Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Comatose Potato Salad
July 27, 2014 11:59 AM   Subscribe

"Since first opening in 1934 in a converted sheepfold off 67th Street, on the western edge of Central Park, the storied franchise (which is still licensed by the Parks Department) has been a reliable hit. Joe Baum put the restaurant on the national culinary map during the 1960s, and when Warner LeRoy doubled the capacity several years later and added the famous Crystal Room, it became one of the great circus-dining destinations in the world. LeRoy’s heirs ran the profitable old production for years (in 2006, it was still the second-highest-grossing restaurant in the USA, behind Tao Las Vegas), until the great crash of 2008 brought their company to its knees. Now, after years of drama and delay, Tavern on the Green has opened its doors once again, this time under the direction of a hospitality operation originally from Philadelphia called the Emerald Green Group. " So begins Adam Platt's zero star review of the re-opened Tavern On The Green. Others have not been glowing. Even the Post got a few kicks in. Peter Wells' scathing takedown in the New York Times might be better experienced with some happy sheep.
posted by The Whelk (69 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
(avoid Staten Island, made with rum, coconut water, and pineapple juice)

This made me smile. But, as I assume is Platt's point, how does a crappy piña colada represent Staten Island of all places? Shouldn't it be, like, cheap cognac à la Wu-Tang with a dash of Sambuca, infused with Sri Lankan spice and a bouquet garni of landfill for the essential aromatics?
posted by RogerB at 12:24 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


Motion to have all restaurant reviews narrated by adorable sheep*, do I have a second?


*substitutions could incolve supercilious cats when discussing lamb chops
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:25 PM on July 27 [6 favorites]


"If you like cheap cognac à la Wu-Tang with a dash of Sambuca, infused with Sri Lankan spice and a bouquet garni of landfill for the essential aromatics/And getting caught in the rain..."
posted by thelonius at 12:48 PM on July 27 [13 favorites]


To sum it up, even if the food never rises above this level, it’s okay. And so far, the freshman class of waiters come on earnest and perky. Too perky even. I am fussy and old-fashioned about service. I don’t want to know the waiter’s name or what dishes are his favorites. I get impatient if she or he explain the obvious at length.

Goddamnit, I miss New York. Just the other day, I was trying to explain this to a friend. Waiters are so plain and friendly out here in Los Angeles, "How are you today?" "Did you enjoy lunch?" "Can I take that plate for ya?" It's like, I'm in the middle of dinner here, what's with the questions? There is a school of thought where the waiter should feel invisible.
posted by phaedon at 12:50 PM on July 27 [7 favorites]


Steve Cuozzo suggested (in the Post) suggested that they take the red velvet cake off the menu, and Adam Platt was bemoaning the fact that it was no longer on the menu. Quelle dommage.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 12:56 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Waiters are so plain and friendly out here in Los Angeles

One time at Animal a waiter sat down at the table with us to explain the specials.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:05 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


Could the idea be that the friendly service will play well with tourists from the south and midwest?
posted by Area Man at 1:07 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Although there is no crack in my patrician facade I can assure you my heart is horrified.
posted by The Whelk at 1:08 PM on July 27 [18 favorites]


There is a school of thought where the waiter should feel invisible.

That requires the customer to know how to silently signal that, e.g., they're done with a plate.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:09 PM on July 27 [5 favorites]


A Man's Heart!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:10 PM on July 27



That requires the customer to know how to silently signal that, e.g., they're done with a plate.

crossed knife and fork at 5 O'clock angled at the rim at the plate where you raised by wolves
posted by The Whelk at 1:12 PM on July 27 [46 favorites]


As a new resident of Los Angeles I am already looking forward to returning to Philadelphia's lion's den of mustached waitstaff who are oblivious and think smiling is basic, because everyone here is insanely nice in restaurants and my face hurts from smiling so much. The food is too good and the portions nicely sized, it's very confusing.
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:23 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


crossed knife and fork at 5 O'clock angled at the rim at the plate where you raised by wolves

I was taught side by side on the right rim of the plate, which I think is 'close enough' to yours but does raise the problem with this method of signaling.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:28 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


well yeah, side by side unless you're doing some deep prep school signaling and turn the fork tines down
posted by The Whelk at 1:30 PM on July 27 [8 favorites]


What is an "incoherent" brownie sundae?
posted by Omnomnom at 1:36 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


I was on a first date once and the waiter kept asking me if he could take my plate and I told him to back away from the table. Needless to say, we split the bill.

