Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dining in Union Square

Last week, during my week-long escapade in New York City, I dined in Union Square for both lunch and dinner in one day.  Talk about commitment.  Here are some thoughts on food in Union Square...

Union Square Cafe
21 E 16th St
(between 5th Ave & W Union Sq)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 243-4020

Union Square Cafe was the first of several hot spots that restaurateur Danny Meyer opened, back in 1985.  He has since become responsible for over half a dozen others, most of which are located in Union Square (others include Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, The Modern, etc).  I decided to try out the original and headed over there for lunch late last week.

My waitress was very helpful (I just love that, don't you?) and when I told her I had a cold she suggested some fresh mint tea with honey.  Later, when I told her I "kinda" wanted a pasta dish but also "kinda" wanted the pulled pork sandwich (their menus change daily, by the way), she suggested that a half portion of the ricotta gnocchi would be less heavy than the other pasta dishes, and so I went with it.  She was right in so many ways.  The ricotta gnocchi was served in a meyer lemon butter with fresh soft herbs.  It was like heavenly cheesy pillows of love in my mouth with a fresh lemony and herby butter with just a speckle of salty parmesan, just for good measure.  It was Awesome with a capital A.  I hadn't had ricotta gnocchi in years, but the last time I had it, it was served with a meat sauce, decidedly heavier than the fresh tasting sauce this version highlighted.  Considering they offer a not only seasonal, but daily changing menu, I'm amazed there was such a fresh-tasting dish highlighting both lemon and herbs on a winter-time menu, but it really worked.

Half Portion Ricotta Gnocchi, Meyer Lemon Butter and Soft Herbs $15

Next it was time for my main dish, the slow-roasted pulled pork sandwich with fried broccolini and three sauces: Fruited Mustard, Salsa Rossa and Salsa Verde.  I found it to be a good idea to tackle this dish with a fork and knife because the pork was so incredibly juicy that it was quickly starting to soak the bun beneath.  Also the pork was plain, not tossed in any sauce because the sauces accompanied the dish alongside.  My favorite was the fruited mustard.  It added a really nice sweetness to the naturally sweet and juicy pork.  The salsa rossa was delicious with a spicy kick, and the salsa verde was the mildest sauce option.  I alternated between sauces for each bit of my sandwich, and I polished off almost the entire thing minus the top bun, a few spoonfuls of pork and some of the broccolini.  It was incredibly satisfying and thus officially makes Union Square Cafe one of my favorite spots in the city.  And to top it all off, my waitress was so awesome that when I mentioned I was sick and trying to stay out of the cold as much as I could, she suggested I go to the Museum of Modern Art to check out the Tim Burton exhibit.  I had been to the MoMA before, but this exhibit was new and catered to my former film-student self just perfectly!  Thanks, Stefanie!

Slow-Roasted Pulled Pork Sandwich with Fruited Mustard, Salsa Rossa and Salsa Verde $21

37 Union Square
New York, NY 10003
(212) 627-7172

I was meeting an old friend for dinner, and she suggested Republic as a personal favorite of hers. It was busy when we arrived, boasting communal picnic-table style seating where you and your friends would share a table with strangers... interesting concept.  The restaurant itself was pretty noisy which made our conversation a lot louder than it needed to be, but I don't think anyone minded.  The food wasn't bad.  We both had noodle soups.  My friend had the spicy duck and I had the spicy coconut chicken.  The noodles themselves tasted like spaghetti (I'm not actually sure what kind of noodles they were) so I'm not sure how authentically Asian they were, but the broth was tasty and I had a cold so it was perfect to enjoy some hot soup on a cold night.  I am not an expert on Asian noodle soups, but from what I can tell these were pretty tasty and satisfying.  You can be the judge.

Spicy Duck Broth Noodles $11

Spicy Coconut Chicken Broth Noodles $12


Jessie said...

great places and tasty dishes! I would love to go to Union Square Cafe someday

Victoria K. said...

It was REALLY good. I know it's not cheap eats, but it was easily one of the better meals I've had, and I certainly made some less fancy choices. I can only imagine if instead of the amazing pulled pork I opted for a fancy (and more expensive) seafood or meat dish. They also have a choice of three different oysters everyday, and it changes on a daily basis. I was going to order oysters, but considering I was suffering from a cold and my senses were not at 100%, I didn't want to order oysters since I probably couldn't appreciate them as much as if I was completely healthy :)

Lucine said...

I am soooo jealous - have to go there someday, and would LOVE to try those "heavenly cheesy pillows of love in my mouth"!!!

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