Diner culture is iconic across America, but in NYC, where the small business real estate landscape changes in a heartbeat, people whisper that the days of the old New York Coffee Shops are numbered. The value of a neighborhood gem, where the food is tasty, the prices fair, and — at the risk of sounding cliche — “everybody knows your name” cannot be taken for granted. Revelation: the owners and staff of a new eatery, Gramercy Kitchen, have warmly embraced that credo. Gramercy Kitchen just opened for business in January, exactly one year after the space’s former tenant, Gramercy Cafe, closed its doors after 24 years in business. Gramercy Kitchen is under new ownership and unaffiliated with its predecessor.
Gramercy Kitchen happens to be in my old ‘hood of Gramercy Park, and I was curious to pay them a visit, so I stopped in one evening on my way home from the office to grab a Burger. The restaurant was in that transitional lull before the dinner rush hits, and after being seated at the ‘family booth’ — with its massive curved banquette that takes up the entire front corner of the restaurant — I struck up a conversation with general manager John K., a relaxed and friendly guy who treated me like we were old friends. John was happy to answer my questions about the menu, what Gramercy Kitchen offers customers that its neighboring restaurants might not, and the experience of opening a new restaurant in one of Manhattan’s most historic neighborhoods.
Halloumi cheese is one of my favorite things, and Gramercy Kitchen has a Halloumi Salad ($14) that is huge! This salad can easily be shared, or made into a satisfying entrée with the addition of grilled chicken. Halloumi cheese has a high melting point, and it is served lightly-grilled over abundant greens, chopped tomatoes, olives and slivered red onions, with a generous portion (6 pieces!) of fresh pita bread. John mentioned that the restaurant’s chef/owner is from Cyprus, where halloumi is made. Oil and Vinegar dressing comes with the salad but there are other dressing choices you can ask for, such as Avocado Ranch, which is what I had.
Gramercy Kitchen’s massive, 8-ounce sirloin burger is priced at $12 — which includes Lettuce and Tomato — and you can build your own custom creation from there. Add your choice of Cheese for $2, Sliced Onion for $1, and premium toppings such as Avocado or Bacon for $4 each. They also offer something called Mercy Mayo, which is mayonnaise mixed with ketchup and tabasco sauce, for a tangy kick on your burger or fries!
Here is a photo of my Cheddar Cheeseburger with sliced Avocado, which was amazing! And check out those Curly Steak Fries, which I’ve never seen on any other diner menu. They are out of control delicious! “While we don’t feature any ‘specialty’ burgers,” John explained, “we want our customers to feel comfortable to choose what they want, the way they want it, made-to-order!”
Another favorite on the menu is the classic Tuna Melt, served here with Swiss cheese on grilled rye bread ($10/ $15 with Fries). The Tuna Melt was added to the menu based on customer demand. John said that a lot of people coming in were formerly customers of the previous diner, and Gramercy Kitchen wants everyone who might have been dining there for years to find familiar items on the new menu.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to drink, but John suggested a glass of their freshly-squeezed Orange Juice, which was not only refreshingly sweet and tasty, but very reasonably priced at just $5 for a 12 ounce Glass, or $7 for 16 ounces.
Updated interior finishes include a new marble countertop with a Mediterranean-blue ceramic tile backsplash, as well as frosted globe light fixtures throughout the restaurant. The room maintains a cozy feel, but on sunny days an atrium ceiling skylight makes the most of natural light.
No matter what you are in the mood for, you will find something yummy to satisfy that craving. Gramercy Kitchen’s menu features a wide selection of fresh seafood, including muscles, shrimp, salmon and lobster dishes. “Our seafood is freshly delivered by Bayside Seas,” John told me. “They’re huge supporters of the restaurant and are dedicated to supplying us with the best quality fish.”
For the morning crowd, the restaurant offers a breakfast special that includes eggs, home fries, toast and your choice of organic hot coffee or hot tea, all for just $7.00 — a price point that’s even competitive with fast food joints!
The dessert menu includes irresistible favorites like Carrot Cake, Cheese Cake and Apple Crumb Pie. I was too stuffed from my salad and burger to eat one more bite, but, on John’s recommendation, I took home the made-in-house Rice Pudding ($5) to snack on while I watched TV. There is some kind of secret flavor profile going on with this Rice Pudding (seen above) that I think might includes orange, lavender or something wildly exotic, which makes it taste exceptionally delicious. John refused to divulge the secret recipe even though I contacted him the day after my visit to ask him what was in it. Rice Pudding: Recommended!
“The best thing about this restaurant is the community and our great staff, “John confessed. Gramercy Kitchen provides great service in a warm atmosphere. Once you come in for a meal, we think you’ll find many reasons to come back again!” I know I’ll be back!
Gramercy Kitchen is Located at 184 Third Avenue, on the Southwest Corner of East 17th Street, NYC.