The other thing mentioned in the Insatiable Critic's review that of course drives me crazy the more I think about it is placing an order with the waiter only to have some other really friendly person show up with the food and ask the diners where everything goes.
posted by phaedon at 1:50 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


There is a school of thought where the waiter should feel invisible

I believe you're looking for NinjaNewYork, where waiters descend from the ceiling and appear out of hidden panels in the walls.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:51 PM on July 27 [5 favorites]


Crumple up napkin, toss it in the middle of the plate, silently push chair and person back from table's edge, withdraw ivory toothpick from shirt pocket, successfully smother a belch so as not to disturb other patrons, dislodge animal flesh trapped 'tween canine and incisor, nod when the waiter motions for my plate, wink in thanks.
posted by notyou at 1:54 PM on July 27 [15 favorites]


well yeah, side by side unless you're doing some deep prep school signaling and turn the fork tines down

Prep school or Europe. Tines facing up are a clear signal that you haven't finished the potato salad.

What is an "incoherent" brownie sundae?


Just a little tongue-tied, I expect.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:57 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


Isn't this dump one of the places that allowed agents of Folger's to tamper with their guests' coffee?
And then aired the results: none of the guests could taste the difference between brewed and instant...

Illustrious tourist trap indeed.
posted by Pudhoho at 2:14 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


The Whelk: "crossed knife and fork at 5 O'clock angled at the rim at the plate where you raised by wolves"

No but I was raised in New Jersey, so same difference.
posted by octothorpe at 2:19 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


I'm straight outta Central NJ, no excuse. It just takes a lot of electroshock and skinner box experiments to make it stick.
posted by The Whelk at 2:32 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


tines down for what
posted by elizardbits at 2:33 PM on July 27 [47 favorites]


Ruth Reichl on the old Tavern on the Green
posted by TedW at 2:36 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


You know what?

Fuck y'all.

My dad got most of a high school education in Moody's Crossroads, Alabama, worked hard and got lucky, and the day he was able to take his family to dinner at Tavern on the Green in New York City was one of the happiest days of his life. He had Made It. Didn't matter that the food was awful and the service snippy. Sure it's a tourist trap, a honeypot rigged to suck dollars from hicks. Dad didn't care. He took his family out to dinner at Tavern on the Green in New York City! He was choppin' high cotton! The whole thing delighted him. The wine, the tuxedos, the whole fauxpulence of the place. He left that pit of a restaurant glowing with satisfaction (though we stopped for shawarma later).

Also:

I'm a waiter. Crossed utensils mean don't move the plate. Utensils parallel at the side indicate that the diner is finished. "X means stop, two straight lines means go," is how I've heard it explained to WAs and bussers.

posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:39 PM on July 27 [50 favorites]


BitterOldPunk makes a good point. Tavern On The Green is a symbol. It's never been about the food. The Rainbow Room and Windows On The World were the same way.
posted by Itaxpica at 2:48 PM on July 27 [6 favorites]


The 1995 review says the food is overall quite good and fitting a destination dinner just that service is a bit rushed and rude and the atmosphere a touch chaotic. The reviews of the current ToTG keep mentioning the lackluster food and presentation. It's not that it's a tourist destination ,it's that it's an iconic part of the city that's not treating its customers well.

( yeah and the rainbow room has never been about the food not even a little bit. Same deal for places like the Hancock observation deck, you don't go there for the gastronomic adventure.)
posted by The Whelk at 2:50 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


There weren't many restaurants we dined in in New York that did treat their customers well, and we always assumed that was part of the New York deal. But then we couldn't afford the actual fancy places often. We did do better with small family-owned Greek or Italian places, though.

