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Why is it so easy to get a reservation at Gotham Bar & Grill?

I've been to Gotham several times in the last year, principally because seemingly every time I check for a last minute reservation on opentable at a high end restaurant, Gotham is available at convenient times. This is rarely the case for other comparable restaurants, including places like Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern that, like Gotham, provide excellent food and service, have reasonably large dining rooms, and have been open for a long time. (When I checked today for a reservation for tonigh, a 7:30 table for Blue Hill came up, but by the time I clicked on it, it was gone!).

Based on my recent experiences, Gotham is as good as ever. (They've had a steak special on the menu the last several times I've been that may be the best steak I've ever had, albeit at $80!) What's going on? Why has Gotham fallen out of favor? ("Fallen out of favor" probably is an overstatment. They still do a very good business. But why is it such an easy reservation?)

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Gramercy Tavern
42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

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  1. It's not trendy. (Thank goodness)

    1 Reply
    1. re: gutsofsteel

      Not new, not trendy, no celebrity chef, no celebrity owner, no celebrity diners, no "scene"....

    2. While I haven't been to GB&G in awhile and therefore can't attest to the current quality of its food, I think you nailed it when you said "have been open for a long time." No matter how consistently good a place is, there are new places with quality food popping up daily and no good reason not to try them. That said, I may have to pay GB&G a visit in the near future.

      9 Replies
      1. re: chewbie

        What I don't get about the "not trendy" and "open for a long time" arguments, though, is that the same can be said about Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern. Both are easier to get into than they used to be, but they're both still a tough last minute reservation. Is it just the Danny Meyer magic?

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        Gramercy Tavern
        42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

          1. re: gutsofsteel

            Highly agree with your statement. PR can make or break a place. I saw the lines at Beard Papa snake around the block when it first opened while Panade (which I think is better) got a pretty slow start.

            And there's also an element of the shiny new toy syndrome. I've seen people go crazy about the latest trendiest place saying how wonderful the food is. They don't revisit as other trendy places open that catch their eyes. A few years later, they say how the food wasn't that great. Huh????

            I like Gotham B&G. No, it's not cutting edge food (for this time period anyway). And there are restaurants in NYC with better food. But it's solid. First time I was there was about 13 years ago. Last time I was there was 2 years ago. I haven't noticed any dip in quality during those years. Hope it sticks around for a long time.

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            Panade
            129 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

            Beard Papa's
            2167 Broadway, New York, NY 10024

          2. re: Blumie

            I think there's some of that but also GT and USC are more centrally located and (based on my read) more of the patrons are people who are having business dinners. My recollection is also that GB&B's reputation had taken a hit for awhile a few years back. I recall several negative to average reviews which don't justify the pricetag. Not validating those reviews, but that's my recollection.

            1. re: Blumie

              I think it is the Danny Meyer magic. He manages to make you feel welcome and at home in all of his places. Can't say the same for Gotham, although it's a good place. Just doesn't have the same charm as say, Gramercy Tavern or EMP.

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              Gramercy Tavern
              42 E 20th St, New York, NY 10003

              1. re: grouchomarx

                I agree about how warm one is made to feel at a Danny Meyer restaurant, but I feel the same way about Gotham. Perhaps it's not exactly the same, but I've never had the slightest hint of the "we're doing you a favor by letting you eat here" attitude that one all-too-often gets at high end restaurants.

                1. re: Blumie

                  USC is a stone's throw from Gotham, so I disagree about it being more centrally located. I think there's something to the Danny Meyer effect-- him opening new restaurants helps give the older ones more buzz too.

                  I've eaten at Gotham only once. I had a very good duck dish with foie gras, but can't remember the rest of the meal. The room was beautiful though.

                  1. re: ChiefHDB

                    The central location is pure speculation on my part, but while they are in close proximity, 12th Street gets far less traffic than the Union Square area which is also closer to numerous trains. Again, pure speculation and I may well be wrong but I don't think GB&B's proximity to USC is a proxy for its (less than) central location.

                    1. re: chewbie

                      Yeah, you're definitely right in that sense. Gotham is on a quiet street, but really doesn't match its surroundings... it almost feels like it should be further uptown.

          3. Blumi..........I love GB&G. I think it's a fantastic restaurant and I've never had a bad time there. I think it's outstanding. Keep on going. If it's easy to get a reservation that's good for us.

            1. Just got home from my meal at Gotham. The steak -- a Niman Ranch cut -- is still on the menu, still $80, and still extraordinary. Our entire meal there was as good as ever.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Blumie

                $80. Exactly. This is a very expensive restaurant indeed - appetizers $18 to $28, entrees in the thirties and forties, right up to that steak. One has to respect Alfred Portale, but he's been in charge of the kitchen for over twenty years (Gotham is a full ten years older than Gramercy). There are many newer, more interesting, and honestly better restaurants to go to, and most of them are cheaper. This is not to dismiss the place, but to propose an answer to the original question.

                Union Square Cafe is significantly less expensive - a whole step down in price. The dining room at Gramercy Tavern is comparable ($86 prix fixe). It probably has a better reputation, has a notable chef who hasn't been there so long, and I am pretty sure it's smaller too.

                I honestly think "traffic" is a red herring, as the restaurants we're discussing are generally not serving walk ins.

                1. re: Wilfrid

                  The $80 steak is an outlier, by a significant margin, in terms of price. It is an expensive restaurant, but most of the entrees are under $40. And while I'm a fan of both Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern, I do like Gotham better than both of them.

                  1. re: Wilfrid

                    Visitors, particularly those in NYC for business, tend to stay at hotels that are centrally located hence my reference to traffic. 12th is a less commercial area than Union Square which has easy access to transportation, shopping, etc.

                    1. re: Wilfrid

                      Yup, for me price is the big difference. I like both Gotham and USC a lot. But Gotham's dishes are quite a bit more expensive, and if I recall, there's less play in the menu, meaning you can't order great sides to flesh out something like a BLT or a burger. And maybe the portions are a little smaller at Gotham.

                  2. It's practically impossible for restaurants to stay at the top for 20+ years, especially in NYC. The food at Gotham is still good, but many newer restaurants around its price point can match or beat it. Insufficient evolution and progression of cooking style doesn't help.

                    I'd look to Le Bernardin to see how staying on top for 24+ years is accomplished.

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                    Le Bernardin
                    155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                    1. As a stand-alone restaurant without any affiliates in NYC, Gotham Bar and Grill also can't compete with the cross-pollinating marketing efforts of the USHG, Batali/Bastianich, Daniel Boulud, JG, or Chris Cannon/Michael Whiite groups.

                      Le Bernardin is in the same situation, but remains on top because of Eric Ripert's fame (thanks to Top Chef) and the undeniable power of its Michelin three star designation.

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                      Le Bernardin
                      155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                      Gotham Bar and Grill
                      12 East 12th Street, New York, NY 10003

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: fm1963

                        To my knowledge, Ripert has never appeared on the Food Network. What show is he on?

                        1. re: bookhound

                          Oops, I was thinking Top Chef, which is on Bravo. I made the correction. Thanks for pointing that out.

                          1. re: fm1963

                            Ripert does have his own show, "Avec Eric," which is broadcast on PBS stations.

                            http://aveceric.com/

                            1. re: RGR

                              Oh wow. I had no idea! Thanks for the link.

                            2. re: fm1963

                              Ripert has been on Top Chef at least 5 times.