Runaway Dinosaur

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Friday Food-Take Five: Great and Unpretentious Service

Posted by jhochstat on August 15, 2008

Via The Gobbl Feed

by Meredith on 8/13/08

Photo Credit: Meatball Sliders at the Little Owl by Kathryn Yu

Poor service is a frequent complaint about restaurants in this city. In a 2007 Zagat survey, 48% of those surveyed said poor service irritated them most about New York dining (while only 10% cited prices). Every New Yorker has a story about the awful and inattentive waiter or the pretentious maitre d’hotel that they may have happened upon at some point.

Here are five restaurants, brought to you by Gobbl, where you’ll never meet a haughty hostess or snobbish server, where every guest is treated like Frank Bruni and where, best of all, the food is deliciously satisfying. Please note that restaurants like Per Se aren’t included in this list, which is meant to be accessible–places where a reservation isn’t needed two months in advance.

(Left) Hangar Steak at Perilla, by Jason and (Right) Grilled Ahi Tuna Steak at Gradisca, courtesy of Gradisca

Photo Credit: (Left) Hangar Steak at Perilla, by Jason and (Right) Grilled Ahi Tuna Steak at Gradisca, courtesy of Gradisca


The cheerful yet unobtrusive servers here know before approaching a table how to treat their guests. I’ve been multiple times, all with different types of people: with a group of laid-back girlfriends, as a single diner, out with parents. Each time the service has been different; each time has been wonderfully so. The servers remembered me; the fourth time I went, my waiter knew my dessert order before I had even seen the menu.

Perilla, 9 Jones Street (Between Bleecker & W. 4th St.)

Little Owl

Every employee here is, in one word, accommodating. The last time I visited alone, hoping to eat at the bar, I was dismayed to see no empty seats and every table filled. But not to worry, said my friendly hostess, and created a space at the bar for me (even though it took away what little precious space the bartender had). By the end of my dinner, I was giving the chef, bartender and waitress my first name as if we were new friends. The best part: I felt like we really were.

Little Owl, 90 Bedford St. (At Grove St.)

Gradisca staff courtesy of Gradisca

Photo Credit: Gradisca staff courtesy of Gradisca


I first stepped into this Village gem in June of this year and was promptly greeted by a friendly hostess and waiter. “I can’t believe I’ve never been here before,” I said bemusedly, instantly charmed by the place. “I can’t either,” my waiter said with a smile, and guided me to a beautiful table. The rest of my night was filled with genuinely beaming smiles from him each time he neared my table, and his graceful and welcoming manner made me feel at home. I often admire servers for being ’silently present.’ Our waiter was anything but silent, but I loved his friendly demeanor: he brought fun to Italian cuisine, a seemingly difficult feat in this town.

Gradisca, 126 W. 13th Street (Between 6th & 7th Aves.)

Prosciutto Wrapped Prawns, ‘inoteca by David Danzig

Photo Credit: Prosciutto Wrapped Prawns, ‘inoteca by David Danzig


I don’t speak Italian, and I have a lot to learn about wine and food. This means I had a little trouble with the all-Italian menu at ‘inoteca, so I started to shamelessly drill my server on all the questions I had. He could have easily turned his nose up at me, and answered my queries only enough to correct my pronunciations. But instead he smiled, and told me almost everyone had questions and he was glad I asked for help. He educated me without talking down to me, and that’s something anyone can appreciate.

‘inoteca, 98 Rivington St. (At Ludlow St.

Gramercy Tavern

The employees at this famed restaurant are renowned for their service for a reason. Tourists (so openly despised in many New York restaurants) are given the same dutiful, unobtrusive attention as are the members of the Manolo Blahnik and Marc Jacobs-clad crowd. The prices mean the restaurant is considered a special treat if you’re not part of the latter group, but it’s a treat that’s worth every penny, and the servers ensure that.

Gramercy Tavern, 42 East 20th St. (Between Broadway and Park Aves.)


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