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Union Square Recommendations?

A few Philly hounds will be visiting Union Square in July and had a few questions for you:

1. Union Square Cafe and Gotham Bar and Grill are good recommendations to eat if looking for New American food? We will only be in for a brief visit so we wanted to hit what's really good in the area.

2. Are there any good bakeries in the area to grab a cookie or something else good if we get hungry between meals (I was thinking Birdbath or City Bakery?) I know not to go to Max Brenner and we have a Whole Foods in Philly so any other hints would be appreciated.

Thanks a lot!

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  1. #1 - Are you limited to just the Union Square area?

    #2 - City Bakery does have the most incredible double-chocolate chip cookies. Also the famous pretzel-croissant makes an excellent snack.

    Tisserie also has desserts (brownies, various tartlets, etc).

    If your visit is M, W, F, or Sat, you can hit the Union Square Farmer's Market for some homemade treats/snacks.

    5 Replies
    1. re: piegirl74

      We'd actually prefer something close to Union Square because we have older relatives in tow unless there's something in another area that's to die for.

      The reason I was asking about the cookies is that Caffe Roma (I think it's called) on Broome St. is on vacation when we're there so no macaroons this trip and I'm still in sugar shock from the last Magnolia outing.

      By the way, Gramercy Tavern was actually choice number two (we're looking for lunches on July 4th and 5th) but they are closed on July 4th unfortunately so that one's out...but thanks for the recommendation!

      1. re: bluehensfan

        Are you sure that USC is open on July 4th as well? Danny Meyer operates both, and typically gives all his employees the day off for national holidays.

        For other sweets, in addition to Tisserie and City Bakery (City Bakery is the Union Square located one, Birdbath is found in West or East Village):

        Amai Tea House & Bakery (3rd and 17th)
        Michel Cluizel chocolates (inside ABC Carpet and Home, 19th and Broadway)
        Le Petit Belge (new waffle place on 14th Street)
        Tarallucci E Vino (18th St and Broadway location)
        Joe the Art of Coffee (5th Ave and 13th)
        Grey Dog (University and 12th)

        Not sure what will be open on July 4th though.

        1. re: kathryn

          USC is actually open (I called). Thanks for the tips!

        2. re: bluehensfan

          Actually Gramercy Tavern (the Tavern part) is open for lunch on Saturday. Is that worth it? Thanks for all your help!

          1. re: bluehensfan

            Definitely! I've eaten in both several times. The Tavern Room is definitely nice -- no reservations, however. But you get a comfortable atmosphere, good food, and very gracious service. I really like their house-made pastrami, as well as the pulled pork sandwich, or the stuffed meatball.

      2. Tocqueville at 1 East 15th Street is lovely, has great food, and a $24 prix fixe lunch every day. It's one of my favorite places in the city. 15 East 15th Street is their "little baby" place... Japanese fare. very trendy and hip, and also very good.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ChefJune

          The Tocqueville Greenmarket menu is very serious food and a real deal at $36 (for lunch, $48 for dinner). It's also a beautiful space, less than a block from Union Square.

        2. USC isn't great. Consider Gramercy Tavern instead.
          Bird Bath and City Bakery are the same thing--or the same company/same cookies, so go to whichever is more convenient. Max Brenner is definitely skippable.

          1. Do not miss Gotham if at all possible- it is a quintessentially NYC experience-. This village gem paved the way for the entire below "midtown" dining scene and hasn't missed a beat for decades. I am a regular and while I am sure other may debate- GB&G has never disappointed me or the countless diners I have sent - I was just there last week and the softshell crab was some of the best I have ever experienced. Not to mention it is a beautiful space with wonderful service.

            1. For New American I really like Craftbar. It's on Broadway a couple blocks or so north of Union Square. They're softshell crab appetizer is very good if they still have it.

              I would definitely recommend both Bird Bath and City Bakery as excellent for cookies and just about any other pastry item.

              3 Replies
              1. re: AppetiteforChina

                I have to disagree on Craftbar. While I've had some good dishes there, it can be very uneven.

                1. re: Lucia

                  If it has to be lunch, then only Craftbar (and not Craft) is open.

                  If you're willing to spend a bit more and go for dinner, then choose Craft over Craftbar. Craft is great but there may be a bit of sticker shock at the end.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    It's a timing issue why we're going out to lunch (because of the wedding). And I'd think we'd rather do lunch versus brunch somewhere too.

              2. Whoever told you to skip Max Brenner is right! That place is a joke. I second Grey Dog cafe - very chill and informal, good fresh food. If you are into Cuban venture west to 9th ave and hit Son Cubano - amazing. There are always the bigger standards, Angelo and Maxie's, Blue water Grill, City Crab...

                1 Reply
                1. re: Elizabeth Rothman

                  Thought I'd report back...we wound up having lunch at Gotham Bar and Grill. It was fabulous. The black bass ceviche was very good but the octopus appetizer was so good that we had to order another. For entrees, we had the seared striped bass which was very good, as was a soft-shell crab that had some very tasty corn that accompanied it. We also had a pasta special with mushrooms and some type of cheese that was delicious, and enjoyed a free range chicken breast which had to be the best chicken we've ever had (as was the octopus too!). For desserts we had the bananas and cream and the frozen nutella with olive oil ice cream. Both were just fair if you ask us. Any good pastry chefs out there looking to move up?

                  We also tried tisserie and enjoyed a delicious guava tart, a vanilla diamond, a brownie bite, and chocolate and dulce de leche tarts. Also a delicious multigrain muffin was enjoyed there too.

                  City Bakery was amajor disappointment. We tried a scone that was not so hot, and tried one of the famous chocolate chunk cookies. The cookie was not so exciting either...not sure I get what the fascination with this place is, but was good to try once.

                  Thanks again for the tips!

                2. We love Tocqueville and 15 East. Dinner is pricey however.
                  Union Square Cafe does a really nice job but not in the same league.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: s.piller

                    I like Tocqueville and for sushi Tocqueville's owner also has 15 East which is fabulous. For a bakery walk to Veniero's its about 3 blocks and 4 avenues. not a bad walk