It’s always a good feeling when you know you ordered the best thing on the menu at a restaurant. “My order was perfect” is how my friend Daniela described our meal at the newly relocated Union Square Cafe on 19th and Park. Our successful outcome is a credit to not only the solid cooking coming out of the kitchen, but to our enthusiastic and very helpful server, who was more than happy to oblige our question as to what her favorite things on the menu were.
One of the dishes she called out as her favorite was the rigatoni, the smashing success that made our night. She was right in that this summery pasta dish would leave you satisfied but with a spring still in your step. Many times vegetable based pastas can be a little too lightweight, but the carrots in the rigatoni were warm and savory with just a tinge of heat, and the Greek yogurt-based cream sauce provided a satisfying depth that wasn’t heavy. There was some pancetta, but just enough to keep the balance in favor of the light side. There’s no question this is my pick for best dish of the summer.
Many of the ingredients used at Union Square Cafe come from the nearby greenmarket, and you can taste the vibrant seasons in the dishes that utilize them. Like the minty snap pea salad, which was so simple in execution but successful in outcome because everything in it was so fresh. Even the plain Jane lettuce was a knockout in the bib and red lettuce salad. Vegetables are in good hands at Union Square Cafe.
Danny Meyer is in the business of giving his guests what they want, and there are plenty of classics on the menu that will please everyone. There’s no question everyone will love the fried fritto misto and calamari with a side of aioli, even if it’s not the most adventurous dish, or the light scallop crudo. If you need something more filling than pasta, you can choose from the greatest all-American hits list of a burger, pork chop, chicken and prime rib. The fried soft shell crabs is a little more interesting protein pick that’s worth going out on a limb for.
Even with desserts, the ones showcasing fresh produce were the standouts. The espresso chocolate cake was fine, but nothing compared to the simple strawberry pavlova. Keeping things local and seasonal is where Union Square Cafe shines, so if you do the same with your order you’ll be more than fine.
Union Square Cafe
101 E 19th St (between Park Ave and Irving Pl)
New York, NY 10003