The iconic Tavern on the Green reopened this year after being closed for 5 years. And I have to say, it didn’t disappoint.
Originally built in 1870 to house the sheep that grazed in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, Tavern on the Green has served New Yorkers, tourists, presidents, royalty, artists and actors since 1934. Having gone through several additions and renovations, it became a New York place to bee seen when Warner LeRoy acquired the lease in the 1970s. He poured $10 million into the Tavern, adding the legendary Crystal Room (seen in Ghostbusters and Arthur), stained glass, etched mirrors, 45 chandeliers along with 400,000 outdoor lights in the trees so that the Tavern always looked like it was Christmas in the Park.
LeRoy reopened the doors in 1976, and the new Tavern immediately became the most popular dining and banquet spot in the city. Flamboyantly lavish, the Tavern was a place for visitors and celebs who came to be dazzled by the glitter and extravaganza of LeRoy’s new Tavern on the Green. The waiters dressed in powder blue, the captains in tuxedos, you could dance the night away on the patio and you could arrive or depart in a horse drawn carriage at the entrance.
But in 2009, Tavern on the Green closed its doors due to bankruptcy as a result of the recession. After a few offers to take it over from people like Donald Trump (which was rejected), it finally reopened in 2014. The city which owns the building, spent $16 million to strip the Tavern from its glitzy LeRoy version including the demolition of the Crystal Room and sold off the interior pieces at auction.They saved only the 1880 sheepfold structure restoring its original facade. The new owners then spent another $17 million to create multiple atmospheres in the rooms, including a farmhouse South Wing for private events, a smaller Crystal Room now called The Central Park Room with floor-to-ceiling windows onto the park with an open kitchen, and a bar in the front complete with gold Pegasus horses mobile floating above. And then there’s the patio, that is still amazing and still twinkles under fairy lights.
Walking into Tavern on the Green, I was instantly impressed. The bar area is huge and rustic and you start to understand why Tavern was such an iconic restaurant. We were then taken into the Central Park Room for dinner and it was stunning. Walking by the open kitchen we were seated right at the massive windows and with a view of the patio. And when it started to turn dark and the patio lights came on, it was slightly magical.
As for the menu, it’s what they call modern urban farmhouse that is meant to be an everyday experience that’s not fancy food but carefully put together with local and seasonal ingredients. It’s broken up into three main segments: The Hearth, The Grill and The Plancha. I had the Brisket and it was pretty damn good. And apparently the Pork Chop and the Fish were good as well, although you may need to to order a few sides as the portion of dishes varies and the men in your party may be a bit disappointed.
Between the food and the atmosphere, Tavern lived up to my expectations. I’m not sure how it compares to LeRoy’s spectacle, but I was pretty happy with my experience at the new Tavern on the Green.
Tavern on the Green W. 67th St. and Central Park W