IN THE BEGINNING
In October of 1985, Gotham received its first review from the New York Times. This was a time before Blogs and Instagram, before Influencer Marketing and Facebook. The review predated the Food Network by nearly a decade.
The Times operated, as it does now, on a four star scale. To get just one was a feat. Two indicated “very good.” Three stood for “excellent.” Four, reserved only for the very top restaurants, meant “extraordinary.” Three and fours star ratings were typically an honor reserved for the top tier (read: French) restaurants, and often included a healthy dose of pretension. Gotham, however, was conceived for everyone. The captains weren’t wearing suits, and the atmosphere was energetic. What could a restaurant like that expect?
Back then Bryan Miller was the Chief Food Critic at the New York Times, and it was during his tenure that the restaurant received its first of five 3-star reviews. With it, the city ushered in a new era in American dining.
WHO IS BRYAN MILLER
A graduate of Colgate University and Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, he got his start in “hard news.” He worked for several small papers, then the AP, and finally as a freelance writer in and around the city. As the years went by, though, he realized something was missing.
In an interview with Ruth Leserman, Miller had this to say: “I came to a point in my career where I wanted to get out of daily journalism, which to a large extent was really writing for the record what people already knew from radio and television. I wanted to do something where I was breaking my own ground, even if it was in the feature sense. So, I decided to specialize in food reporting.”
The rest, as they say, is history. He took some time off and traveled, enrolling in cooking classes to better understand what he was writing about. When he returned from Europe he decided to take a year and just cook, taking a job at Restaurant du Village in Chester, CT. It was this experience, he has said, that informed so much of his food criticism.
WHAT NOBODY SEES
Having been on the inside, he walked into a restaurant understanding immediately the unique challenges service professionals faced. And of course, the experience gave him context for his reviews. He could tell when a sauce hadn’t been given enough time to reduce down. He could tell when a chef wasn’t tasting the dishes before they went out. But he also noticed (and appreciated) a clean dining room and well-trained staff. Unlike many diners, he was seeing what nobody else saw. And it would make his work better.
’85 and ’89
Miller was famous for his return visits. He knew he could make or break a restaurant, so he would often circle back following his more notable reviews. Gotham was certainly a noteworthy opening, and he would return in 1989 to see how the restaurant was holding up. That review would be the second 3-star review, effectively anchoring the restaurant’s legacy for years to come.
Everything Old is New Again
We invite you to join us this week as our 35th Anniversary Celebration continues. The Bryan Miller “Original Influencer” Menu pulls from both of his reviews, presenting dishes this famed critic called out as his favorites. It’s our way of honoring the past as we look toward our future. We hope you can join us.
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BRYAN MILLER MENU
Four Course Set Menu