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Union Square Cafe clone?

josephnl Jan 11, 2014 01:59 PM

We have a family get-together of 6-8 people every 6 months or so, always at the Union Square Cafe. We love it…the round tables are comfortable, the service is always excellent, the food is very, very good, and the ambiance (noise level) is such that conversation is easy. Indeed..USC is perfect, except that we're wanting to try something different. We're looking for somewhere else with all of the above virtues, including the ability to serve one vegetarian and one pescatarian in our group. Any thoughts?

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  1. t
    thegforceny RE: josephnl Jan 11, 2014 05:43 PM

    Gramercy Tavern

    1 Reply
    1. re: thegforceny
      Mike C. Miller RE: thegforceny Jan 13, 2014 09:34 PM

      Beat me to it. My first thought was Gramercy Tavern. I think the food is better, though the restaurant shares all the virtues you mention.

      You might also try Hearth. I haven't seen it mentioned.

    2. ttoommyy RE: josephnl Jan 11, 2014 07:31 PM

      If Italian is OK, then try Maialino, another Danny Meyer restaurant. Or Gramercy Tavern, as @thegforceny suggested.

      1. Ttrockwood RE: josephnl Jan 11, 2014 08:54 PM

        Gramercy tavern- reservations go quickly
        Craft or craftbar would be a distant second.
        ABC kitchen if you can go for an early dinner or off-peak hours since it can get very loud

        1. k
          kathryn RE: josephnl Jan 12, 2014 07:20 AM

          Have you tried North End Grill yet?

          4 Replies
          1. re: kathryn
            princeofpork3 RE: kathryn Jan 13, 2014 04:50 PM

            excellent suggestion. May be out of the way but top notch experience.

            1. re: princeofpork3
              Simon RE: princeofpork3 Jan 13, 2014 05:23 PM

              i disagree strongly -- my one visit to North End Grill featured some of the worst food i've ever been served in a NY restaurant

              1. re: Simon
                princeofpork3 RE: Simon Jan 13, 2014 05:47 PM

                I have been there 5 times and it has been excellent every time. I would suggest trying it again but certainly understand if you didnt want to

              2. re: princeofpork3
                Simon RE: princeofpork3 Jan 13, 2014 05:26 PM


            2. s
              SeekingBeauty RE: josephnl Jan 12, 2014 02:25 PM

              gotham bar and grill

              1. s
                sugartoof RE: josephnl Jan 12, 2014 06:13 PM


                19 Replies
                1. re: sugartoof
                  thegforceny RE: sugartoof Jan 13, 2014 06:33 AM

                  Not even in same league as these other suggestions. Serviceable.

                  1. re: thegforceny
                    sugartoof RE: thegforceny Jan 13, 2014 11:37 AM

                    Probably not, but the request is to find something in the same league as Union Square Cafe, not the other suggestions. USQ cafe isn't really comparable to Gramercy Tavern, for example.

                    1. re: sugartoof
                      josephnl RE: sugartoof Jan 13, 2014 11:56 AM

                      Actually, we've been to both USC and GT many times (at least 8-10 at USC, and 5-6 at GT) and although we do like GT, we very much prefer USC. We find USC much less pretentious, friendlier, more fun, actually quieter, and certainly less expensive than GT. We also prefer the food at USC...it's much simpler, and always delicious.

                      1. re: josephnl
                        sugartoof RE: josephnl Jan 13, 2014 01:36 PM

                        I completely can see that. Gramercy Tavern and Gotham are both a little more fussy, less comfort food in style, and these places don't really capture the essence of what would attract someone to USC. People aren't really cloning that formula anymore.

                        This may be too obvious, but have you tried Blue Ribbon?

                        1. re: sugartoof
                          josephnl RE: sugartoof Jan 13, 2014 02:06 PM

                          No, we've not. Should we? We 're also thinking about Danny Meyer's North End Grill that another CH recommended. Any comments re Blue Ribbon or North End? Please keep in mind we'll have one vegetarian and one pescatarian.

                          1. re: josephnl
                            Lacrosse_Gastronomic RE: josephnl Jan 13, 2014 02:58 PM

                            I like BR and NEG but I'm not sure that either restaurant is what you're looking for. NEG might be too fussy and BR too much of a comfort food menu.

                            I think Hearth captures the spirit of USC though it's less swanky.

                            The Dutch might work as well.

                            1. re: Lacrosse_Gastronomic
                              josephnl RE: Lacrosse_Gastronomic Jan 13, 2014 03:09 PM

                              The menu at Blue Ribbon looks great to me…will definitely accommodate the vegetarian and pescatarian in our group. Well executed comfort food is not an issue. We want a comfortable restaurant, with good service, good drinks, and very good food…and not too noisy…pretty much as I said in my op, like Union Square Cafe. Do either BR or USC come close?

