Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park: Compare and Contrast
I have not been to GT since the new chef, Michael Anthony, took over, though I believe the consensus remains that Humm's cuisine at EMP is superior and is now the best of any Danny Meyer restaurant. I recently dined at EMP and was blown away. Based on what you get at Blue Hill, where Anthony was previously, the food at GT is more ingredient-focused and stripped down compared to Humm's more complex creations.
I think the other notable contrast would be atmosphere. EMP is such a huge space, it has always felt more corporate and impersonal to me than GT. You really feel like you are in a huge room. GT is much more intimate, being broken into a series of smaller rooms. For a special occasion, I think it is a more inviting setting, even if the food is a slight cut below EMP.
EMP is also renowned for its sommelier, as discussed elsewhere on this board.
There's also a very lively front room of GT which is very inviting and warm; however, there's also a dated-looking mural up on the walls of the Tavern Room.
The formal Dining Room of GT is also very warm and welcoming, but if you're dining during the day, I have to say that the Dining Room is interior and you don't get much natural light.
Whereas, for lunch/brunch, EMP is very very bright and has large windows where you can see some of Madison Square Park. EMP is a single space with a smaller bar area but gorgeous windows and vaulted ceilings. It is, however, it's easy to tell that it used to be a bank.
I'm going to say EMP!
Our recent USHG dining experiences include the Tavern at GT, The Modern and EMP.
We actually had dinner at The Modern and EMP a couple of weeks ago, about four days apart. While The Modern was very good we found it a bit over orchestrated while EMP pulled off every dish.
The one thing we found a bit over done at EMP was all of the table side services. I think all of my dishes had an extra sauce/jus/oil that they had to add once they set my plate down. It became a bit much by the end.
This wasn't our first visit under Chef Humm and I don't recall this being the norm the last time we were there.
All of the food however, was excellent. He keeps the proteins fairly the same while changing the garnishes/sides seasonally. And he does a great job!
We also had lunch at the Tavern several months ago and while I enjoyed my dishes my fiance wasn't very impressed by his. But then, we haven't been to the main dining room in about two years I think.
Two different dining experiences, as others have indicated.
Just remember: EMP was in Sex and the City (the scene where Big tells Carrie that he's engaged to the stick figure with no soul.) Every place that appeared in SATC is now over run with teens from Kansas City on their SATC tours. Not going to be the same crowd as it might have been six or seven years ago.
Are you sure you're not mixing EMP up with another restaurant?
I've never seen "Sex and the City," but I've been to EMP many times since Chef Humm's arrival early last year and it has *never* been overrun with teenagers from Kansas City or anywhere else for that matter. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen any teenagers in the dining room -- not that a family with teens wouldn't be welcomed by the staff. The crowd remains the same as always, i.e., a mixture of locals, diners from immediately surrounding locales, and tourists.
Just like MMRuth said, that scene at SATC was indeed taken at EMP, right at the back "corner" area after you pass the a few stair steps.
Kansas City teens? SATC tourists? I don't care if the diners are tourists or locals or SATC fans, but everytime I have been to EMP, people there are well-behaved, and the atmosphere is very civilized. Nothing choatic like the "teen" places (e.g. Stanton Social).
The crowd may be different from 5, 6 years ago, but that's only because it is a new chef now and the food is better than before!
In all the times I've been to EMP I haven't seen teens that stood out (there were a few families there a couple of weeks ago but they blended in) or anyone that looked like they just stepped off a cheesy bus tour.
The places that get those crowds seem to all be in the Meatpacking District (except for Magnolia.) They all want neon lighting so they can run home and tell their friends they dined in a "real" NYC hotspot.
Those are the places we stay away from.
And I do remember the episode. But I don't think that many people who visit realize that it was EMP or rush to make a res because they saw it on t.v..