America, New York, Travel

Where to Eat in NYC: Tavern on the Green, Central Park

I’ll start by saying that there’s a Tavern on the Green in Crawley near where I’m from, and it’s a bit of a dive. No offence, Tavern on the Green. I used to sing there every once in a while with my band, and an over-eager and over-intoxicated member of the crowd once fell on me and took out a couple of mic stands in the process. This Tavern on the Green is located in Central Park, attracts a rather different kind of clientele, and is basically a whole different kettle of fish. My NYC pal declared ‘If we’re talking iconic New York City experiences, Tavern on the Green is the place to go. Or failing that we could just go and get Thai.’ Well, it’s not often that I find myself in New York meeting up with old friends, and with a spur of the moment Justin Bieber streak of YOLO, I counter-declared ‘Let’s go iconic.’

Sheepish beginnings

Back in the day (1864, to be precise), 200 sheep were moved into what is now known as Sheep Meadow, a great big green open space in Central Park. Apparently it was believed that the sheep would bring a bit of a Bo-Peep vibe, making the park seem even more ‘English and romantic,’ whilst also sorting out the trimming of the grass very effectively. Good work, sheep. It’s a thumbs up from me.

The New York Sheep obviously needed some kind of shelter, and so a sheepfold was built in not far from Sheep Meadow; a shepherd led the sheep back and forth to work every day, until they were banished to Brooklyn in 1934. Poor little guys. And why were they banished, I hear you ask? Aside from the fear that starving people would attempt to eat them (the Great Depression had hit, and desperate needs call for desperate measures), but also- to make way for a restaurant. Tavern on the Green opened in the old sheep fold, and there it has stayed ever since.

A man strolling in Central Park in spring

Tavern on the Green is all the rage

From humble beginnings as a sheep house, the Tavern on the Green grew and grew. A dance floor was installed, live music played every night, and lights twinkled in swathes hanging from the Elm trees outside. It became one of the prime social spots to be seen at; anyone from Grace Kelly to Andy Warhol and John Lennon to George Clooney ate there over the years, and many a Broadway show held parties there. The restaurant became synonymous with NYC glamour and high society, and although Central Park itself went through a grimy and mildly dangerous phase, Tavern on the Green twinkled on obliviously, like a very stubborn gemstone embedded mysteriously in the pavement.

Until, in 2009, the owners filed for bankruptcy.

Can we say ‘AWKWARD.’

The Tavern on the Green dancefloor- old pictures of New York
Photo from The New York Times
Tavern on the Green in the 1970s
Photo from The New York Times

The reopening

The Tavern on the Green reopened in 2014, bought by a lovely pair of chaps who thought they could surely take on the challenge of bringing a dormant iconic restaurant back to life. It’s my opinion that those chaps were probably right, as this place is beaut. Roaring fires, cozy little leather-seated nooks for walk-ins wanting drinks alone, and airy open spaces dressed in white table cloths all hark back to Tavern on the Green’s heritage. And don’t even get me started on the sheep logo that adorns just about everything, from the fireplaces to the lid on the butter.

I’ll be honest. I was not dressed for the venue. Not that Tavern on the Green has a formal dress code; but you want to look the part of you’re strutting into a brilliant NYC restaurant, and the fact that it was a last minute decision coupled with that I’d been marching the streets of New York all day meant that it was a jeans and t-shirt option for myself. Alas.

Somehow despite my rather casual attire I didn’t feel too out of place; the waitstaff were lovely and friendly and the fact that it was very early evening meant that the restaurant wasn’t yet packed out with far classily-dressed punters.

On the menu at Tavern on the Green: salmon

Food at Tavern on the Green

Elegant setting aside, obviously the real question here is whether the food at Tavern on the Green is actually any good? The answer, pals, is a resounding YES.

The restaurant serves classic high-end American dishes- think steak and scallops as opposed to burgers and fries though. Seasonal ingredients are served up beautifully, matching their elegant surroundings. (I had the Salmon, as is plain for the eye to see from the photo above. It was DELICIOUS) The cocktails are equally as awesome, and the restaurant is also open for breakfast and lunch. Although the prices are fairly high, the food is of such good quality that it’s 100% worth it. And let’s face it- you’re paying equally for the atmosphere as well as what’s on your actual plate.

Finger crossed this place stays successful for many years to come; I’m a real fan, and if you’re after somewhere iconic to eat in NYC- aside from doing a Carrie Bradshaw and grabbing a McDonald’s, this is the place you have to eat at.

Alternative to Tavern on the Green- go ‘Carrie Bradshaw’ and grab a McDonald’s

Tavern on the Green, located at 67th Street and Central Park West.

Monday to Friday 11am-4pm and 5pm-11pm

Saturday and Sunday 9am-4pm and 5pm-11pm

Bar room and bar menu available all day.

Eat at the iconic Tavern on the Green restaurant in NYC’s Central Park

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