UPPER WEST SIDE — The new Tavern on the Green might not have white tablecloths like before, but plates and prices are comparable to its predecessor, according to a tentative menu submitted by the future restaurateurs.
Since the Department of Parks and Recreation announced in November 2011 that it would reopen the venue as a "casual" restaurant, Upper East Side residents — and bomastic businessman Donald Trump — have complained about the laid back atmosphere.
But Parks and Recreation plans for the Tavern — namely chef Katy Sparks' tentative menu included in the contract — indicate that the restaraunt's food is anything but "sweatpants" casual.
Though the planned takeout window does offer less expensive options, diners will notice that many traditional fine dining standbys will be available at the venue, soon to be operated by Emerald Green Group, which is behind Philadelphia's Beau Monde and L'Etage.
The new menu features a $9 seasonal greens plate, with local sweet cream, meyer lemon and chive dressing — whereas in the past diners could get a $14 mixed greens pick, according to a historic Tavern on the Green menu on Zagat.com.
What's new are salad selections featuring $11 dandelion greens, cranberry beans, caramelized anchovy and roasted garlic with egg and parmesan cheese. There's also a arugula and chicory salad with fried chicken liver and hickory smoked bacon.
When it comes to heartier starters, the old and new Tavern pay special attention to seafood. The shrimp cocktail costs $18 — and is sustainably fished — compared to $20 previously. An $18 smoked fish plate and a $29 sampler of three ceviches, offered by the new management, replaces past favorites like crabcakes and seared fish.
One of the most expensive items on the old menu was an aged New York Strip steak for $41. Now, the local lamb chops with saffron and ginger are the top-priced pick at $33.
Low-carb diners may also be pleased to find there's also less emphasis on plain pasta-based dishes in the new menu.
Starchy dishes such as penne with artichokes and seafood linguine seem to have been replaced with a wide range of grass-fed and heritage breed meats, such as free range chicken in a Majoram-cumin marinade.
Jazzier accents also abound than in prior years.
On the small plates menu, foie gras is dressed with burnt orange and coriander ($18).
Shrimp and grits ($14), meanwhile, gets spiced up with Meat Hook chorizo.
At the takeout window, diners can purchase smoothies and other healthy beverages from $6 to $9, according to the tentatve menu.
The breakfast and lunch menus were not included in the contract yet.
Even skeptical Upper East Side residents seemed pleased with the plans.
They seemed to think that the prices were fair, but not too low.
"Thirty-two dollars, that seems reasonable," several agreed at a Community Board Parks Committee meeting Thursday night.