Union Square Cafe

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Victor Hong
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#1 Post by Victor Hong » December 2nd, 2016, 7:11 am

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#2 Post by John Morris » December 2nd, 2016, 4:25 pm

Anyone here been to the USC yet?
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#3 Post by Victor Hong » December 2nd, 2016, 5:14 pm

Not open yet. USC is aiming for this Tuesday.
I am having a big dinner there on December 16.
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#4 Post by mark rudner » December 3rd, 2016, 8:10 am

was there the last 2 nights of its prior incarnation
will be going back in next 2 weeks for sure
really just want to see if he can replicate that bar vibe

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#5 Post by Victor Hong » December 4th, 2016, 6:30 am

mark rudner wrote:was there the last 2 nights of its prior incarnation
will be going back in next 2 weeks for sure
really just want to see if he can replicate that bar vibe
The gas service has been activated, and friends-and-family service has begun.
Much of the old vibe has been transplanted.
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#6 Post by mmarcellus » December 4th, 2016, 7:09 am

Very slightly OT, but I'm in the middle of reading Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. It is a novel about her experiences as a backwaiter at USC, and it reads like it's just barely on the fiction side of the memoir/fiction spectrum. In any event, she's an astute observer and a good writer. I would recommend it to anyone, but especially to those who remember the old USC fondly and are awaiting the opening of the new one - as long as they don't have such a romanticized view of the place that they don't want it spoiled by hearing the nitty gritty details of what goes on in the back of the house.
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#7 Post by Glenn L e v i n e » December 4th, 2016, 8:19 am

My romanticized view of USC dates back to taking Ford & Wilhelmina models there during med school. Always tapped out my limited budget!
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#8 Post by Victor Hong » December 4th, 2016, 6:02 pm

mmarcellus wrote:Very slightly OT, but I'm in the middle of reading Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. It is a novel about her experiences as a backwaiter at USC, and it reads like it's just barely on the fiction side of the memoir/fiction spectrum. In any event, she's an astute observer and a good writer. I would recommend it to anyone, but especially to those who remember the old USC fondly and are awaiting the opening of the new one - as long as they don't have such a romanticized view of the place that they don't want it spoiled by hearing the nitty gritty details of what goes on in the back of the house.
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#9 Post by Peter Hirsch » December 5th, 2016, 3:58 am

Great memories. Going there in the mid-late '80s. A colleague had gone to college with Danny Meyer, and every time we ate there he would come over to the table, bring some bottles of wine for us to taste, etc. Great experience, great food. And everyone was so young then. And the neighborhood was very, very sketchy (no more!)

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#10 Post by Glenn L e v i n e » December 5th, 2016, 7:28 am

It's funny but coming from Brooklyn I never thought that neighborhood was the least bit dangerous.
"Never lose sight of the fact that it is just fermented grape juice" - a winemaker and negotiant in Napa Valley, CA

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#11 Post by Victor Hong » December 5th, 2016, 10:30 am

An e-mail just announced that this Thursday is its re-opening date, at the new location.
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#12 Post by Craig G » December 5th, 2016, 1:21 pm

Glenn L e v i n e wrote:It's funny but coming from Brooklyn being eight feet tall and built of steel I never thought that neighborhood was the least bit dangerous.
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#13 Post by Glenn L e v i n e » December 5th, 2016, 1:56 pm

Steel and I have very little in common, even in those days. Back in the 80s if you thought 14th St was rough well, I could've shown you some places!
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#14 Post by Michael Sopher » December 5th, 2016, 2:42 pm

Union Square was needle park back then.. I'd go down there but one would circle the park... not cross it.

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#15 Post by Victor Hong » December 6th, 2016, 4:16 am

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#16 Post by John Morris » December 7th, 2016, 6:51 am

Michael Sopher wrote:Union Square was needle park back then.. I'd go down there but one would circle the park... not cross it.
Indeed. I frequently stayed with a friend on Astor Place when I visited in the 1980s and avoided the park except to duck in and out of the subway when necessary.