                              1. re: josephnl
                                kathryn RE: josephnl Jan 13, 2014 04:16 PM

                                Blue Ribbon is very lively and a bit cramped, except IIRC for 6-tops you may be seated in the basement level, away from the main dining room. They don't take reservations for smaller groups so there's usually a large crowd up front waiting.

                                1. re: kathryn
                                  thegforceny RE: kathryn Jan 13, 2014 06:29 PM

                                  The Brasserie has a basement level? Or do you mean Blue Ribbon Bakery?

                                  I know there is that great round 5-top (or is it 6) that the Brasserie accepts reservations for. Would they accommodate reservations for 8 by combining tables? Don't know. I love the Brasserie.

                                  This is a nice thread of lovely, solid food and service places in NYC.

                                  1. re: thegforceny
                                    sugartoof RE: thegforceny Jan 13, 2014 06:52 PM

                                    I was wondering the same thing about the basement level.

                                    1. re: sugartoof
                                      kathryn RE: sugartoof Jan 13, 2014 07:34 PM

                                      I thought BR Brasserie in Soho on Sullivan St had a single basement level table for 5 or 6 people? I might be misremembering. There are too many Blue Ribbon restaurants these days!

                                  2. re: kathryn
                                    josephnl RE: kathryn Jan 13, 2014 06:51 PM

                                    What is IIRC?

                                    1. re: josephnl
                                      kathryn RE: josephnl Jan 13, 2014 07:34 PM

                                      IIRC = if I recall correctly

                                  3. re: josephnl
                                    sugartoof RE: josephnl Jan 13, 2014 06:22 PM

                                    If the BR menu looks right, I think you should give it a try. It's smaller, and less polished, but of the same era of places that tried to emulate parts of the USC formula. I agree with some of the criticisms, but the original Brassarie location has aged well.

                                    People here are more prone to suggesting Minetta Tavern, which is similar in a lot of ways (to BR, not so much USC) though brighter, fresher and unfortunately louder. The current USC menu looks more pasta-cenric than I remembered....must be similar places we're forgetting.
                                    The noise issue rules out a lot of options.

                                2. re: josephnl
                                  kathryn RE: josephnl Jan 13, 2014 04:18 PM

                                  NEG has a more open and modern layout, and their service is amazing from what I've experienced. Could be worth a try.

                        2. re: sugartoof
                          Uncle Yabai RE: sugartoof Jan 14, 2014 01:16 AM

                          Odeon? Is this 1984 and Brett Easton Ellis is still roaming the earth?

                          1. re: Uncle Yabai
                            sugartoof RE: Uncle Yabai Jan 14, 2014 10:31 AM

                            If it were, Union Square Cafe would be opening a year later in 1985.

                            If your only frame of reference is a pop culture one, Odeon was actually considered a NY standard, popular well into the late 90's, and then effected by 9/11, it continues on drawing more of the neighborhood crowd. There aren't many left like it.

                            1. re: sugartoof
                              princeofpork3 RE: sugartoof Jan 14, 2014 12:25 PM

                              I think late 90s may be a bit of a stretch. The name was recognizable but certainly not a destination for food focused patrons.

                              1. re: princeofpork3
                                sugartoof RE: princeofpork3 Jan 14, 2014 01:00 PM

                                Huh? Odeon gets mentioned on CH all the time.

                                They were at the top of their game in the mid-90's, often recommended for groups, late dining, and even special occasions. The reputation continued well into the late 90's as a catch all suggestion, sometimes deserved, sometimes not. It's still that today, just less trendy/hyped. More importantly, it has copycat type similarities to USC, where all the same criticisms and jokes could apply, making it a fitting suggestion for this particular OP.

                                "Odeon-still great!Other place-not so great."

                        3. c
                          comiendosiempre RE: josephnl Jan 13, 2014 05:22 AM

                          Agreed, Gotham is pretty close. Though tables are also closer together. We think the food better at Gotham. Have fun.

                          1. f
                            fm1963 RE: josephnl Jan 13, 2014 06:43 AM

                            The NoMad

                            1. d
                              downtownchica RE: josephnl Jan 13, 2014 10:04 AM

                              If you don't mind venturing further uptown, Telepan

                              1. Ziggy41 RE: josephnl Jan 13, 2014 10:30 AM

                                Or you can go to North in Armonk (Westechster), run by two USC veterans


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