Renowned Central Park restaurant restored, reopened, reviewed.
While perusing the New York Times a few months back, I read a piece about the renovations of the historic Tavern on the Green, an iconic restaurant in Central Park that morphed from simple to extravagant to closed. I learned a lot from that report: It dated to 1871 as “an 8,000-square-foot Sheepfold — an ornate shelter for the woolly, four-legged lawn mowers that once grazed on Sheep Meadow.” I now also know the origin of the phrase, “the sheep left (or returned to) the fold.”
The Sheep Meadow now hosts summer concerts, political demonstrations and recreational sports that require an expansive lawn, but from 1931 onward it was a restaurant. Its crescendo of opulence reached is climax in the days of Warner LeRoy, who expanded and glitzified in a fashion more suited to the Las Vegas strip than to a park in the middle of Manhattan. The gigantic 31,000-square-foot over-the-top restaurant closed in 2010, ending an era that some thought should not have been in the first place. “The restaurant has been closed since then. What the city got back was a mess,” the Times continued.
Two years later, the city granted a 20-year license to Philadelphia’s Emerald Green Group run by chef/restaurateurs Jim Caiola and David Salama to restore and operate the restaurant. At that time, the Times reported that plans were to reopen in the fall of 2013. Delays of various sorts pushed the opening to April of this year.
According to Times restaurant critic Pete Wells, who just reviewed it. He loves the new old look , ( ), but is less enthusiastic about the food and service:
“The chef, Katy Sparks, may rethink some of the overworked, underdelivering recipes. The hosts may learn how to read their reservations screen so they don’t tell a customer he’s the first to arrive and ask him to wait while the rest of his party is already in the restaurant’s inner recesses, wondering if he’s gone for a carriage ride. Somebody may tell the servers not to drop the check while people are still eating dessert. The sommeliers may turn down the thermostat so that red wines aren’t the temperature of a kiddie pool.”
Still, next time I’m in New York, I’ll be willing to give it a try. It might have gotten its act(s) together by then. I sure hope so, because it’s a wonderful piece of New York history..