Don’t Drink at the Tavern (Gramercy): Buzz Kill at the Bar

I’ve always walked out of Gramercy Tavern happier than when I went in.  Yesterday, unfortunately, turned into a glaring exception to the rule. I stopped by around eight for drinks in a moderately euphoric post-squash match/post porcine Ippudo Ramen glow.  My intention was simple: Enjoy a pair of different cocktails I’d had my eye on when last dining there, then head home lightly loaded. Who would have suspected my audacious plan would be greeted with such hostility?  

My mistake was declaring my non-dining intentions up front to the bartenders.  I was subsequently greeted with a stretch of silent treatment and then the first and only bad cocktail I’ve ever had at Gramercy; I doubt it was a coincidence. The Rickshaw (Plymouth gin, basil and lime juice) had more ice than a Sno-Cone, less gin than a ginger ale-too many rocks, not enough Plymouth–and an unbalanced citric taste.  Potentially redemptive basil was a wan afterthought, as was followup service. The bartenders are far too good at their jobs to make such a mistake: This was a kissoff cocktail.  And the only thing worse than the bad drink was not being able to get another one.  There’s no clearer signal that you’re not wanted in a bar than waiting twenty minutes with an empty glass.

Conclusions: Gramercy Tavern is many things to many people; a tavern isn’t one of them. The bar serves as a combination waiting area for those planning to dine in the front or back rooms and dinner counter for those wishing to eat in either but unable to secure a table.  It is absolutely not a bar at which one can, or is welcome to, have a drink during regular dinner hours.  At least that’s how I felt after my service experience last night.

GT is one of my all time favorites and has been for years. The cocktail, wine and beer lists are exceptional and the food has only gotten better since Michael Anthony took over. That said, the place can’t or won’t meet certain needs. A pleasant round of imbibing from the highest margin section of the menu seemed like a good deal for all involved, but apparently it’s not part of the plan at a place that’s only a tavern in name.   Sit down and enjoy enlightened hospitality.  Stand up and suffer unenlightened hostility.

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7 Responses to “Don’t Drink at the Tavern (Gramercy): Buzz Kill at the Bar”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Had a similar experience. Nonetheless, I don’t think there’s any ill will. Those guys are serving the equivalent of five or six two tops and making drinks for the whole restaurant. It’s just physically hard for them to see and serve stand up customers while doing all that.

  2. FaHFS Says:

    You are most likely right. “Hostility” is too strong a term. Take away the question of ill will and even if the bartenders are “on the side” of what would normally be considered their principal customer, I think the key issue is operational philosophy: The spot isn’t set up for having a drink, unless it’s part of a more prolonged GT experience.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Hit EMP instead. Plenty of seating. Great beer, wine and liquor list. Cocktails aren’t as special, but space is better.

  4. Yorkville Slurper Says:

    If you’re close to EMP, why not hit Tabla instead? The gin drinks are more refreshing and the atmosphere is a bit less staid.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    GT at other hours is much more of an option for drinks . If you must go Danny Meyer, and you’re dressed casually, Shake Shack B-line or Blue Smoke are the best options: both are rather close to GT.

    N.B.: Craftbar has a lousy bar scene and cocktail list. Awkward space, not much of a crowd and warm wine by the glass.

  6. Mary M. Says:

    Hear hear on the Blue Smoke option. Drink 19 dollar bourbon shots in a t-shir and down devilled eggs to rival the best West County rumpus room sleepover treats from the 70’s and 80’s. Let your shirt hang out and relax at the only truly casual indoor USHG spot. USC and GT may talk up the lowkey atmosphere, but it’s a metaphorical loosening of the tie, not a literal one.

    Or get off your behind and go across the street to Desmond’s. Dude, there are plenty of dive bars in the Flatiron!

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Drink earlier in the day, and you’ll never have any trouble getting served!

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