Each time we return to Gotham Bar and Grill, we’re captivated by the elegance of the spacious multi-level dining room: It looks like it could be the stage set for a glamorous Hollywood movie.
The walls and fabrics are bathed in relaxing neutral colors accented by the furniture and floors with dark woods. The stunning ceiling lights are draped in gossamer fabric. Everything is picture perfect and on a grand scale—setting the expectation for a meal that follows suit. And it doesn’t disappoint.
Gotham has been one of our favorites ever since we began celebrating family milestones there when our son Andrew was a student at nearby New York University. Each time he comes back from California, we make a point of returning.
When Executive chef and co-owner Alfred Portale assumed the helm of the kitchen in 1984 (more than thirty years ago!), the young CIA grad was relatively unknown. Since then Chef Portale has joined the ranks of top tier celebrity chefs with three cookbooks under his (apron) belt and numerous TV appearances, both as a judge on Top Chef and sharing the kitchen with Julia Child on the PBS Cooking with Master Chefs series.
Revered by his peers and foodie devotees as one of the pioneers of “ “New American” cuisine, the accolades achieved by the chef and Gotham Bar and Grill are inextricably woven together. Consistently earning Michelin stars each year since 2006, both the restaurant and chef have been recognized with multiple James Beard awards, including one for Outstanding Restaurant in the nation and another for Outstanding Chef in the nation. Gotham always ranks high in Zagat ratings and critical reviews by the New York Times.
Why we return
What is most striking about dining at Gotham, however, is its consistency. The changing menu is seasonal, emphasizing the best, always-fresh ingredients available. Portions are right-sized. Remarkably, you can depend on a dining experience that is just as awesome this time as the last time you were here.
When we arrived for lunch on a Friday, shortly before the restaurant’s noon opening, the front house crew was assembled in the back receiving last minute instructions from their manager. As guests began to be seated, the team dispersed to different parts of the room with military-like precision.
We were here to celebrate Andrew’s birthday and everything was orchestrated to perfection. The flavors of each of the varied first and second courses we tried offered a wonderful mélange of textures and tastes. As usual, plating was elevated to an art form. The bread plate and water glasses were always refilled without asking.
If you’ve ever tasted Gotham Chocolate Cake, you’ll understand why each of us ordered the same dessert.
Unexpected tribute to a patron
When I went to the rest room on the lower level, I found a touching exhibition there (on display until March 2017) honoring Martin Friedman, an important influencer in 20th century art.
Friedman, who had overseen the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis for 30 years, recently had passed away. According to the signage, the champion of Modernism and his wife had lived on 12th Street for many years and frequently entertained other art luminaries at Gotham, almost using it as his own private kitchen.
When we arrived, we challenged our server. To our dismay, we had only one hour and 15 minutes available for our three-course lunch before our next appointment. Think: Speed-Eating!
She and her colleagues in the back of the house were able to pace the meal perfectly so there wasn’t any down time between courses. The check arrived in time, along with our dessert.
When we had called to make reservations several days earlier, I had mentioned that we were celebrating Andrew’s birthday. Without the need for any reminder, our server discretely brought out some extra baked goodies for him that we asked to have packaged to take home.
Given the relaxed setting, service, and quality of the Michelin-starred meal, the three-course, prix fixe Greenmarket Lunch (available Monday through Friday) at $38 per person is an absolute steal. Another feel good bonus: One dollar from each meal is donated to GrowNYC’s educational programs.
Can’t wait to return again!
IF YOU GO
Gotham Bar and Grill
12 East 12th Street, between Fifth Avenue & University Place, New York, NY
- Reservations can be made on OpenTable or by phone.
- While there were no lunch or diner reservations available on OpenTable for the day we chose, we were able to snag a reservation by calling one-day before (after the restaurant had made confirmation calls).
- Many diners, especially regulars, enjoy dining on the platform area adjacent to the bar.
- The three-course Gotham lunch during NYC Restaurant Week (twice a year) is an even more unbeatable bargain.
Disclosure: As a member of the Seekender team, our weekend getaway to Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan was sponsored by Hampton by Hilton but we paid for our own lunch at Gotham Bar and Grill, and all opinions expressed in this post are our own.
Given its convenient location, Hampton by Hilton Manhattan-Times Square North is an excellent value if you are planning a trip to NYC.