1st anniversary dinner - Jean-Georges or Gramercy Tavern?
Gramercy Tavery, absolutely. This isn't to poo-poo Jean-George in any way other than to say it's on the stiff-formal side of a continuum anchored on the other end by Gramercy Tavern.
If you want a lovely, warm, comfortable, relaxed experience -- combined with food that, at its best -- is scrumptous and inventive, GT is the place to eat.
I agree - while I've only eaten in the Tavern room at GT, where the service is professional, warm, but not inappropriate, my recollection of the service at JG is that it is formal, but not stiff. However, I've learned over the years on CH, that people's impression of service varies dramatically. What I might consider professional can be considered by others as cold and stiff.
I know it changes the subject but how about considering a "best of both Worlds" alternative?
Eleven Madison Park is a Danny Meyer restaurant so the level of service is spectacular and you feel like they are really glad you are there. In regards to food, Chef Humm serves incredible, well thought out dishes.
The only downside is I never really consider it to be the most romantic place but if you get the little nook in the back its quite nice.
JG for sure if you prescribe to a mostly regular definition of what you seek for a special dinner with sig other.
If you don't like specific traits, then that is different and maybe Gram Tav is for you but JG is better.
And it is not like comparing a Rolls to a Bentley.
I am not hating on Gram Tav, either, had an amazing lunch there once. Though the follow up meal was disappointing and more so given that lunch.
Not that JG is without flaw(and I was just there with some)but overall, no contest.
I love both restaurants, and di82 and kathryn pretty much summed up the differences of the 2 restaurants. I will only add my view: for me, JG is more of a special occasion restaurant because the food is great but not something that I will want to eat every day. The decor, the atmosphere, and the staff (even the outfits) make it feel more like a restaurant for celebration. The presentation of the food is also more refined and artistic, so it makes the whole meal experience "seem" more special.
Gramercy Tavern, on the other hand, is more of a restaurant that I would frequent (and I do go there pretty much every week, though more to the tavern room). It serves the kind of food that you can eat every day, because it is more comforting and satisfying. At the same time it is less about presentation or details, so it appears to be less refined (and I use the word "appears" because it is just the look. The flavor is nothing short of excellence)
As for service, I put them as equal, because both JG and GT will go out their way to serve you the best that they can.
For 1st anniversary which I consider as a VERY important annual special event, I will go with JG. However, I will encourage you to visit GT anytime, any day, just for great food and great hospitality.
Both are excellent and will provide a great dining experience. So really, it depends what you like.
Jean-Georges - modern French, but without the emphasis on butter or heavy sauces, really interesting flavor combinations, with Asian accents, a more posh and quiet experience, especially if you like more luxurious ingredients like foie gras and caviar. The food here takes more risks.
Gramercy Tavern - more about the "farm to table" aesthetic, it's American food, the atmosphere is a little louder, about letting really great ingredients shine, GT has a deft hand with pastas, vegetables, fish, and pork, it reads more simple but is elegant in its simplicity, the service is very welcoming and friendly. The food is delicious but not as ambitious as Jean-Georges.
I'll go the other way and say JG. Both are good options and they are completely different styles so it depends what you prefer. JG provides the more "wow" experience imo, in that the setting is wonderful, the service is fantastic and at its best the food takes you to places that GT doesn't. Particularly if you like the whole french, tasting menu, wine pairing, coddling type experience JG is great. On the other hand, GT is warmer perhaps, has more comforting, crowd-pleasing type food, and more relaxed service. I find that atmosphere nice, if crowded. I'm confident you would leave GT saying that was really good. JG you might leave saying wow (as we did) or it might not be your scene because of the formality and the more challenging food. Either way, I'm sure it will be great- enjoy!
Gramercy Tavern in a heartbeat --- (yeah, anniversary heartbeat!)
I love Danny Meyer restaurants, and find Gramercy Tavern both welcoming and cozy, with superlative food, but the emphasis, I've always felt, is on me, the one dining, and not on the chef or the restaurant.
Jean-Georges is perhaps more elegant, and the food might even be better ( I'm just trying to bend over backwards, I don't really think so), but there I feel the emphasis is on the place, not on me. Maybe I'm just too diffident, but Gramercy suits me better.
Of course they're both great: it's like saying I prefer a Bentley to a Rolls-Royce!
Happy happy anniversary. Whichever you choose, it will be wonderful.