If you ask your NYC hotel concierge to suggest one of the top restaurants in town when it comes to food and service, there is a good chance he or she will recommend one of Danny Meyer’s restaurants. Ranging from artful New American dishes at Untitled at the Whitney Museum of American Art to thick, doughy Roman style pizzas at Marta, Meyer’s dining rooms are revered for an updated form of elegance without the fuss.
Meyer started his restaurant empire (including global burger chain Shake Shack) 30 years ago with Union Square Cafe. Located in the now bustling Union Square neighborhood at 21 E. 16th St., in 1985 this restaurant fused food cultures (Italian, French, even Asian) and turned the focus to the customer by employing a warm and educated wait. The New York Times noted at the time that, with the opening of Union Square Cafe, “fine dining [lost] its haughty attitude.”
Union Square Cafe was a trailblazer for a new kind of customer service: In the mid-1980s, it was one of the first restaurants to put up a sign asking diners to please turn off their cell phones so as not to disturb other guests, way before cell phones were commonplace. Adored by New Yorkers for its intimate vibe and helpful staff and bartenders, many locals made it a regular haunt for years. In its almost 30 years run, Union Square Cafe won five James Beard awards and Zagat Survey’s “New York’s Most Popular Restaurant” nine times before closing its doors in 2014.
Starting late October, New Yorkers and visitors alike can sample new and classic dishes at the newly re-opened location of this dining destination. Designed by David Rockwell, the new space “[ensures] there’s easy contact from every table with the waiters’ station,” according to Rockwell, who also designed Nobu Fifty Seven. Elements from the original space will be woven throughout the new Union Square Cafe down to minimalist window treatments. Check online at unionsquarecafe.com for exact opening dates and menus.
235 Park Ave. So., at E. 19th St., 212.228.3585