There are a few places I return to again and again when I’m in NYC and Union Square Cafe is one of them. The location is really convenient (just off of Union Square Park) the bar is comfortable and the food is always solid. Restauranteur Danny Meyer has a well-deserved reputation as being masterful at creating an environment that offers simple yet sophisticated food with a front of the house staff that is known for their warmth and competence. All true, as confirmed by my experiences over the years, whether I was here, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, The Modern or Tabla.
That being said, I’m not really a fan of the bartender who took my lunch order on my most recent visit. He has been there many years and I don’t have a real beef with him, I just don’t find him to be particularly warm. Aside from his slightly sour personality, my lunch was everything I had hoped for – fresh, creative and delicious.
I opened with my own little oyster tasting. There were three varieties offered so I went with one of each. I’ve never directly compared oyster varieties before and it was pretty trying to discern the differences in flavor and textures. If you’re an oyster eater, I highly recommend this little indulgence. The Duxbury was briny in a delightful way – there was no doubt this was a gift from the sea. The Barron Point was saltier than the Duxbury and also had a firmer texture, a bit toothier, I guess you could say. The Fanny Bay was more mild. It reminded me of a piece of white fish sashimi, less sea-centric, shall we say?
I followed my oyster fest with a wonderful yellowfin tuna burger, rare as I requested. It was served with a carmelized onion and cumin-scented cole slaw which was fantastic. I haven’t been eating my burger rolls much these days and I felt guilty about wasting this one – it was eggy and perfectly grilled, but I was saving myself for dessert.
I knew this was going to be my main meal of the day, so three courses seemed an appropriate indulgence. I really love key lime pie and USC really kicks it up with a coconut meringue and graham crust – amazing! And, yes, I ate the entire thing. Who says eating out solo is a bad thing?
My lunch was lovely, although next time I find myself in the neighborhood I might see who’s working the bar prior to settling in with a menu. Gramercy Tavern is nearby and perhaps I’ll give that a shot if the grumpy barkeep at Union Square is behind the bar. I don’t mind spending $75 on lunch, but it would be nice if it was served with a smile.