Danny Meyer is one of the most successful restaurateurs in America today, running restaurants including Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, The Modern, Maialino, and the Shake Shack empire through his Union Square Hospitality Group, all while blazing a trail with his no-tipping policy. But even if you’ve dined at each of his restaurants (lucky you!), we bet there’s a lot you didn’t know about him. Here are five facts about the king of the New York restaurant scene.
It Ran in the Family
Meyer’s father, Morton, was the president of Caesar Associates, a St. Louis-based travel, hospitality, and real estate company; and his grandfather, Irving B. Harris, was a noted Chicago philanthropist.
He Opened His First Restaurant at Age 27
Meyer opened Union Square Cafe in the then-run down Union Square neighborhood in 1985, when he was just 27 years old. But by focusing on hospitality and sourcing ingredients from the nearby Union Square greenmarket, he quickly turned it into a certified success.
He Founded New York’s Biggest Barbecue Festival
For the past 14 years, the Big Apple BBQ Block Party has taken over the east side of Madison Square with dozens of America’s best barbecue pitmasters serving hundreds of pounds of ‘cue to the hungry masses. This low-legendary event was the brainchild of Meyer, and is run by his company, benefitting the Madison Square Park Conservancy.
Only One of His Restaurants Has Closed for Good
While Meyer has opened plenty of restaurants in New York over the decades, only one has closed: Tabla, a contemporary Indian restaurant that closed for good after 12 years in 2010. Union Square Cafe was forced to move into a new space (and is slated to open later this year) due to rising rents, however.
He Sold Eleven Madison Park Before It Became the Legendary Restaurant It Is Today
When Danny Meyer sold his cavernous Eleven Madison Park to its chef Daniel Humm and general manager Will Guidara in 2011 after 13 years in business, it was a great restaurant, but not nearly as great as it is today. Humm and Guidara revamped the menu, doubled the kitchen staff, and spared no expense, and today it’s widely recognized as one of the best restaurants in the world.