5 Fun Facts About New York's Tavern On The Green

04/23/2014 05:19 pm ET | Updated Apr 23, 2014
Rudi Von Briel via Getty Images

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City's Tavern on the Green, closed since the previous operators lost their lease and declared bankruptcy in 2009, reopens Thursday under new management. Here are five things to know about the once-grand restaurant in Central Park:

1. The Victorian Gothic structure was originally built in 1870 as a sheepfold for the flock that grazed in the Sheep Meadow. It became a restaurant in 1934 during a renovation undertaken by parks commissioner Robert Moses.

2. Hollywood scion Warner LeRoy took over the restaurant's lease in 1974 and turned it into a sprawling banquet hall that was one of the highest-grossing restaurants in the United States with revenues of $38 million in 2007. But it was hit hard by the 2008 financial downturn and the city Parks Department declined to renew its lease. The restaurant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, served its last meal on Dec. 31, 2009, and auctioned off its furnishings.

3. Movies including "Wall Street," ''Ghostbusters" and "Mr. Popper's Penguins" have had scenes filmed in Tavern on the Green. In "Ghostbusters," a character played by Rick Moranis is chased by a monster and pounds on the restaurant's windows, but patrons ignore him.

4. Tavern on the Green is next to the finish line of the New York City Marathon, and for years the restaurant hosted a pasta dinner on the eve of the race.

5. In its heyday, Tavern on the Green was known for glitzy decor and boldface guests such as Grace Kelly and John Lennon but not for the food, which one Yelp reviewer compared to canned beef stew. The new menu, overseen by chef Katy Sparks, includes warm squid salad, braised lamb shank with fresh mint gremolata and heritage breed pork chop with roasted rhubarb and fennel.

