The Gramercy Park/Union Square area has a restaurant to sate just about any craving. Spanakopita and halloumi? Try Eleni’s. Goat dum biryani and saag paneer? Head to GupShup. Mole enchiladas and fried jalapeño queso? Stop by Javelina. Below are a few relatively new restaurants in the neighborhood, as well as two classics.
One of the neighborhood eateries that opened after the pandemic shutdown, Café Salmagundi was named after a publication launched by the early 19th-century writer Washington Irving; Irving Place, where the restaurant is located, was named after him. Salmagundi, which is a collection of seemingly unrelated elements, also describes the menu: New American with a decided Korean flavor. Oysters are served with vinegared red chili, the burger includes kimchi purée and jalapeño ash mayo along with bacon, cheddar, lettuce, and tomato; the uni bowl features wasabi tobiko, kimchi, and perilla leaf. The drinks menu is truly global, with spirits and wines from around the world. House cocktails include the Irving, made with an award-winning Australian whisky, a liquor that includes Brazilian bananas, Italian vermouth, mole bitters, and honey—a mixology salmagundi if ever there were one.
Another post-lockdown restaurant, Chito Gvrito is devoted to a cuisine that is still little-known to most Americans: Georgian, as in the country, not the state. That means multiple varieties of khachapuri, the stuffed cheese bread that is Georgia’s national dish, along with dumplings, borscht, stews, grilled meats, house-made pickles, and more. The ideali, a walnut layer cake with dulce de leche filling, is an ideal way to complete your meal.
One could argue that every neighborhood needs a restaurant that offers authentic yet updated Italian comfort food. In the Gramercy Park area, Isabelle’s Osteria fills the bill nicely. You can’t go wrong with cacio e pepe bucatini, risotto with sweet corn and roasted leek, or braised beef short ribs with cheesy polenta and red-wine shallots, among other mains. Or you might be tempted to double up on starters such as crispy calamari or roasted beets with pistachios, strawberries, and goat cheese and call that dinner. Be sure to leave room for dessert, particularly the olive-oil cake with strawberries and whipped cream.
This tapas eatery earned its first Michelin star in 2009 and has been awarded one every year since. Duck egg with mojama and black truffles, blistered shishito peppers with manchego huancaína, and octopus with fennel and grapefruit are just a few of this petite restaurant’s exceptional options, along with its house-made pork charcuterie and, of course, patatas bravas. The wine list, both here and at sister Bar Jamón next door, is a cornucopia of Spanish delights. By the time you’ve finished your dining experience, you’ll be surprised to find yourself still on Irving Place rather than in Catalonia.
Every neighborhood in Manhattan south of Times Square, it seems, has a restaurant that claims to be the city’s oldest. In the Gramercy/Union Square area, it’s Pete’s Tavern, which was the site of a bar as far back as 1864. The tin-tile ceiling, the black-and-white tiled floors, and the rosewood bar are all from that original incarnation, though the establishment didn’t take on its current name until 1922. The menu is big on long-time favorites: burgers, New York strip steak, and three types of parmigiana (eggplant, chicken, and veal). Beers on tap include two proprietary drafts, and the house cocktails include the O. Henry, named after the writer who, legend has it, wrote “The Gift of the Magi” here in 1903.