The non-stop celebrity sightings... the secret phone number... the $55 plate of macaroni and cheese... the five-star rave from Time Out NY... the bitter pan from The Post... if nothing else, Graydon Carter's Waverly Inn (formerly Ye Waverly Inn) has got the town talking. Through an unusual set of circumstances (I have an inside man), Debbie and I scored a table in the Inn's front room last night and had a great time peeking at the stars (two), the high-end media types (several) and the rubberneckers (many) and, most satisfying, enjoying a truly delicious meal.
The place itself is very pretty, cozy and clubby, with creaky wood floors and rounded red banquettes and a long mural by Edward Sorel in the front; fireplace and ivy-covered walls in the back. The servers are friendly and low-key, the patrons unquestionably fabulous, the atmosphere buzzy and festive and hyper-aware: EVERYone seems to spend their entire meal looking around the room to see who's there, and who's where. Really, I've never seen so many people get up and stop by other tables for a quick kiss and a backslap and a "What ho!" It's exciting; it's exhausting.
The preview menu (officially the restaurant is still in its "soft opening") sounds pretty basic, but the four dishes we ordered were all handled exceptionally well. Debbie and I split an excellent Tuna Tartare to start, the creamy, vividly-flavored fish sitting on avocado pieces and a well-placed mustardy blast.
We both liked our entrees a lot, too: I had the Chicken Potpie, filled with juicy meat and bright vegetables enclosed in a perfectly gummy/crusty pastry; Debbie tucked in to her tender Braised Short Ribs, glazed rich and sweet, and placed atop a delicious celery root puree. For dessert we shared the Creme Caramel... again, not an unusual dish by any means, but prepared here with considerable care and skill.
Add the nice, warm corn mini-scones at the beginning and the sweet treats (almonds in cocoa powder, almond brittle, almond butter cookies) that arrived with the check, and the whole experience was tasty, fun, lively, welcoming and, especially considering the size of the bank accounts of most of the people in the room, a surprisingly good value. If you can go, you should go.