By 1993, things had changed dramatically. On a visit that April, I emerged from the Union Square subway station warily. It was dusk and I was tugging a suitcase behind me. I looked around to see middle-class white people sitting on the benches. "Something's changed here," I thought. As so often happens in NY, the neighborhood had flipped in just a couple of years.

The same thing happened with Tomkins Square Park on the Lower East Side in the early 2000s. I discovered that in a similar way, heading to one of the many winebars that had sprung up there. It was dusk, and I'd figured I would skirt the edges of the park. But I quickly saw that it was filled with hipsters and 40-somethings walking their dogs, some with kids in tow.
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#17 Post by Glenn L e v i n e » December 7th, 2016, 7:51 am

Should've hung out in Tompkins Sq in the 80s. I witnessed two shootings, declared one in the field but they packed him up anyway in an ambulance.

Now that is medical resources wasted!
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#18 Post by Michael Sopher » December 7th, 2016, 8:19 am

I remember the far east village of the late 80's early 90's. Had a GF that was pretty hip back then.. we were at one bar on the corner of the park (The Horseshoe Bar???) The two of us may have been the only non junkies in the place... certainly the two healthiest...

In the early 80s I worked in a factory on Spring and Mercer in the summers (yeah, back then SOHO was still mostly industrial... galleries were just starting to open) a bit west of the place was fine (a few blocks from Ben's famous pizza and the paddleball courts that were in a scene in "Big" (even though they are too far from where the toy company offices supposedly were)... but east of there on Spring they found dead bodies in dumpsters... not too infrequently

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#19 Post by Michael Sopher » December 7th, 2016, 8:20 am

I think this thread has drifted a bit... anyway, looking forward to my first bar meal at the new USq Cafe

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#20 Post by mark rudner » December 9th, 2016, 7:45 am

sat at the bar last night for champagne and a couple of appetizers. solid food and a bunch of opening night stress for the staff, but the room is pretty. the bar is gonna take some getting used to for those that spent some time at the old one. not that there's necessarily anything wrong, just different and a lot more open due to high ceilings and a lot of windows facing park.
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#21 Post by Paul McCourt » December 9th, 2016, 3:09 pm

Michael Sopher wrote:I remember the far east village of the late 80's early 90's. Had a GF that was pretty hip back then.. we were at one bar on the corner of the park (The Horseshoe Bar???) The two of us may have been the only non junkies in the place... certainly the two healthiest...

In the early 80s I worked in a factory on Spring and Mercer in the summers (yeah, back then SOHO was still mostly industrial... galleries were just starting to open) a bit west of the place was fine (a few blocks from Ben's famous pizza and the paddleball courts that were in a scene in "Big" (even though they are too far from where the toy company offices supposedly were)... but east of there on Spring they found dead bodies in dumpsters... not too infrequently
People forget what the city was like back then. It is so very different now.

Union Sq was one of my first "nice" restaurants.
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#22 Post by John Morris » December 9th, 2016, 6:21 pm

Michael Sopher wrote:In the early 80s I worked in a factory on Spring and Mercer in the summers (yeah, back then SOHO was still mostly industrial... galleries were just starting to open) a bit west of the place was fine (a few blocks from Ben's famous pizza and the paddleball courts that were in a scene in "Big" (even though they are too far from where the toy company offices supposedly were)... but east of there on Spring they found dead bodies in dumpsters... not too infrequently
Yes, I remember walking across what was probably Grand at night from 6th Avenue or Varick toward Broadway in that era. It was a total ghost town at night -- and scary. Not a soul on the street and just industrial lofts.
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#23 Post by Victor Hong » December 10th, 2016, 8:35 pm

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#24 Post by Ramon C » December 11th, 2016, 1:10 am

Lots of reminiscing about lower Manhattan here. Well, the original Palladium, along 14th, was still alive as concert hall then nightclub back then. Caught a concert and dated at the club then.
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#25 Post by Victor Hong » December 11th, 2016, 5:35 am

I too was there, dancing with my girlfriend to the Pet Shop Boys, on the same floor which hosted Club MTV.
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#26 Post by Ramon C » December 11th, 2016, 7:39 am

Yep. West End Girls started throbbing in my head as soon as I recalled Palladium.
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#27 Post by Glenn L e v i n e » December 11th, 2016, 8:16 am

Nice photo Victor.

