Café Gray

A world of elegance, gracious hospitality and superior food
— the world of Café Gray

After our dining experience at Café Gray, I'd say this description on their website is apt. V and I went to a fancy dinner here at the Time Warner Center to celebrate Valentine's Day. That saddest part of the experience is knowing now that the restaurant is closing.

Our meal was amazing, and the culinary highlight was the house specialty mushroom risotto. It was just so creamy and with a great mushroomy flavor. The second course that really amazed us was the short rib, which was served with grits and a mustard sauce.

Besides the food, the service was great, with a very formal dining style. The wine list was impressively pricey, I think we picked one of the cheapest bottles - at around $60! But it was a very good bottle of wine.

Finally, the other amazing thing about the restaurant was the view: windows looking out over Central Park and Columbus Circle. And before that is the kitchen - out in the open in the restaurant. So through the meal I was able to see the chefs preparing dishes, with a backdrop of the city at night. It was really a treat. At the end of our meal we also got a private tour of the chef's table, which is tucked in a corner of the kitchen. I think it too would be a bit pricey to reserve, but if I ever had a chance...

It was a great meal, and though the restaurant is closing, there are rumors that a new location will open soon near Times Square, which may be a good move, as I'd say Café Gray is a great pre-theatre choice.


PDT stands for Please Don't Tell. It is a speakeasy hidden away on St. Marks Place. You have to get in by going into a hidden phone booth with a secret door. Generally reservations are required, but if you get there early enough and you're a small party (e.g. 2) you can generally get a seat at the bar.

Really the place is all about the cocktails which run from $12 to $22 and are created by a mixologist. The food on the other hand is served on paper plates $6 for a hot dog and $3 for tater tots or waffle-cut fries. I guess you can see where their priorities are. The place is next door to Crif-Dogs, a hot-dogs-only restaurant (which contains the secret entrance) and which also provides the food, through a secret pass-through window at the back of the bar.

Sitting at the bar is the best place to be as far as I'm concerned because the process of making each cocktail is fairly elaborate. I've been to PDT two or three times and my favorite cocktail is the Bacon-Infused Old Fashioned. It has a great taste and is nice to sip.

The hot dogs aren't anything plain either - there is a specialty hot dog called the Chang Dog (named in honor of the chef David Chang - whose restaurants I have yet to go to, though they are about a block away). It is a deep-fried hot dog wrapped in bacon and smothered with Chang’s own Momofuku Ssäm Bar red kimchee purée. I was a little afraid of that though I hear it is amazing. I went for the everything bagel hot dog which has cream cheese and the everything bagel seasoning mix. Very good. And I'd say it went well with my twice-as-expensive cocktail.

The atmosphere is really cool, dark and manly, with wood paneling and mounted animals on the walls, and dark red leather booths. I think it only seats about 20 people and they don't allow anyone to stand around the bar. All together it comes together well. I feel a little embarrassed going into the phone booth, kind of like a tourist, even though I'm 'in on the secret' but I'll definitely bring people back to PDT, and keep it at the top of my list for special occasions.