Went to Union Square Cafe 2 weeks ago with 3 others. The space is probably the most unimpressive of anything in its price class. The service was ordinary. Most importantly, the food was good.
That's the problem. I can't believe the reputation was built on food that was this pedestrian.
I expected more. 4 meals. No homeruns.
Your reaction comes as no surprise to me. We had one dinner at USC years ago and came away totally unimpressed with the food. Although it's a Danny Meyer restaurant, I didn't feel the service reached the very high level one has come to expect in his restaurants. And the fact that we were seated in "Siberia," i.e., on the balcony level, didn't help the situation. Normally, I would have requested a table change, but we were hosting a visitor from France, and I didn't want to make a fuss. The overall experience left us entirely unmotivated to go there again.