Above: Union Square Cafe dining room

When Danny Meyer opened the Union Square Cafe in 1985, he probably did not foresee how impactful it would be in the world of New York dining, and in the restaurant world beyond. Set in a quirky, multilevel, multi-area space just off Union Square — which back in the 1980s was a rather questionable area — the café struck a perfect balance between providing great food and not taking itself too seriously. Waiters were decked out in playful, color-striped Brooks Brothers shirts, the walls were arrayed with original art, much of it the work of Meyer’s uncle, and the menu offered a flavorful take on Italian cuisine, being both inventive and respectful of tradition. Union Square Cafe enjoyed enormous success, but a proposed tripling of the rent led Meyer to close it in December 2015 to much unhappiness. (The irony was that the café itself had spurred the transformation of Union Square from dodgy to desirable.)

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Above: Union Square Cafe dining room

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