Long-awaited reopening

Even though I’ve seen the place only from the outside, I’ve always thought Tavern on the Green was cool: a place I wanted to visit so I could roost in one of the outlandishly gaudy-but-delightful dining rooms and have lunch. I never got the chance, though, as the Tavern — once the highest-grossing restaurant in the country — filed bankruptcy in 2009, and later closed its doors after a bitter fight with the city government over its lease. The owners also took a huge hit from the Wall Street crisis, as much of the restaurant’s revenue came from corporate dinners and parties. After the sky fell in 2008, all the frivolity dried up, right alongside the profit margin.

But as of this very day, it looks as if my fortunes might change. Tavern on the Green’s renaissance begins at dinnertime tonight, when its doors will open as a restaurant for the first time since the fallout, transfer of ownership, and $20 million renovation.

Gone are the Tiffany chandeliers, linen tablecloths, fanciful lighted trees and bizarre topiary that symbolized the Tavern in its heyday of decades past. Gone is the opulent and charmingly overdone Crystal Room (pictured), and the life-sized deer (deer??) that greeted patrons in the main entranceway.

Tavern Then

The new owners claim that they want Tavern on the Green to be the restaurant that everyday “Upper West Siders choose.” They’re catering less to tourists and more to “regular New Yorkers” — even though the ever-so-slightly pretentious menu seems to indicate otherwise. ($18 salads and $20 cheeseburgers?)

Tavern Now

Tavern Now

Still, I’m glad to see it opening again, in spite of many comments I’ve read from New Yorkers who say that while it’s a restaurant opening under the same name and in the same location, it’s not Tavern on the Green. Without the decadence of the furnishings and the spirit of outlandish excess that gave the place its total Liberace-on-a-lark vibe, it’s not Tavern, they say. It’s just “that new place.” Indeed, the “new place” is different; the opulence has been replaced by earth tones and ultra-hip understatement.

My hope is that it will do well, and eventually draw in the hoi polloi as well as the hoity-toity. It’s a glorious piece of New York history, and should be enjoyed by all. I know it’ll be on my list of places to stop next time I’m in the city.

But I ain’t payin’ no $12 for a bowl of grits, y’all.

2 thoughts on “Long-awaited reopening

  1. David

    In this little cowboy town in the High Country of Arizona we had a new eatery open up not too long ago. As we are somewhat shopping deprived, Liz and I went to check it out. Food was mediocre at best but that is not why it has closed its doors because mediocrity thrives all over America. This place closed because it had $12 salads and $15 cheeseburgers…in Prescott, go figure. We have a name for $15 cheeseburgers … STUPID!!!! But then we are certainly not NYC.
    Restaurant lasted six months, hard to sell hoity toity to folks in Wranglers and boots. I know mine never darkened their door again…


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