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Not Wowed by Gramercy Tavern

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I was SO excited having heard from everyone under the sun about Gramercy Tavern. I made reservations a month in advance. My friend and I did the three-course menu - started with the sweetbreads and peekytoe crab fondue, which I admit were both excellent with the right balance of savory and zing. The entrees, however, fell totally flat. My friend had the salmon - the sauce was too salty. I had the rabbit, which was kind of dry and tough. For dessert, we had the creme caramel and hazelnut chocolate mousse - which were really good.

I usually expect the appetizer to be way better than the entree since they are usually more creative, but I thought Gramercy Tavern would be different. I was disappointed. Did anyone else have this experience?

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  1. Gramercy has been crusing along on what is known as the 'Zagat Effect" In short this means once a restaurant gets a good rating, diners flock to it and, convinced that they are eating at a top-flight establishment, cannot bring themselves to believe otherwise.

    The food isn't bad it's solid but it certainly does not deserve the reviews it receives. The best bet is to eat in the Tavern portion.

    1. I think Gramercy's appeal lies not so much in the food (which is very good, but not spectacular compared to other restaurants in a similar price range) but in overall experience - which includes the top-notch service and the decor, which I find particularly welcoming. In fact, I'd say "welcoming" is the word which likely describes the "Zagat Effect" mentioned above. The restaurant goes out of its way to make everyone feel special, and is much less intimidating than maybe a place like a Perry St. It leaves you with a general good feeling, and it always serves a consistently good, if not spectacular meal, in my opinion, which in terms of repeat business, counts for a lot. And the "tavern" area is indeed a nice touch.

      1. I'm sorry that yours was a disappointing experience. I have had three or four meals by myself in the tavern area and they have ranged from pretty good to only okay. I did have one meal in the dining room proper a few years ago that was absolutely spectacular, and with flawless service. It is a fond memory and one that I cherish, but the intervening tavern meals have left me less than anxious to return.

        1. When you asked "everyone under the sun", you evidentally neglected to ask the chowhounders here, who have been reporting merely-decent meals at GT for a while...

          i agree with you about the food quality...many years ago, i had some spectacular meals at GT but the last two meals fell flat, and i haven't returned since...the food was fairly good but not worth the price nor the reservation hassle/crowds...more surprising though was the decline in service...when GT opened, i thought the service was remarkable in that the waiters/waitresses were incredibly knowledgable culinarily while remaining completely unpretentious...on one of my last visits, i was shocked to find a slightly arrogant attitude, which, coupled with less tasty food, made me strike it from my list of regular haunts...

          1. That sucks. I was there a little over 2 years ago and had a great meal in the Tavern room. Sorry to hear they're in decline. Maybe Tom should spend less time on Top Chef.

            1. "I think Gramercy's appeal lies not so much in the food (which is very good, but not spectacular compared to other restaurants in a similar price range) but in overall experience"

              This is definetely true... but the food was still really good when we went a few months ago. Not every dish was spectacular... but when you factored in the service and everything- it really is a great meal. I do remember the sweetbread appetizer being delicious and the desserts are outstanding across the board. So maybe some of the main courses don't wow- but in the end, I think to be critical of Grammercy Tavern for not meeting expecatations is not really fair (or talking about some Zagat Effect), because in truth it's still a really good meal- and should not be lumped in with other restaurants that may or may not be coasting on their reputations or hype. It is not a bad meal or bad restaurant by any stretch of the imagination...

              eGustibus Food Blog: http://www.egustibus.com

              1. Agreed. It is fair for someone to point out that their mains are not necessarily the most innovative or best out there-- but you are right that desserts are universally excellent. As is the cheese plate. I'd still rather spend my dime there than plenty of other places whose main dishes might be a bit more unusual. I think of its "Zagat Effect" as the fact that the Zagat reviewers are, shall we say, more of a cross-section than perhaps would be the cross section of people whose opinions I care about (just look at how every sushi or Italian in the East Village has a 26; the ratings are pointless), but its appeal to EVERYONE - not just people spending tons of coin, not necessarily just the most sophisticated or worldly consumer - means that same cross section continues to love it, and rightly so. I'm glad to have NY represented by a restaurant that makes you feel equally at home if you are a tourist who may have never been to a fine New York restaurant, or if you're some foodie who has eaten at tons of places here or if you're at a business dinner. I have eaten in that restaurant, at some point in my life, wearing all three hats. They treat everyone equally.

                On a side note, another Meyer place that is very highly placed in Zagat, and that many of my friends seem not to enjoy (but I have no particular complaints about) is Union Square Cafe. Thoughts on that?

                1 Reply
                1. re: jonasblank

                  I couldn't agree more with what you said about Zagat... I thought by "Zagat Effect" you meant that since they were highly rated in Zagat, they have gone downhill because they know the restaurant will be full regardless of how the food tastes...

                2. I totally agree with everyone who's posted before me. Gramercy Tavern will always be under that umbrella of the Zagat favorites. Even though I went there once for their 5 course tasting menu for luch, it was decent. Loved their sweetbreads; entrees were good but not spectacular; dessert ended with a little spark, no fireworks or a divine epiphany of sorts that I would expect. Yes, service is attentive but not snobby and they do treat all of their patrons equally. It's a good restaurant but not a great one.

                  On Union Square Cafe, I have that same feeling. I went there twice, once on Restaurant Week a year ago and the second time a few months ago. I like their risotto and their dessert was good (a brown sugar betty, I believe). When I went there recently (mentioned earlier), I was truly disappointed with their tuna burger; it was ok. It lacked flavor, I didn't really enjoy it. The dessert I ordered was their rocky road baked alaska; it was too sweet (and I do have a huge sweet tooth), my teeth was aching due to the sugar, sending me to really bad sugar rush.
                  Seriously from the two ocassions that I have dined there, I think USC is on a falling on a slump.

                  I would have expected better from both restaurants since I've heard so much about them and when that anticipation and expectation of great food has been met with a back hand slap on your face; you've gotten a shortcoming of expectations and that's sad since (some) people would call these restaurants "establishments" that you should eat and truly be spending your time and money for.