Whenever we are in Manhattan we make it a point to have at least one meal at one of the many excellent Union Square Hospitality Group( USHG) restaurants. Danny Meyer, the head "honcho" of this dedicated, knowledgeable group of people is part of the Meyer family that have been friends with our family for 4 generations. His book "Setting the Table" is a manual on the use of "Hospitality" in any business and in my opinion a MUST read for anyone in the hospitality business.
Our 2nd day in Manhattan we hit the street in mid-morning and walked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 82nd and 5th Ave. The show which we went to see was the effect of Andy Warhol on the art of the second half of the 20th Century. (This blog is not an Art report but we seem to combine art and food in our travels- both sensual pleasures).
From the "Met" we walked West thru Central Park to 77th and Columbus Ave(366 Columbus) for our first visit to a "Shake Shack" (646) 747-8700. "Shake Shake", modeled, somewhat, after "Ted Drews" in St. Louis( Danny and my birth place), is USHG take on what a burger and shake emporium should be.
From the help of the "Wal-Mart" greeter, who helped us as new customers, to the efficient service and friendliness of all the staff it was a true exposure to what can be done to upgrade any concept. Our 2 burgers, cooked to order, stressed the freshness and taste of the ingredients, especially the meat. Marilyn had the "Shack Burger", a cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato, while I had a "Smoke Shack" same as the previous with the addition of bacon, onion and pickel. Both sandwiches come with the SS special sauce. To drink we had a diet coke and a fresh lemonade. One can sit inside, outside or on the lower level, or carry out and eat elsewhere.
Then is was on to The New York Historical Society to view an exhibit of Hudson River artists, and past the Natural history Museum to catch a bus back to the East Side and our abode.
The evening started with a viewing of the Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass religious windows at the World Bible Museum in Columbus Circle. Then a long cab ride down to the foot of Manhattan and a terrific dining experience at the "North End Grill" 104 North End Ave( next to the Conrad Hotel). This is the newest venture for the USHG. The ambiance is modern, youthful and business oriented, all rolled into one. Our group (3) where by far the eldest but that didn't dampen either the atmosphere, service, food, or hospitality, if anything it may have heightened our reception.
After my usual Bombay I set out to have my own special tasting, too much food but you know the cliche about "only living once". Here is my indulgence plus tastes and divisions of other dishes:
Sweetbreads and beet nuggets Tempura- crispy batter on perfectly prepared fillings, different tastes and colors;
Fig Salad- Crisp frisse( curly endive, I think) surrounded by cut fresh figs and topped with caramelized onions and pecans. All my favorites served beautifully on one plate.
Upma( Indian)- a wonderful large patty of Polenta topped with roasted vegetables and a light sauce from the roasting.
Others in our party had a snow crab appetizer, a green salad, Suckling pig( not often seen on menus) and lamb, all done perfectly.
For desert the 3 of us split a slice of Concord Grape cake, a totally new experience for all and a piece of "mile high"( my description) Lemon Meringue pie.
Remember these are my descriptions, from memory, probably deviating from the chefs input, of a stuffing , magnificent feast.
I must protect the server at the "North End Grill", a delightful young women, who suggested I order less. at the 3 AM she was correct.