Many Broadway shows have opening night festivities at the restaurant, and the Tavern makes its way into pop culture in movies appearances such as “Ghostbusters” and the “Out of Towners” and television shows such as “Regis and Kelly Live” and “Elimidate.”
Milito described the cuisine as “American with international influences,” and mixes traditional dishes such as sautéed calves liver with caramelized onions and mashed potatoes, and filet mignon with bearnaise sauce, with pasta and fish dishes he spices up with a contemporary flair. The menu changes seasonally and during holidays, and in the summer, the restaurant adds a garden bar that sells smaller plates.
Aside from being one of the few restaurants in the United States that has a full-time florist and horticulturist, Tavern on the Green has other special touches to set it apart. Every Valentine’s Day, the first 14 couples that get engaged win a free honeymoon trip to a Caribbean resort.
Milito thinks the fairy-tale ambiance leads to large number of couples that get engaged at the restaurant. “A waiter will come into the kitchen because a diner wants him to put a ring in a desert or on a cheesecake,” he said. “It happens quite often – it’s such a romantic location. It’s good to be a part of it.”
Some food critics, however, avoid the restaurant. Andrea Strong, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications like the New York Times and New York magazine, hasn’t been to Tavern on the Green since she graduated law school, a dining experience which she described as a “nightmare.”
“The place is such a tourist trap,” Strong wrote in an e-mail. “I would love to see it taken over by a seasoned restaurateur who could strip it of its garish decor and tone it down and bring a fresh, honest, seasonal menu to that sad excuse for a restaurant.”
Kurt Kulikowski and his mother Linda Kulikowski said it met their expectations after celebrating Linda’s birthday with lunch. Kurt came up from Florida to meet his mother who traveled from Niagara Falls, N.Y. for two days of Broadway plays and sightseeing.
“We had to put Tavern on our list,” said Kurt Kulikowski, who had a crab-stuffed avocado while his mother ordered calves liver as they dined in the Crystal Room. “The prices were New York City fair. Especially for a landmark restaurant in the middle of Central Park.”