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Wine Director / Dir. of Operations at The Lotos Club
The Grand Central Oyster Bar has been part of the New York City scene for decades with a very casual services , a decor that has not changed for 20 years (I think) and the same concept which is all about freshness. You won't find the most creative dishes in their menu but the selection and the freshness of oysters is remarkable, the "catch of the day" offers simply made but very delicious dishes. The wine list has improved over the past few years, a more thoughtful selection where I always find something appropriate and delicious and well priced to drink. (not so much with the BTG)
I honestly feel good at the Oyster bar, no one cares on your looks or what your order, it's casual in the good sense of it.
Simple and good, one recipe for a long term success.
Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.
Beautifully said! This is an icon you can't miss, definitely worth the trip to Grand Central for anyone who has never been.
over 1 year ago
New York City
Artist and aspiring food critic
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Sommelier at Aureole Restaurant
What makes a restaurant a classic? At the end of the day, I always think about the Maya Angelou quote, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." The enduring experience you take from any great restaurant is the feeling it generates inside of you.
I have never left Union Square (which opened a month before I was born) feeling anything but totally excellent. While never New York's fanciest restaurant, it has a lived-in comfort that few other restaurants can match. The strange multi-part layout of the dining room means no matter where I'm seated, I always feel like I'm in my own special world. The service is always genuine and confident, seeming to say, "Listen, just relax, you're going to have a great fucking time." The wine list is littered with high-value gems, especially if your'e willing to spend a little. I have on my last few visits always found something fully mature (over 10 years old) for under $100 and drinking wonderfully. They also have the cheapest prices on Krug half bottles anywhere in the City.
The food, while not bleeding edge, is the best of New American, market-driven cuisine. It's timelessness comes from a focus on satisfaction, from the feeling the food generates. Also, can we talk about the bread service? Which aims to make everyone happy..."Oh, you're gluten free, we've got that, have some of these awesome olives!"
Brunch is great, and it's a great option for a power lunch. Do try to make a reservation. Also try to go before it closes. I'm confident the next iteration will be wonderful as well, but it just won't be quite the same...
This is by far the best review I've read about the Union Square Cafe. I can't wait wait to try it out this weekend!
Eric GD Singer
Craft Beer Specialist, The Cannibal
In those cases where people follow a specific chef or restauranteur, often behind the scenes there is someone intelligent behind the scenes present and keeping the quality high as well as keeping things fresh, which makes me think of USC and of course Danny Meyer. Other places are timeless as I return to them over again for more simple or rustic roster of dishes or classics that may be traditional, or ethnic food. Depending how far back you want to go, and based on the time I tend to get out of work at night, for a true historic-type restaurant experience though, sitting at the bar at PJ Clarke's (most likely doing oysters or a burger) would be a favorite recession-proof NY Classic for me.
Spot on, really well said. Thank you Eric!
Sommelier at Maialino
Restaurants like this are enduring because from a business point of view they find very motivated people who embrace the restaurant group's/chef's vision. At Jean Georges I find that they continue to (or have struck a balance) of serving their classic dishes and keeping them consistent alongside newer more inspiring seasonal dishes. All of this while also maintaining consistent service and standards that pampers and caters to each specific guest. In other words timeless yet always looking forward. Elegant but warm without the stuffiness one expects, dining at that level.
Hit the nail on the head, well said
Executive Chef at Minetta Tavern
One of the things that mark a restaurant as a classic is that it can be placed at a particular moment in the memory and history of New York dining. Whether it is one hundred years old or just ten, when you dine there you feel and remember a sense of the history that spawned the location. However long a landmark restaurant survives and evolves, what makes it important is it’s place in the development of the culture of the city. Le Cirque, Jean Georges, Daniel, Bouley, Le Bernardin, McSorley’s, La Grenouille, Oyster Bar, An American Place, Gotham Bar & Grill, Balthazar, Lutece, etc.. All made a statement when they first arrived that changed the landscape of New York dining and remain pillars for what has come after. Chefs and restaurants that have made their mark in this way are remarkably rare, and should be treasured for their past and present contributions to New York and American dining. These restaurants have so much to consistently offer - food, service, and ambience in their own distinctive style. They make you feel special. They are places you remember with dishes that you come back for every time. What also binds them together is the sense of pleasure they inspire year after year, having stood the test of time without losing any of the vitality and character a first class establishment must maintain to survive.
