach tatin w/black pepper ice cream. mmm...)

        P.S. My SO is the meat eater, and I swear he orders thwe filet mignon every time we go there (which is not real often, due to budgetary constraints).

        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          253 West 11th Street near West 4th, corner. It's on a very pretty block in one of the most attractive parts of the West Village. Nearby you have a strange intersection where West 4th and West 10th meet.

          1. re: howard
            Caitlin McGrath

            Thanks--good to know esp. because I'm noving kind of nearby this month!

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Lucky you!The other unusual thing about that area is that it's closer to 14th Street than 6th Ave.. My brother in law has an apartment across the street from Tomoe Sushi and that side of 6th is tourist hell.The closer you get to the river the quieter and the more residential. West and Greenwich are both very low key. Enough geography. In nice non-sweltering weather I prefer to sit outside at Tartine since it's cramped inside. Don't forget to bring your own wine.Burgundy Wine Company (not only Burgundy) at 323 West 11th between Greenwich and Washington isnot far. Check for their hours(691-9092).Manleys at 8th Ave. between 12th and 13th is close also.

              1. re: howard
                Caitlin McGrath

                Yeah, I wish I were going to be a bit farther west, but I'll be right near 6th and 14th. Not exactly a homey area, but them's the breaks. I'm looking forward to exploring W. Village places as in the past it's an area I only got to occasionally (too lazy to go across towm very often, I guess).

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  That's a nice central location within walking distance of many places. The Union Square Greenmarket isn't far. You have good shopping at Garden of Eden and Crossroads Wine. Gotham Bar and Grill (especially good value for Lunch),Ino,Blue Hill,Lupa,Boughalem and Chez Michallet(good Pre-theater menu) are all walkable.East Village isn't too far away either.

                  1. re: howard
                    Caitlin McGrath

                    Oh, yes, it's quite central and I know the immediate area pretty well. I'm only a mile or so away right now, but look forward to being that much closer to the greenmarket, the nicest G of E (I've been shopping at the orig. 3d Ave one since before they expanded), and better restaurants than in Murray Hill, but still close to Gramercy, E Village, etc. Just wish I was in a quieter, less grimy and commercial locale. But I'm not knocking it hard, believe me!

    2. Mike C, sounds like you've found the way to make packing up fun. Where are you going tonight? Are you going to the same thing on the other end? Unpack a while then explore new places in NJ?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Dee Gustay

        We went to Tartine last night. I'll write up my review when I get a few minutes. The real question is where to go tonight.

        There is a problem though. Between packing and eating I haven't made it to the gym this week. After three days in row of food and wine I'm going to need to give my stomach a rest for a while!