We also like to sit and talk a lot after we eat so it was usually the waiter who came by to check on us because we were using up his table. No need for silverware signals when you are perfectly willing to hang out all night if they let you.
posted by emjaybee at 2:56 PM on July 27


I've never heard of the crossed utensils thing or any other utensil signals outside of Metafilter. I'm half convinced that you all just made it up.
posted by octothorpe at 3:03 PM on July 27


tines down for what

The idea there would be that tines up on a resting fork indicated you were eating, while tines down showed you were finished (the position of the utensils is less important that way.) I'm not sure where that idea originated, but likely somewhere in America since it's somewhat incompatible with European style utensil wielding.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:07 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


This guide fits how I was taught but I was also taught by a flamboyant drunk theatre director over several boozy meals at Langand's that I don't remember super well.
posted by The Whelk at 3:20 PM on July 27 [5 favorites]


Churchtucker, in my mind you are always tined down.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 3:27 PM on July 27


Tine after tine
posted by The Whelk at 3:30 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


I believe you're looking for NinjaNewYork, where waiters descend from the ceiling and appear out of hidden panels in the walls.

That was another zero-star review spot.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:01 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


I use a hybrid style depending on what kind of food I'm eating, so I wonder how strict the European style normally is. Are you expected to eat rice off the back of the fork, for instance?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:08 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


I do a thing where if rice is on the plate I fork up a bit of whatever the rice is accompanying and then sort of furtively shove a bit of rice on top of that with the knife. I feel like this may be a tawdry and shameful act.
posted by elizardbits at 4:34 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to master the Hannibal Lecter thing of massing things on the fork and putting it in your mouth tines down like its a succulent fig.

Granted I can only use chopsticks while drunk so who even knows.
posted by The Whelk at 4:42 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


Is there some way to see all of the Times' no-star reviews? Such delicious snark.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:48 PM on July 27


I generally signal that I am done by paying and leaving.
posted by kyrademon at 5:09 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Bitteroldpunk - in case it wasn't clear, Tavern On The Green recently closed and just now reopened under new management. That's what sparked the review. So I'm assuming your father actually did get a good meal unless he just treated you all to dinner like, yesterday.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:24 PM on July 27


After the soup?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:24 PM on July 27


Back in the dark ages when ten-year-old girls could roam unsupervised in Central Park my best friend and I were stuck there in the middle of an air raid drill. There being no fallout shelter nearby we boldly walked into the Tavern on the Green in our grubby shorts and tshirts. The waiters were kind to us and some ladies invited us to their table and fed us lemonade and cake. Only time I've ever been in there.
posted by mareli at 5:39 PM on July 27 [22 favorites]


At some level, just knowing that if I wanted to I could travel to Manhattan and have a meal at Tavern on the Green is very comforting.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:51 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


I've never heard of the crossed utensils thing or any other utensil signals outside of Metafilter. I'm half convinced that you all just made it up.

My grandmother, daughter of a prominent Baltimore doctor, registered DAR & exemplar of high manners, drilled into all her children & grandchildren that both crossed & parallel utensils were acceptable forms although in practice we all laid them side-by-side. Woe betide the child holding up dessert for everybody at her table by forgetting to place his fork & knife in their assigned positions; he may find himself without a slice of homemade apple pie, accompanied of course by a slice of good sharp cheddar cheese.
posted by scalefree at 5:55 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


My mother grew up on a farm. At a restaurant we all would finish at the same time, because we were passing the plates among ourselves, so everyone would get to taste all of the dishes. We signaled that we were done by starting to stack the plates for easy removal, making sure to pile all the utensils on the top plate. We were the best.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:04 PM on July 27 [7 favorites]


I've never heard of the crossed utensils thing or any other utensil signals outside of Metafilter. I'm half convinced that you all just made it up.

It's a sign of the tines.
posted by Flashman at 6:13 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]


"At no point in your rambling, incoherent meal were you even close to anything that could be considered cuisine. Everyone in this room is now hungrier for having eaten here. I award you no stars, and may God have mercy on your soul."
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:18 PM on July 27 [8 favorites]


It's a sign of the tines.

