The story of Gotham Bar and Grill is one of seeming contradictions that, to the delight of discerning diners, make surprisingly perfect sense: Sophisticated cuisine with mass appeal; knowledgeable service that’s never stuffy or pretentious, and a persistent creativity, energy, and popularity that make Gotham feel like each season’s hottest new opening, even though it’s been at the forefront of New York’s dining scene for a quarter of a century.
Of course the cornerstone of any restaurant is the food, and Chef Alfred Portale’s cuisine has lured diners to Gotham for twenty-five years, and influenced the culinary scene far beyond the restaurant’s walls. One of the driving forces behind modern American cuisine, Portale helped revolutionize the way Americans dined in the 1980s—thoughtfully breaking with French conventions, calling on previously unfamiliar ingredients from around the world, and exhibiting a fierce devotion to seasonality—and to this day consistently drives himself to create new, of-the-moment dishes that keep the Gotham experience fresh and exciting year after year.
Gotham Bar and Grill also proudly pioneered a new era in restaurant service. Where fine dining once meant tuxedoed waiters and boardroom-level dress codes for guests, Gotham was among the first to abandon pretension and formality in favor of a more casual, but no less expert, service style and to let each customer set his or her own standard of attire, offering only “smart casual” as a guideline. As a result, as former New York Times critic Ruth Reichl once declared, you feel as comfortable in the Gotham in jeans as you do in a tuxedo, and are treated with the same warmth and respect by the staff either way.
Taken together, Gotham’s food and service helped set the table for an entire generation of restaurateurs and diners, and continue to act as standard bearers for the industry. As Jonathan Gold wrote in Gourmet magazine at the turn of the current century, “There is not a large city in America without a restaurant operating in a Gothamesque mode.”