After much ballyho, The Tavern On The Green has been made into a home for food carts Rickshaw Dumpling, Ladle Of Love, and Pera Mediterranean Brasserie as the current lease-holders continue to negotiate with restaurant unions over the future of the inside space. Our original review follows:
Built in 1870, the rural Victorian Gothic structure now known as Tavern on the Green was designed by Jacob Wrey Mould as a sheepfold. It housed 200 South Down sheep, which grazed across the street in Central Park's Sheep Meadow.
The sheepfold remained intact for close to 65 years, until legendary parks commissioner Robert Moses decided the building had a higher calling -- that of a restaurant. Moses was anxious to usurp the power of the Central Park Casino, located on the opposite side of Central Park, which had taken on the moniker "Jimmy Walker's Versailles." It seems the flamboyant mayor, Jimmy Walker, was conducting more business at the casino than at City Hall. Alarmed at the repercussions for his beloved parks system, Moses sued to oust the casino's management and eventually arranged to have the building torn down.
His mission nearly complete, Moses banished the sheep from the sheepfold to Brooklyn's Prospect Park and assigned their shepherd to the lion house in the Central Park Zoo. Within months, WPA workers were busy constructing what would soon become Tavern on the Green -- the restaurant.
The first incarnation of Tavern on the Green was launched on October 20, 1934, with a coachman in full regalia at the door. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia opened the restaurant with a brass key and in the company of a proud Moses, toured the facility. After chatting with the chef and sampling a breakfast sausage, LaGuardia and Moses announced their satisfaction with Central Park's latest attraction.
Embraced by New Yorkers, Tavern on the Green became an integral part of the city's social life and was operated by a succession of management firms throughout the '40s, '50s, and '60s. The brilliant designer Raymond Loewy was hired to renovate the building, resulting in the addition of the Elm Room (now the Park Room) -- named after the tree around which it was literally wrapped.
By the early '70s, however, Tavern on the Green had fallen largely out of touch with the times; in 1974, the restaurant's once-bustling interiors were finally shuttered. Unknown to many, the restaurant's closing was about to herald the beginning of an exciting new era for the venerable edifice.
Enter the creator of New York's wildly popular Maxwell's Plum, Warner LeRoy. Known for his "over-the-top" sense of style, as well as keen business acumen, LeRoy fashioned his own imprint for the restaurant with a spectacular two-year, $10 million renovation.
LeRoy oversaw the construction of the now-famous, glass-enclosed Crystal and Terrace Rooms, creating ceilings for each, which gave way to flights of rococo fancy. He lavished brass, stained glass, etched mirrors, paintings, antique prints and above all, chandeliers, upon the entire structure, creating a visual theatre in which to display his passion for fine art and fantasy. Finally, after paneling the rustic baroque-inspired Rafters and Chestnut Rooms in rare, wormy chestnut, LeRoy signed off on his masterpiece by liberating long-hidden and-hewn rafters and their soaring vaulted ceilings from decades-long exile in pedestrian plaster.
From the moment it opened on August 31, 1976, the reinvigorated Tavern on the Green took New York by storm, dazzling the city with its decorative whimsy, eclectic menus, and all-around playfulness. Once so passé that it had been forced to close, Tavern on the Green, under LeRoy's leadership, was well on its way to becoming one of New York's hottest dining destinations. Soon, celebrities were flocking to the restaurant to "see and be seen." Not surprisingly, the restaurant's size, setting, and radiant charm quickly made it the location for New York's most prestigious events -- charity and political functions, Broadway show openings, and international film premieres -- a position it maintains to this day.