I could never take the plates of your man...
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:21 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]


I use a hybrid style depending on what kind of food I'm eating, so I wonder how strict the European style normally is. Are you expected to eat rice off the back of the fork, for instance?

English -- probably yes, everything goes on the back of the fork.
Continental -- fork is held tines-down if you're cutting something/also using the knife (which is most all the time), so in practice you're still going to be eating most things off the back of the fork, but it's more flexible/not a solid rule. So eating rice in particular? Probably not on the back of the fork, since that's so difficult.

Tines down when you're finished and lay the silverware on the plate, even if you're eating English or European style, because why are you just flinging the fork onto the plate with the tines everywhere? That would be weird in the same way having the blade of the knife hanging over the edge of the plate would be weird. Doubt anybody thinks about it, but nobody does it.

Another way of signalling: when you're done, napkin on the table beside the plate, because you're not going to get it filthy on the plate, but if it's still in your lap or on your chair, everyone will think you're still eating. And you still eating is a possibility because you should be leaving a tiny bit of food on your plate and not completely cleaning it, since it's insulting to clean the plate as though you were RAVENOUS and didn't get enough.

Nobody follows these rules except I guess my mother, though, so don't worry about it. Usually, I can tell when people are done because the person who is going to pay is looking around everywhere so they can give me that "draw a squiggly line in the air" gesture that's the international sign for wanting the check or people start talking about dessert or something. I don't take plates until everyone is done eating anyway, because taking some people's plates while others at the table are or maybe are still eating seems presumptuous, so it's not like the silverware placement and all those signals are *so* important anyway. But I don't know how bussers are taught, I like to bus my own tables in general because I'm a control freak like that.

Anyway, sorry, I've never eaten at Tavern on the Green and hadn't even heard of it before. But I have no taste when it comes to food, so that's not surprising really. One of the best places I've ever eaten was this tourist trap on the San Francisco Pier -- the food was crummy, but the service was amazing. The place was absolutely packed, and their line was only about two feet long and right by the curtain-ed off bathroom so that people in line were constantly blocking it. I don't know how the waitstaff did such a good job in such terrible conditions, but it was fun watching and trying to figure it out! Tourist trap places actually generally have to make up for mediocre food with good service, I think. Or, that's been my experience anyway, as a tourist.
posted by rue72 at 6:45 PM on July 27


And you still eating is a possibility because you should be leaving a tiny bit of food on your plate and not completely cleaning it, since it's insulting to clean the plate as though you were RAVENOUS and didn't get enough.

But there are starving children in India who haven't tasted Nouvelle cuisine...
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:52 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]


Those photos in the Insatiable Chef review are quite repulsive.
posted by Salamander at 6:59 PM on July 27


Of course (pardon), the servers don't have it any easier since in addition to our signals they have to worry about expectations about service for various thing from the diners' sides.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:13 PM on July 27


It doesn't matter how the food or the service is, Tavern on The Green will always be the place where Vinz Clortho, Keymaster of Gozer, cornered and possessed Louis Tully.

No lackluster desserts can take that away from me.
posted by murphy slaw at 7:22 PM on July 27 [6 favorites]


I'm assuming your father actually did get a good meal unless he just treated you all to dinner like, yesterday.

It was the mid-80s. I remember the meal as ostentatiously terrible. Middling food grandly served.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:29 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


Say what you want about Flavortown dude--at least it's an Ethos.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:27 PM on July 27 [6 favorites]



No lackluster desserts can take that away from me.

except I think he pleads for his life in front of the windows of the Crystal Room, which is now not there (but there are windows?)
posted by The Whelk at 8:41 PM on July 27


I met judge judy at tavern on the green when I was there for a guardian angels thing. I also met guardian angels guy (curtis? chris? dunno).
posted by jonbro at 8:48 PM on July 27


Amazed by the secret Masonic signals with flatware. To avoid talking or making eye contact with waitstaff?
posted by Fibognocchi at 9:02 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


don't take plates until everyone is done eating anyway, because taking some people's plates while others at the table are or maybe are still eating seems presumptuous,

As a fast eater who often eats with the slowest of the slow: for the love of Christ, please take my plate even if they aren't done! I don't want to be hemmed in by a gooey slowly congealing plate while my boyfriend carefully composes his fork sonatas. I am done. Take my plate. We eat together constantly; we are not surprised at the difference in speed.
posted by dame at 10:10 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]



What is an "incoherent" brownie sundae?


