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Union Square Cafe clone?

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. re: thegforceny

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

      1. 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. Have you tried North End Grill yet?

          4 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

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

            1. re: princeofpork3

              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

                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

                1. re: sugartoof

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

                  1. re: thegforceny

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

                            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

                              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

                                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

                                  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

                                    I was wondering the same thing about the basement level.

                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                      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: josephnl

                                    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

                                  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

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

                          1. re: Uncle Yabai

                            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

                              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

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

                            1. If you don't mind venturing further uptown, Telepan

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