  • 21 Bobwhite Lunch Counter, East Village
    This little hole in the wall on Avenue C serves my favorite fried chicken in the city. Great mac n' cheese, too!
  • 20 Shake Shack, Various Locations
    I don't eat hamburgers, so I can't really give Shake Shack a higher place than this. But I've had great affection for their chicken hot dogs, french fries and, above all, frozen custard, since Danny Meyer opened the first location in Madison Square Park a decade ago.
  • 19 Luke's Lobster, East Village
    I've simply never had lobster rolls this good -- not even in Connecticut, Maine or Massachusetts.
  • 18 Roberta's, Bushwick
    lulun & kame/Flickr
    A lot of people rag on Roberta's for its cooler-than-thou attitude and interminable waits, but it's a truly singular restaurant, unlike almost anything else in the country. My advice if you go there? Steer clear of the average pizzas and order fantastic pasta, salad and meat. And wear comfortable shoes for the wait.
  • 17 Peter Luger Steakhouse, Williamsburg
    Some haters say that Peter Luger's steaks have been surpassed by those at certain upstarts around town. I disagree.
  • 16 Motorino, East Village & Williamsburg
    For a few years, Motorino served what I though was the best pizza in New York -- the Brussels Sprout-and-Pancetta version in this photo. It doesn't quite top my list anymore, but it's still a nearly perfect pie.
  • 15 Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, DUMBO
    Other ice cream joints offer far more unusual flavors -- the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory sticks to classics like Vanilla, Chocolate and Peaches and Cream. But almost no others serve ice cream or hot fudge as classically well-made as they do. And none is right beside the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • 14 Maialino, Gramercy
    A supremely comfortable, reliable Italian restaurant -- my personal favorite of Danny Meyer's constellation of well-run eateries.
  • 13 Del Posto, Meatpacking District
    Mario Batali made history when his flagship Del Posto became the first Italian restaurant ever to get four stars from the New York Times. And he makes me sublimely happy every time I visit that restaurant for a three-course lunch, complete with platters of amuse-bouches and mignardaises, for $39.
  • 12 Szechuan Gourmet, Midtown
    Szechuan Gourmet
    There are now better Sichuan restaurants in Manhattan than Szechuan Gourmet -- Cafe China comes to mind -- but there weren't when it first opened, right around the time when I was getting serious about food. And their mouth-tingling Razor Clams with Scallion-Szechuan Peppercorn Pesto are still one of my favorite appetizers in the city.
  • 11 Parm, NoLiTa
    Amanda Rykoff/Flickr
    Parm (along with its fancier sister restaurants Torrisi and Carbone, which are out of my price range for most occasions) has done the seemingly impossible by elevating humble Italian-American food to a serious art form. Their eggplant parm sandwich and baked ziti make me proud to be from New Jersey.
  • 10 The Spotted Pig, West Village
    April Bloomfield would earn her gastropub a place on this list even if all she served were her famous ricotta gnudi, one of the best pasta dishes in the country. So the fact that you can also get flawless offal, roast veggies and, at lunch, Cubano sandwiches, is just icing on the cake.
  • 9 Lucali, Carroll Gardens
    The pies are fairly expensive, the waits are ridiculously long and the owner may well have connections to the Mafia. But Lucali is my current pick for the best pizza in the city. The dough hits the sweet spot between crunch and delicate, the sauce has haunting depth and complexity and the mozzarella is as fresh as a Cubist painting in 1908.
  • 8 Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria, NoHo
    Joe Satran/The Huffington Post
    As elegant and fully-realized a restaurant as has opened in New York in the past decade -- and the purveyors of some of the best ricotta in the world. The homemade charcuterie and pasta are nothing to sniff at either.
  • 7 Veselka, East Village
    You want some pierogis at 4 in the morning? Or a $3 breakfast sandwich on your way to work? Or a BLT with sweet potato fries at 3 in the afternoon? And you want it always to taste exactly the same, in a comfortable room? And you want your waiter to be a darkly attractive Ukrainian immigrant? Veselka is the place for you. And for me.
  • 6 Sunny & Annie, East Village
    My roommate recommended that I try the sandwiches here a couple years back. I walked in, saw that it was a normal, even slightly dirty, bodega, and assumed I had the wrong place. "No way," I thought, "are their sandwiches any good." But she took me back a few months later and insisted I order one. As soon as I bit in, I understood why she loved it so much. These are killer sandwiches, at around $6 a piece, available 24 hours a day. My favorite is the Louis -- a delightfully rich combination of a hashbrown, avocados, ham, melted cheese and jalapenos.
  • 5 Mighty Quinn's, East Village
    The crown jewel of New York's barbecue renaissance. Though I usually prefer brisket, it's all about the pulled pork here.
  • 4 Xi'an Famous Foods, Various
    I first ate at Xi'an Famous Foods when it was just a little stall in a basement mall in far Flushing, and was amazed by the chewy texture of the noodles and the intensity of its spicing. Today, there are locations all around the city, making it far easier to access -- but the booming chainlet hasn't comprised its authentic flavor.
  • 3 Mission Chinese Food, Lower East Side
    Sadly, I have to put an asterisk next to this one -- because it's been closed, due to Department of Health issues, for several months, and its future remains in jeopardy. But for the relatively brief time it was open, it was, for me, the most exciting restaurant in New York. Danny Bowien's kung pao pastrami, salt cod fried rice, ma po tofu and chongqing chicken wings haunt my dreams to this day. I hope it reopens in time for my first trip back east.
  • 2 Mile End Sandwich, NoHo
    I've eaten lunch at Mile End Sandwich -- the Manhattan offshoot of a beloved Jewish-Quebecois restaurant in Boerum Hill -- maybe 40 times in the last two years. Usually either a Ruth Willensky sandwich or a divine Fried Green Tomato-on-Bialy sandwich, and, if I have company, a Smoked Meat Poutine. My cardiovascular system and jeans may not like it much, but my mouth certainly does.
  • 1 All The Momofukus, Various Locations
    Lonely Planet via Getty Images
    Momofuku Noodle Bar was the first New York restaurant I fell in love with; in high school, I would take the bus into the city for a taste of the now-famous pork buns and ramen. Chef David Chang has since expanded across the city and around the world, but I still love almost everything his team cooks. (Especially the large-format meals of fried chicken and rotisserie duck they serve at the Ssam Bar and Noodle Bar. And the shochu slushies. And the Crack Pie.) Though they have tons of fantastic competition, the Momofukus are still the restaurants I think of as my favorite in the world.