I recently finished reading Danny Meyer’s book “Setting the Table.” Danny Meyer is a New York City icon within the food industry, and one of the greatest restauranteurs of our time. His philosophy on business and hospitality is unique and noteworthy, and his work in the industry has been an inspiration to me personally. I highly recommend this book, especially to those immersed in the New York City food scene, as it offers fascinating insight into the thought process and labor behind Danny’s restaurants, menus and impeccable service. For instance, you get to learn about Danny’s lengthy research journey across the US to sample the best burgers and custard, and the long hours spent in the kitchens of Eleven Madison Park developing the perfect frozen custard concoction for Shake Shack with the help of Eleven Madison’s pastry chef at the time. Every time I bite into a Shake Shack burger since reading “Setting the Table,” I think of Danny’s long journey to create the perfect blend of sirloin, chuck and brisket, and I understand the reason it’s so good.
Danny Meyer opened his first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, in 1985. Being Danny Meyer’s original restaurant, it has obviously been on my “list” since I moved to NYC, however reading “Setting the Table” was what finally pushed me to make the reservation. Union Square Cafe is a product of Danny Meyer’s year spent in all of the finest trattorias in Italy and brasseries in France in his 20’s after he left his successful career in sales. Danny took all of his favorite elements of the European dining experience and brought them to life in NYC with his vision of Union Square Cafe. Today USC may not be the trendiest spot in NYC, but it sure is reliable. Reliable is serving some of the highest quality yet simple Italian cuisine, coupled with some of the best service in the city.
It was truly a unique experience to dine at Union Square Cafe after reading the book and truly having an understanding of Danny Meyer’s story. I noticed things about the dishes and service that I otherwise would have overlooked had I not gained a sense of Danny’s fine-tuned attention to detail, style, and philosophy through his book. USC met all of my expectations. (Note I did not use the word exceed simply because I have the highest expectations for Meyer’s establishments based on experience). Bravo Union Square Cafe, a New York classic with outstanding food and service.
21 East 16th St. New York, NY 10003
What to Order: Fritto misto, any pasta (I had the spaghettini with flaked sea bass), roasted chicken, cannelloni beans, broccoli rabe