I was wowed by everything I ate at Hearth, so I guess I was expecting the same when I ate at the mothership, with a celebrity chef, no less. So maybe my sights were a little high, but I was a tad disappointed. A couple of the dishes were a little greasy, as someone had mentioned. And one kinda picky thing that made me raise an eyebrow: my wife's lamb shank came out standing on end and the one delivered to the table next to us was on its side. I know that it's hardly worth mentioning except that it calls into question the kitchens commitment to execution. I actually wrote a bit on our visit: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/467593
We've been to Craftbar many times and enjoyed it. But DH went two weeks ago (without me) and said he had the most horrific meal of his life. Service was bad. Food was bad -- everything was oversalted and had too greasy and oily. Everything about it was so bad that he won't go there anymore unless somebody else insists. And he generally is very lenient with his assessment of restaurants. So if he says it's bad, it's terrible.
And also to answer your question about Gramercy Tavern -- Gramercy in a heartbeat.
I've been there half a dozen times and, while I like it, I'd have to say it's sort of a fall-back place for me. I also like the fondue, but it's more of a dessert than an app. Short ribs are legit too. The service is surprizingly "relaxed" (ahem) for such a slick place, but it's not the worst ever.
I think that the atmosphere is good for a young couple.
I've been a couple of times. I'd say the food is fine, average at best. I like the pecorino-stuffed risotto balls, though I think you can find better ones in the same neighborhood at Bar Stuzzichini. I remember being disappointed by the ravioli with apples and trompettes- overly buttery and bland. The brown sugar cake is pretty good.Be aware that the menu currently listed on menupages.com isn't completely accurate, as there have been some updates.
Service has also been spotty both times. Last time, they graciously and quickly replaced a drink I sent back, but then we were hard-pressed to get the waiter's attention for the rest of the meal. It seems like the waitstaff is nice and friendly when they do come over, but getting their attention is the real difficulty!
I'm a huge fan. My boyfriend and I are in our 20s and live in the neighborhood and we regard this place as one of our standbys. The atmosphere is fun and casual and it's relatively easy to get a reservation with a few days notice (or on weekends, if you go at non peak times you can pretty easily get a walk in table).
In terms of food I would recommend . . . . for apps and small snacks,
Bruschettas of the day (especially when its mushroom)
Pecorino fondue with acacia honey and hazelnuts (this is one of my fav dishes anythere)
Fried sage leaves stuffed with sausage
Veal ricotta meatballs (they'll serve them with a side of spaghetti)
Hangar steak (excellent)
Homemade goat cheese ravioli (had this last weekend, it was divine)
Anyway hope you get a chance to try it out!