Loved Rockpile and GP & The Rumour at The Palladium back in late 70s/early 80s.
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#28 Post by Victor Hong » December 12th, 2016, 5:20 am

We are arranging a December 31 8:00PM BYOW wine dinner there, and two seats still remain.
If anybody wishes to join, please kindly PM me. Thank you.
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#29 Post by Jay Miller » December 12th, 2016, 8:21 am

Paul McCourt wrote:
Michael Sopher wrote:I remember the far east village of the late 80's early 90's. Had a GF that was pretty hip back then.. we were at one bar on the corner of the park (The Horseshoe Bar???) The two of us may have been the only non junkies in the place... certainly the two healthiest...

In the early 80s I worked in a factory on Spring and Mercer in the summers (yeah, back then SOHO was still mostly industrial... galleries were just starting to open) a bit west of the place was fine (a few blocks from Ben's famous pizza and the paddleball courts that were in a scene in "Big" (even though they are too far from where the toy company offices supposedly were)... but east of there on Spring they found dead bodies in dumpsters... not too infrequently
People forget what the city was like back then. It is so very different now.

Union Sq was one of my first "nice" restaurants.
Every time I go to a restaurant in the East Village I think "I used to be afraid to walk in this neighborhood and now I can't afford to live here."
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#30 Post by Victor Hong » December 13th, 2016, 10:42 am

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#31 Post by c fu » December 13th, 2016, 11:17 am

Glenn L e v i n e wrote:My romanticized view of USC dates back to taking Ford & Wilhelmina models there during med school. Always tapped out my limited budget!
#humblebragyoupimp
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#32 Post by Victor Hong » December 13th, 2016, 11:43 am

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#33 Post by Victor Hong » December 17th, 2016, 7:27 am

Dinner with good friends, amid 1998 Clos de Tart, 2005 Lokoya, 1994 Liparita Merlot, 1990 La Grave a Pomerol.
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#34 Post by Glenn L e v i n e » December 17th, 2016, 8:48 am

You're a regular now!
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#35 Post by ybarselah » December 17th, 2016, 9:59 am

easily the greatest example of worlds colliding.

my friend sent me this pic a few days ago when he was at USC and asked whether it was normal to byo to the bar. i said, well, not really, but i do know one guy that's pretty infamous for it.

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#36 Post by Victor Hong » December 17th, 2016, 10:44 am

I twice offered him and his female and male companions a glass of the wine.
He nicely declined but seemed to enjoy the offer.
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#37 Post by ybarselah » December 17th, 2016, 11:09 am

that's pretty awesome victor - what an insanely small world.
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#38 Post by Victor Hong » December 19th, 2016, 8:22 am

Victor Hong wrote:Dinner with good friends, amid 1998 Clos de Tart, 2005 Lokoya, 1994 Liparita Merlot, 1990 La Grave a Pomerol.

Image
Doggie bag, for lunch today.

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#39 Post by Victor Hong » December 21st, 2016, 4:22 pm

Lunch today, AKA the second doggie bag.

