At the outset of his review, Pete Wells admits his fondness for the storied New York restaurant, Tavern on the Green. He wants the could-be gem to live up to its crème de la crème location, but he simply cannot look past how far the establishment has to go before it even comes close to pleasing patrons as much as the world-renowned park in which it's nestled.
From the food, to the staff, to the décor, Wells tries to highlight what is being done right: “One of its real joys is seeing the exuberant Victorian building, constructed in 1871 as a dormitory for the grass-munching residents of Sheep Meadow, restored down to the last copper drainpipe.” The reader can tell how badly he wants to like the restaurant, as the critic seems to include every positive detail he possibly could.
However, the new management seems to have taken a misstep of some kind at every turn. The front of house, even after two months of operating, still comes across as inept and inexperienced. The smaller dining areas, such as the bar and the patio, have pleasant atmospheres, but Wells stresses how blindingly and tastelessly bright he found the main dining room. He doesn’t throw Chef Katy Sparks completely under the bus, but does reveal the many unfortunate mistakes he found in most of her dishes, using unflattering descriptors such as “greasy,” “flavorless,” and even “thuggish.”
Wells wants to like Tavern on the Green, he really does. So as not to completely dismiss the place, he ends his review with a placating judgment, and some advice, “The food wasn’t so wonderful that it would lure crowds, but it wouldn’t keep them away, either. No doubt the restaurant is aiming higher than that, but it wouldn’t be a bad place to begin.”
Kate Kolenda is the Restaurant/City Guide Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @theconversant.