I think it's what you get after a Saturday night of too many Dirty Girl Scout shots. I think I've seen them at Hangover Mass.
posted by maryr at 10:40 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]


I've been to Tavern on the Green twice. The first time was in 1994, when my family came to visit me the summer I had an internship in NYC. We ate in the Crystal Room and we all liked it - the food was delicious! It just felt like a Big Deal, being able to eat at Tavern on the Green.

The last time I was there was in October 2009. My boyfriend and I had brunch there. It was his first time in NYC and we were there for a long weekend. The brunch buffet back then was actually a good deal, especially for NYC. It wasn't as spectacular as I'd remembered, but it was still very good and we enjoyed it. It was very busy - I guess a lot of people were there to say goodbye.

It's too bad the new version doesn't seem to be that good.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:44 PM on July 27


One time at Animal a waiter sat down at the table with us to explain the specials.

Happened at a place down in Newport (the old Salas' - Fijian cuisine, no lie. The owner/chef retired and then the place burned down, probably by outraged New Yorkers.). It was charming rather than irritating - tourist town service tends to be more whimsical overall, but the locals get used to it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:01 AM on July 28


The New Yorker wasn't wild about it, either.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:05 AM on July 28


I generally signal that I am done by crumpling my burger wrapper, sticking it in the empty fry box, and throwing the whole thing on the backseat floorboard.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:36 AM on July 28 [7 favorites]


The only time I've been to TotG was with a friend of the family in 79 when I wasn't quite 11. I don't remember what I ate for the first course, but the chocolate ice cream I had for dessert was served in a small, square chocolate flower pot.

Tied to my chair was the most gorgeous balloon I've ever seen. Swirls of color, like gasoline in a puddle. I took it around for the rest of the day and saved the scrap when the air was gone.

The only time I've seen a balloon like it was about 10 years ago; the woman whose baby had it said she'd gotten it at a street fair.
posted by brujita at 8:52 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


drives me crazy the more I think about it is placing an order with the waiter only to have some other really friendly person show up with the food and ask the diners where everything goes

That's just poor FOH & expo management. POS systems are basically always set up with individually numbered seats at each table. If the server taking your order inputs by seat, each number will appear next to the item on the ticket in the kitchen, and whoever's expediting should be saying to the food runner "Table 15, seat 2," or whatever. Some servers skip doing this, either through laziness or lack of training. If they'd actually do it consistently their lives would be easier--especially if the table suddenly requests split bills.

Auctioning off the plates at tableside is rookie, rookie incompetence.

That NYT review was sublime. "Comatose potato salad" is going to tickle me all day.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:28 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


feckless fecal fear mongering: That's just poor FOH & expo management.

Working in food service is a blessing and a curse because on one hand, it makes you more sympathetic to servers and how hard their job can be, but on the other hand, it makes you realize how crappy the average server is at their job.

feckless fecal fear mongering: Auctioning off the plates at tableside is rookie, rookie incompetence.

That's a great idea for a theme restaurant. No one places orders, food just comes out of the kitchen at random and then all the diners who are still waiting to eat can bid on it.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:39 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


Hah! That would be hilarious!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:42 AM on July 28


Amazed by the secret Masonic signals with flatware. To avoid talking or making eye contact with waitstaff?

Well, yes, although it's more about allowing you to concentrate on your companions.

That's a great idea for a theme restaurant.

The Libertarian Kitchen. After a set time, if you don't have any food they make you kitchen staff.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:56 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


« Older Brat packer sends brat packing......   |   After over a decade in develop... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments