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Union Square Cafe celebrates 30th anniversay with dinner series, rare wines and "greatest hits" menu

Written by
Rheanna O’Neil Bellomo
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Thirty years ago Danny Meyer opened Union Square Cafe on East 16th Street, beginning what would become a massive New York empire. Since 1985, he's launched fellow blockbusters like Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Blue Smoke, Shake Shack and, most recently, Marta—and collected 35 James Beard Awards along the way. But this year he's spotlighting the restaurant that started it all, rolling out a quarterly dinner series using recipes from the archives, planning greenmarket tours and cooking demonstrations, and curating a vintage wine list to honor his first year in the biz.

The forthcoming quarterly seasonal dinners, hosted on Monday nights with seatings from 5:30–9:45pm, draw on dishes from the restaurant's 1990s and early-2000s menus. The $99 prix-fixe meal includes four courses like yellowfin tuna steak topped with wasabi crisp, sweetbread ravioli paired with winter roots and roast peppered duck in endive marmalade. Dates are already set: The winter edition will be held on March 16, spring on June 15, summer on August 31 and autumn on November 9. Call the restaurant directly for tickets. 

Meyer is also rolling out a pair of morning market meetings that feature cooking demonstrations, discussions with greenmarket farmers and small plates from executive chef Carmen Quagliata. The first event is scheduled for May 20 from 8–10:15am and includes coffee and breakfast pastries, a panel and a greenmarket tour, plus a cooking demo hosted by Quagliata and tasting of his dishes. Tickets are $75 and will be issued under a lottery system. 

Honoring its inaugural year, the restaurant is also offering an exclusive list of rare and vintage wines from 1985. The collection of both glasses (Dow's vintage port, Château La Tour Blanche sauternes) and bottles (Stony Hill chardonnay, Rocche die Manzoni barolo) will rotate throughout the year. More specialty vino, hand-picked by the team's friends and family, includes 30 reds (Dirty & Rowdy mourvèdre, Bruno Colin burgundy) and 30 whites (Albert Boxler pinot gris, Lieu Dit sauvignon blanc) on offer only by the bottle. 

Then there's a "greatest hits" chef's table menu that revisits favorite dishes of the past. Beginning in April, expect to find lemon-pepper duck, bombolotti al modo mio and other popular plates back on the docket, which is completely customizable and served family-style. The service ($55 per person for three courses at lunch, $85 per person at dinner) also includes a one-on-one consultation with wine director Michael Scaffidi. Full menu options are still being finalized but will be posted to Union Square Cafe's site in the coming weeks.

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