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#40 Post by Victor Hong » April 25th, 2017, 11:26 am

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#41 Post by Jay $$ Winton » April 25th, 2017, 12:13 pm

nice read! Thanks for posting Victor.
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#42 Post by Victor Hong » April 25th, 2017, 1:08 pm

I took my wife, some of her family members, a fellow wine-geek banker, and my longest and best friend for dinner there on Saturday night. The meal, service, and ambiance were very good.
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#43 Post by lsmorris » April 26th, 2017, 12:55 pm

My wife and I had a Saturday lunch there a few months ago and it was easily as good as at 16th Street except I am not a fan of the addition of other seafood to the fried calamari. In our case it was scallops, which were fine, but that was the one dish they shouldn't have messed with. The ricotta gnocchi were insanely delicate and tender. After further thought, they must be cooking them on the serving dish, because I can't imagine trying to plate them otherwise. And the new version of the banana tart was just delicious, among the better desserts I have eaten.
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#44 Post by Victor Hong » April 28th, 2017, 8:56 pm

Birthday dinner with my best friend, and best man at my wedding.
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#45 Post by alan weinberg » April 30th, 2017, 8:18 am

John Mariano 's very favorable review of the restaurant:http://johnmariani.com/current-issue/index.html

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#46 Post by mattcitrang » April 30th, 2017, 9:08 am

Victor Hong wrote:Birthday dinner with my best friend, and best man at my wedding.
Is that Frank?

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#47 Post by Ramon C » April 30th, 2017, 4:44 pm

Happy Birthday!
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#48 Post by Victor Hong » May 2nd, 2017, 8:43 am

Thank you. The food was excellent. As you can see above, we all cleaned our plates.
(No, I was not on dish-washing duty, at least that night. [smileyvault-ban.gif] )

We were lucky to get a table, last Saturday night. After that three-star New York Times review, weekend dinner reservations have become quite scarce. Even the waiting list for prime-time tables is often now over-booked, sometimes closed! Soon, nobody will go there, because it is too crowded.
[snort.gif]
mattcitrang wrote:
Victor Hong wrote:Birthday dinner with my best friend, and best man at my wedding.
Is that Frank?
Who dat?
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#49 Post by MitchTallan » May 3rd, 2017, 6:06 am

Glenn L e v i n e wrote:Nice photo Victor.

Loved Rockpile and GP & The Rumour at The Palladium back in late 70s/early 80s.
Ha! Seconds of Pleasure and Squeezing out Sparks were on my turntable constantly back in '80, 81, 82.

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#50 Post by John Morris » May 3rd, 2017, 10:31 am

Jay Miller wrote:
Paul McCourt wrote:
Michael Sopher wrote:I remember the far east village of the late 80's early 90's. Had a GF that was pretty hip back then.. we were at one bar on the corner of the park (The Horseshoe Bar???) The two of us may have been the only non junkies in the place... certainly the two healthiest...

In the early 80s I worked in a factory on Spring and Mercer in the summers (yeah, back then SOHO was still mostly industrial... galleries were just starting to open) a bit west of the place was fine (a few blocks from Ben's famous pizza and the paddleball courts that were in a scene in "Big" (even though they are too far from where the toy company offices supposedly were)... but east of there on Spring they found dead bodies in dumpsters... not too infrequently
People forget what the city was like back then. It is so very different now.

Union Sq was one of my first "nice" restaurants.
Every time I go to a restaurant in the East Village I think "I used to be afraid to walk in this neighborhood and now I can't afford to live here."

Two memories that capture the change in the city:

1. Walking across an utterly deserted SoHo (Broome Street, I think) from Varick one night circa 1984 headed toward the Grotta Azzurra Restaurant in Little Italy. It was scary -- dark and not a soul on the street.

2. Emerging warily from the subway at Union Square at dusk in 1993 with a suitcase, looking around to check for junkies and other nasties and discovering that all the folks on the benches were yuppies -- that the neighboorhood had flipped since the last time I'd stayed with my friend at 12th and Broadway maybe two years earlier.
"I'm a Frisbeetarian. We worship frisbees. We believe when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can't get it down." – Jim Stafford

"The Internet has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of instances in which humor must be explained." - me, 2019

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