Why the good restaurants in NYC are packed and the others are dead

Top_left The city is going through a sweep of everything.  A clean-up.  Stores, restaurants or retail outlet that just weren't that great to begin with are closing down.  Eater has reported at the end of every month the amount of restaurants that closed for the month.  It hasn't been pretty.  But again and again, you walk around areas of town where there are places that are packed.  Why?

Friday night, Fred and I went to see Adventure Land.  A cute love story that brought me back to my summer jobs during college.  Afterward, we walked over to Union Square Cafe.  It was around 930.  We were hoping, of course, for 2 seats at the bar.  We had good karma because 2 people were being seated to their dinner table when we walked in.  By the time we left, was 1045, the rooms were still quite full.  Why?

Price points around the city, for a good meal, are pretty consistent depending on the place.  There are levels, like anywhere, of costs.  Higher end restaurants are going to have a range for entrees and visa-versa for moderate restaurants.  Union Square Cafe, still jammed after 20 some odd years is because the food is still absolutely delicious.  You know each time you return to USC, you are going to have an excellent meal, fantastic service and it will be worth it.  The consistency of their product hasn't wavered in 20 years.  That is why Danny Meyers restaurants continue to succeed.  He does that with every restaurant including the Shake Shack.  You know exactly what you are getting, and the taste will be the same as it was last time.

In times like these, when money is not flowing like water, you want to make sure you are getting a good bang for your buck.  I Sodi, Spotted Pig, John Dory, Market Table, Little Owl, 10 Downing, Union Square Cafe, Tabla and Balthazaar are going to give you what you came for.  An overall excellent experience.  Anything subpar these days, just isn't going to make.  Even if it is a pizza place. We are seeing that from one end of this town to the other. 

As for the food, we split 3 things.  The first appetizer was a seared tuna tartare which was excellent, second was a beef carpaccio with shaved parm and arugula and last was a pasta.  Layer of thin pasta stuffed with a bolognese sauce(lasanga) over a creamy fresh pea sauce.  Excellent.  USC, is pretty much always excellent which is why people are always returning. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. aarondelcohen

    Which is why I hope more people go to Lasso which I was surprised to add to FourSquare this evening. Best Pizza in NYC. Kenmare and Mott.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Love Lasso. Delicious food and wonderful owner.

  2. aarondelcohen

    And a phemonenal kids spot.

  3. Stan

    I agree on everything. Except Tabla. The quality of the food there has just gone downhill. I went a couple of weeks ago, ate from the Bread Bar menu. It was not how I remembered it, the food simply lacked flavor.

    1. Gotham Gal

      So sorry to hear about Tabla. I heard the Passover was fantastic. Maybe anoff night.

  4. Frank Lynch

    Many thanks for this. I’m going to be in NYC 5/25-5/30 with my wife and daughter. We will be returning from Orlando and thought we’d take a bite out of the big apple as we are routing through JFK. We are going to be staying at the Helmsley on E 42nd st.I’m really looking forward to trying some of these restaurants and others you have mentioned in your favorites post.http://www.gothamgal.com/go…Not to mentioning cramming in some of the activities discussed in your what to do with Kids in NYC post.http://www.gothamgal.com/go…I am more excited about the idea of 5 days in NYC than I am about 10 days in Orlando.Could you tell me, which, if any, of these restaurants it would be advisable to make a reservation for or can arrive on spec for most of them and would any of them be unwelcoming to a 12 year old ?Thanks in advance-Frank

    1. Gotham Gal

      All of them would be happy to have a 12 year old. As Nyers spend more timein restaurants than their own kitchens. I highly recommend makingreservations everywhere.

      1. Frank Lynch

        Super, Many Thanks.