Coming to NY for annual visit but will be between the time when USC, a firm favourite, closes and then reopens. I have two evenings where I will have time for a proper meal, rather than something a bit rushed before the theatre. So where could I go that isn’t USC, but is similar? Will be staying in midtown, but happy to travel (although the other advantage of USC was the Barnes and Noble a block away; nothing like a good meal followed by a wander round a bookshop!).
Where are you staying in Midtown? There is a B&N on 5th Ave at 45th
We are regulars at Union Square Café. Today is its last day, so we went for brunch in order to have one last meal in that location and to bid a temporary farewell to the staff. It is in so many ways unique that coming up with a similar restaurant is a difficult task. That said…
I highly recommend Upland. We loved it so much from the first time we ate there (opened a little over a year ago) that we quickly became regulars. The food is delicious, service is excellent, seating is comfortable, the space is beautiful, and the vibe is upbeat. To say that it is popular is a severe understatement. If you like bar dining, there is that. Reservations for the dining room are an absolute must!
Here’s my Flickr album from our first dinner there. It includes several photos of the room.
Upland is on the corner of Park Ave. S. and 26th St. (entrance on 26th). Getting there from Midtown by subway is easy. Take the 6 at Grand Central (42nd St.) and go two stops to 28th St.
Glad to see you here!
I was going to make a similar observation and if Upland is not available for the nights desired, I am tempted to suggest dropping the idea of trying to find a duplicate for Union Square Cafe and head out for an eatery near a bookstore which is COMPLETELY different when it comes to cuisine but which is highly regarded for quality, service, ambience. (or go downscale and have a pizza!) Because there is some risk that you’ll end up comparing every bite and interaction with staff by your memories of USC, and only underscoring your feeling of pining for the USC experience rather than having an enjoyable night out in NYC.
Thanks for the recommendation for Upland, it sounds fab. Am also intrigued by finding somewhere totally different, but that opens things up rather. Coming to NY from London, I have fairly exacting standards for special eating, it has to be as far as possible, an American experience, and not something I can get in London. Like to eat at bar. So open to any other suggestions, in case Upland proves impossible.
I’m not sure I know enough about what’s on offer currently in London to hit the nail on the head, or where you’ve previously eaten in NYC other than USC. I moved to Italy from NYC some time ago, and nowadays when I visit NYC, it ALL seems so American to me – even the Italian restaurants! – so don’t know how much help I can be there either.
Where else are you eating or where else have tried? Might help narrow down the possibilities if you can’t book at Upland. But first - try to get that reservation at Upland! You might not need an alternate.
One of the things my SO and I appreciate most about USC is the service - we call it “adults in charge”. In that vein, consider Jean-George and Minetta Tavern.
@Londonlinda, Upland is a difficult reservation, but you should be able to get one if you book well in advance of your visit and are flexible as to day and time. That’s, of course, if you want to dine at a table. But since you say you like bar dining, you can do that as a walk-in.
We haven’t been to London since 1999, so I have no clue what you can and cannot get in London restaurants now.
For an American experience, I would recommend Blue Smoke, on 27th St., between Lex & Park Av. S. Like USC, it’s a Danny Meyer restaurant. It specializes in barbecue and southern cuisine. We always start with the deviled eggs. Love the top-notch fried chicken and biscuits! The baby back are very good, and there’s a first-rate burger. The Key Lime pie, a classic Southern dessert, is superb. You can do a walk-in and eat at the capacious bar.
RGR, how do you compare the deliciousness of the barbecue between Blue Smoke and Mighty Quinn? They specialize in different things, I think (ribs vs. brisket and wings)? I have been to Mighty Quinn a lot because it’s not too expensive and right near my place, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve tasted anything from Blue Smoke, but I liked it then.
We’ve been to Mighty Quinn’s only once, an early (11:30 a.m.) lunch in April of 2013 to avoid what were then (and maybe still are?) big crowds. I had to check my photos to be sure of what we had – spare ribs and brisket + sides. As best as I can recall, everything was tasty. To be honest, I would never do that style of dining for dinner, i.e., lining up for food, getting a table on my own, etc. Since MQ is a bit of hike from our apartment, we just haven’t managed to go there for lunch again.
Blue Smoke has baby back ribs, which I prefer. I’ve always found them to be excellent though we haven’t had them since May 2014. When Kenny Callaghan, the original chef left, and Alex Harris took over in the spring of 2014, he revamped the menu to more reflect his Southern roots. The superb fried chicken and biscuits is one such item. There are several other meats, one of which is a 7 pepper brisket. I’m sure we’ll eventually get to around to trying them. Since the restaurant is just a few blocks away from our building, and given the fact that there is table service with the usual level expected of a Danny Meyer establishment, it’s on our regular rotation.
Hugely helpful, everyone, thank you. I had forgotten about Blue Smoke, just the sort of food quite difficult to find in London. I will let you all know where I end up.
Love it - Adults in charge is the way I am going think of the really good service places from now on!
No one mentioned Gramercy Tavern yet??
It’s the obvious most similar alternative i can think of. Also owned by danny meyer.
Depends on when you go but they are open lunch through dinner which could be helpful if you’re jet lagged, the front tavern area is no reservation so busy times there is a wait, if you get seats at the bar that’s perfect as a solo or couple for a meal. Great wine BTG and beer selection.
Be sure to ask for the (free!) delicious bar nuts either at the bar or your table, they’re really good but they no longer voluntarily offer them and will graciously bring you a dish.
And easily walkable to that same Barnes and Noble.
I much prefer The Bar Room at the Modern to the Tavern Room at Gramercy Tavern. Two important factors for me. The Bar Room accepts reservations and, imo, the food Chef Abram Bissell is serving there is far superior.
Well, just back from NY, and had a great time. Thanks to everyone for the recommendation for Upland; it was great, my only slight quibble being the portions are huge (everyone left with a doggy bag, I noticed) and it is quite loud when full (and it is pretty much full all the time, I scored an early reservation). Gramercy Tavern was as ever heavenly (the pork was wonderful) and it is the perfect place to sit at the bar and watch cocktails being made. I had a good brunch with friends at East Pole, and a really good cheeseboard at Murrays Cheese, all cheeses from NY state, and so delicious.
Thanks for reporting back, @Londonlinda! Very pleased to hear you enjoyed Upland. Yes, it can get loud which is why we’ve been there more often for lunch when it’s less noisy. The last time we had dinner there, like you, we went early.
Since we are very much into portion control, sharing some dishes is the way we deal with the generous portion sizes. We always share the salads as well as the pastas and one dessert (though because we are “friends of the house,” they frequently send out an extra dessert). We each order a main course. Depending on the exact size, sometimes we finish them; other times, we take half home.
Glad you had a great trip!
Thanks for the report! Sounds like you hit some great places!