Meyer had learned a lesson. When he opened his second restaurant, near Gramercy Park in 1994, there was no short list of "really bad" names. The obvious choice was also the simplest: Gramercy Tavern. "I really enjoy affiliating my restaurants with great parks, or at least potentially great parks," Meyer says.
He's about to get another--perhaps his greatest--chance.
Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group plan to have Eleven Madison Park, a 168-seat restaurant in the lovely Art Deco Metropolitan Life building on Manhattan's historic and long-neglected Madison Square Park, open in October. (A few months later, they will also open Tabla, a smaller, Indian-themed restaurant, right next door.) Meyer's new space, and its location, are dramatic. Through the restaurant's towering 35-foot windows, diners will gaze up not only onto the park's trees but also at the Flatiron and other century-old buildings. "When you look out these windows, you simply can't see the late 20th century," says Brian Goode, the chef Meyer brought aboard for the initial planning. (As of this writing, Meyer hadn't yet named an executive chef for the restaurant's opening.) The views will be similarly striking from Eleven Madison Park's intimate wine bar, which will serve two to three dozen wines by the glass, with an emphasis on France, as well as a superb selection of Calvados. Meyer likes to refer to Eleven Madison Park as a "New York restaurant with a French soul"--a mixture of classicism and New World brio evident, for example, in a chanterelle and arugula salad with toasted hazelnuts and croutons spread with Vacherin cheese and in veal shanks with a Swiss chard, butternut squash and apple risotto (the recipes follow).