Dealing with the Crowd During Restaurant Week – Gramercy Tavern

Hot cider while I wait It's a zoo
My hot cider and the mob

I’ve remembered reading from The Feedbag about the insane line that people had to wait in order to get in during Restaurant Week. Well, I became one of those nut jobs except the good part was that the line wasn’t that long (I was the third person/group seated) and yes, I did get some hot cider about three minutes prior to the actual opening. At least it made my insides a bit warm after standing out in the fairly cold weather for 15 minutes. Frankly, I was expecting worse.

It’s filled up

As anyone would expect from this, it was fully packed within 10 minutes of opening. Even their bar was teaming up with diners in about 20 minutes.

Appetizer portion Entree Dessert
Portions of the RW menu

As you might see or read above this is the RW menu for the Tavern portion of the restaurant. It’s slightly different than the Dining Room itself since it’s mostly composed of the Tavern’s a la carte menu.

Salt and butter
Salt & butter

Once I’ve ordered my food with a hot chocolate, I’ve received the usual salt and butter…but where’s the bread?

Mug o' hot chocolate
Hot chocolate

This hot chocolate was given to me about five minutes after I gotten the salt and butter. The bread is still missing. Weird. I never encountered this before and as I’ve observed other tables, nearly everyone else has the bread and butter served together.

But to stop thinking about this minor issue, I took a sip of this large mug of hot chocolate. It was quite lovely. The white cap you see is actually whipped cream that went a bit flat but it still added a creamy texture to the not-so-viscous hot chocolate. It had nice body with a warm, cinnamon-y flavor in the background. For the dessert-lightweights, this can be considered dessert. My stomach that day thought it was for some reason.

Grilled octopus (another view)
Grilled octopus

My appetizer, grilled octopus, mizuna, fennel, and ginger vinaigrette was very good. A large, meaty and tender grilled octopus tentacle worked well with the mildly peppery mizuna and spicy-sour vinaigrette. Personally, this was quite a generous portion as a starter.

There you are

While I was about to eat my grilled octopus, they finally served me bread. I know there’s nothing special about this bread per se, but it’s just a service issue that I can’t get over in my mind.

Arctic char, sunchokes, mussels, mizuna
Arctic char

I was feeling pescetarian that day and went for the entrĂ©e of arctic char, sunchokes, mussels, mizuna. I like arctic char because its luscious, silky texture from its flesh. The sunchokes and mussels played on the fish’s sweetness. The mustard sauce added a lovely spicy, tart contrast. The sunchoke was a bit overcooked since it’s soft and almost mushy (like cooked eggplant) but it still tasted good.

Pear Almond Streusel Tart
Pear almond streusel tart

While I felt like I was about to call it a day because the hot chocolate managed to satiate my sweet tooth but I must have an actual dessert. Especially from pastry chef, Nancy Olsen. Somehow she works her magic on her desserts and never fail to amaze me when I’ve dined here multiple times.

What I’ve ordered for dessert was the pear almond streusel tart with lemon sherbet. This dessert was amazing. The sweet pear really stood out yet worked along with the buttery crust and crunchy, nutty streusel. The ratio of filling to the rest of the tart was just good enough to strike a balance. Despite the fact that it looked like there’s a ton of streusel on top.

The lemon sherbet highlighted the pear’s essence and it was almost creamy enough to for me to think it’s ice cream. I would eat an entire bucket of that sherbet; even when I actually felt like I was about to explode.

Gift certificate
Gift Certificate

And like everyone around the Web is saying, they gave the gift certificate with the check. The (major?) modification my waitress (and other staff members) stated to us that they are accepting this certificate during lunch OR dinner within the time span of what’s indicated. I never heard of this for the many years of eating out during Restaurant Week.


Gramercy Tavern
42 E 20th Street (between Park Ave South & Broadway)
New York, NY 10003 (map)


I shoot, eat, and drink. My full time job is a hospital administrator. Moonlighting as a freelance photographer and food and travel writer.

  1. Jessica says:

    I went to the Tavern Room about the same time you did. All in all it was a great Restaurant Week experience. Have you tried their chocolate bread pudding? It’s amazing. My friend and I swear, we’re going to have to do a tasting of all of their desserts one day.

  2. thewanderingeater says:

    Jessica: It’s doubtful. I tend to post my food experiences a day (or more) later than what it should be. I went to Gramercy Tavern on Tuesday.

    As for their bread pudding, nope. I don’t really care for bread pudding that much. But I do love pastry chef Olsen’s desserts and probably would do a dessert tasting too… I hope I wouldn’t die from gluttony and/or sugar coma before I have to go back to work.

  3. Danny says:

    Great pictures! I ate two out of the three things you had during their first day of RW. The octopus was super tender, they did an amazing job with that, and the pear tart was yum too.

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