The Triumphant Return of Union Square Cafe

The Triumphant Return of Union Square Cafe

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And now, a five-sentence history lesson.

Back in 1985, a young Danny Meyer opens his very first restaurant, Union Square Cafe—one of the first spots to champion the local-and-seasonal ethos we now know so well. It quickly becomes a New York staple. Meyer proceeds to build quite the restaurant empire with spots like Gramercy Tavern, Shake Shack and Maialino. Due to the very New York reason of “massive rent hike,” Union Square Cafe closes in 2015. The world enters a collective state of despair.

Which brings us to this very Thursday, when it makes its much-anticipated return. Some of it’s changed entirely, some of it’s been tweaked for the better, and some of it’s stayed just the same.

Here’s what it looks like, and here’s how it all adds up, then-and-now-style…

Then: It could be found right on Union Square.

Now: There was talk of it moving to an entirely different neighborhood, but that didn’t happen. It’s now just a few blocks away, in the bi-level space that used to house City Crab.

Then: Leather booths, wooden tables, an all-around casual vibe.

Now: The same, only different. In addition to being significantly bigger, it’s brighter, airier and modernized in subtle ways. You’ve got Frank Stella on the wall, an upstairs dining room with cocktails and private areas. Speaking of cocktails…

Then: The drink menu was lacking a Butternut-and-Bourbon Sour with sherry and spiced orange sherbet.

Now: It’s not.

Then: It was a spot that could be used for pretty much anything.

Now: Same. Dinner with the family, drinks with friends, casual work outings, whatever else.

Then: Italian-leaning food with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients.

Now: Classics like the ricotta gnocchi and steak tartare remain, alongside some newness courtesy of chef Carmen Quagliata. And keep an eye out for the duck crostini with roasted grapes and spiced chicken with Japanese sweet potato.

Then: There was no sort of grab-and-go option.

Now: Still lacking, but expect an adjacent eatery called Daily Provisions with sandwiches and snacks soon.

Still Now: We’ll leave you to roam about that slideshow again.


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