New yorker with a big appetite
This my favorite steakhouse in all of NYC
I agree with Peter Luger's, but where is Minetta Tavern on this list? ;)
Manager at Bouley Restaurant
The trick in NYC, it seems to me, is to latch onto certain social groups and keep them happy if you want to be in for the long haul. No one does it better for the late-night crowd as well as the original Blue Ribbon Brasserie. Maybe it's because it was one of the first downtown spots to offer food and wine until 4am. Today they are not alone; many places offer a fine meal with a last call cocktail. Yet after over two decades in business few can match Blue Ribbon's eclectic crowd and celebratory vibe. You'll see bankers, fashion designers, Teslas pull up with tech heads, limos pull up with hip hop artists, and the exhausted cooks and servers that serve them at their own respective restaurants. And we all go for the unfussy and exceptionally executed food. I must admit I rarely venture outside of the things I love because they do them so well: fresh oysters, steamed head-on gulf shrimp, bone marrow with oxtail marmalade, and sometimes an order of tender sweetbreads (I think the Bromberg Brothers might be singlehandedly responsible for the bone marrow menu trend.) That's the other trick about restaurant longevity in NYC: New Yorkers care less about concept and more about execution. It's better to have a non-schtick schtick than to have some fully integrated plan. The menu also lists fondue, matzoh ball soup, paella, and a pu-pu platter of sorts. I guess if you look deeply it's all about New York, but it doesn't care to present it in some boxed-up way which other restaurants are doing. What they do care about is taking care of you and enhancing your night out as best they can. It's always a pleasure for me to walk in, see Victor shucking oysters alongside James at the bar, and celebrate the end of a great dinner service with a few good friends. Make sure to leave some love in the "Oysters Tips" jar up at the front.
My friends think I'm a food snob
Awesome -- I somehow have never made it here but I loved your description of it. Need to check it out!
Midwest girl, love to cook and dine out in NYC!
I loved this thank you!
My dream is to own a food truck
This is a really nice read, thank you!
Current wine rep for Savio Soares Selections and bartender at Sweet Chick Ludlow. Past lives include The Modern, Craft and Raines Law Room.
One of my favorite spots in NYC as well, many a late post-shift night has been spent here!
Beverage Manager at Aquavit
There is something undeniably admirable about a restaurant surviving in one of the most competitive cities on the planet. That ability to remain relevant is a reason why guests -- tourists and regulars alike -- keep visiting the classic spots. While enduring is the common thread, not every restaurant goes about it the same way. Some stay exactly as they were, comfortable for their regulars, and others evolve with the times. A restaurant like Aquavit, which has been around for 28 years, still has the comfort food of Nordic cuisine that it was originally known for, but has also moved in the fine dining direction. That adaptation allowed the restaurant, at the age of 27, to receive the honor of 2 Michelin Stars and 3 stars from the New York Times, breathing fresh air into Aquavit and signaled that it can endure well into the future.
Any time's a good time for a margarita
One of my favorite restaurants in the city! Had no idea its been around that long
perfected the art of eating
Really nicely said!
I spend a disproportionate amount of my income of food
I've always wanted to go here, have heard it's the best scandinavian food in the city
Executive Chef at Spice Market
JOJO, which is Jean Georges first restaurant, is one of my favorite dining rooms in NYC. The old Town House which was converted to this beautiful classic looking restaurant makes for an amazing setting for a great meal. The food is clean and simple with the signature Jean Georges touches running through each dish. If you are lucky enough to get the window table on the second floor you will want to extend your meal for as long as you can. The dining room has that old school feel but the cocktails and food are current and perfectly executed plus the service is spot on and rounds out the overall experience that is why JOJO always comes to mind when i think of NYC Classics!
Wine lover, world traveler
This is really a unique gem in the New York dining scene - you said it beautifully!
Cheap eats to fine dining and everything in between
I'm almost ashamed I hadn't heard much of Jojo. The photos of the interior are wonderful! Excited to check this out!
Executive Chef at District Social / District Tap House
Restaurant Bouley is really an amazing gastronomic institution. I worked for David at the 1st Bouley on Duane Street. I also worked for him at The Danube. Both experiences were quite tough but both made a very deep impression on me. David is so genuinely forward thinking and intelligent that the restaurant continues to grow, change and yet somehow maintain its own original identity. David is a really curious person with a sharp intellect attached. It keeps Restaurant Bouley modern and current yet retaining its innate identity.
Personal chef for local families
Really enjoyed this thank you!
Sommelier at Agern
You enter down from the street, just around the corner from Bloomingdale's and the cacophony of Lexington Avenue, but are always welcomed by what your guests will imagine is a close friend (even if it's your first time there).
It may sound silly, but it is so nice to be offered a drink before even seeing a menu, and until you have your Lillet on the rocks, or Martini, or glass of Champagne, you won't even see a menu.
When you they push the aging captain out of the curtains in the back to give you one it's all classics: go for the grenouilles (frog legs) or tartare, the steak au poivre, or the sole, filleted tableside. The wine list doesn't give you a lot of detail, so if you're feeling like Cornas or Chambolle-Musigny, just say so and they will find you something. Please don't offend them by not having an Armagnac or, at least, a Poire William before you go.
Private chef specializing in Italian, French
Loved the description thank you!
Fantastic service here, you did them great justice! Nicely said!
A drink before you see the menu, very nice touch!
Adjunct Professor @ NYU, Beverages
Old Town Bar is a classic spot with a dizzying array of whiskeys and spirits in which NY's storied nightlife culture is deeply rooted. What makes this saloon in the big city still a mainstay is its unwavering approach to straightforward drinks and supplementary fare any time of day and any day of the week. It's consistent in its approach and welcoming to both the local client and the weary traveler.
I love this place! Do you have a favorite drink here?
Line cook, just moved to NYC
Beautifully said! Really enjoyed reading this!
Blue Ribbon Brasserie
Le Veau d'Or
Old Town Bar
Peter Luger Steak House
Union Square Cafe
Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant
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