Sometimes a plan does NOT come together. At the end of our first day in New York, our plan had been to have dinner at a swanky restaurant downtown. Specifically, Eleven Madison Park, which had once been a good but relatively straightforward place that served what many call "New American" cuisine. With the addition of a new chef a year or so ago, it has become much, well, swankier. Prix fixe only, no a la carte items. Oh, just check out the menu yourself if you like. (Do note that on an $82 for three courses of $102 for four course menu, you can still pay a little more if you're in the mood for, say, alba truffle risotto and have $120 you don't want anymore.)
So we dressed as swankily as possible, given our limited travel wardrobes. I bring options, but even I have limits. (Actually, it's United Airlines' baggage limits that are really holding me back.) As we climbed the stairs after riding the 6 train to 23rd street, and popped up into the cold night air, my cell phone got back in touch with the mothership and informed me, just as I was stepping into the restaurant and undoing the buttons on my overcoat, that I had new messages. One of the friends meeting us had had a asthma attack and they were so sorry, but they would have to cancel.
Although he was disappointed at not seeing our friends, Bob was nonetheless relieved that we could now go somewhere else for dinner. Personally, I am a fan of cuisine as theater, and love a multi-course tasting menu and artistic presentations and amuse-bouches and that sort of thing. He lives by the rule of "horizontal cuisine": if the food on the plate is taller than it is wide, it's not for him.
So we left EMP, and wandered over to Union Square Cafe. 90 minutes for a table. I scouted a place the maitre d' at Union Square Cafe had recommended, but it didn't seem sufficiently horizontal enough to please Bob, so we headed over to Gramercy Tavern, one of New York's most popular (and best) restaurants. The wait for a seat in the bar area was an hour or more, but we added our name to the list and asked the maitre d' for his recommendations. His first choice, craftbar, a Tom Colicchio restaurant was around the corner and, as I found on another scouting exhibition, had a table for us.
What they didn't have was service for us. After an hour at the table, we had been served a bowl of soup. With no entrees in sight (despite two promises from our server that "it's being plated right now"), we got up, retrieved our coats and went back to Gramercy -- where our name had just reached the top of the list.