Danny Meyer Talks Casual NYC Cuisine

Danny Meyer reinvents dining, over and over again with New York City restaurants that gain national followings.

Union Square Hospitality Group CEO Danny Meyer made his mark in New York City in the '80s at the highly touted and recently relocated Union Square Cafe.

His next eateries—Gramercy Tavern, Tabla, Eleven Madison Park and The Modern—moved the restaurateur further into the fine dining arena, with James Beard Awards aplenty.

So, how did he find himself a master of the hot dog and hamburger universe? Meyer laughed at the question.

“It was purely by accident,” said Meyer. “We wanted to support the Target Art in the Park program and the revitalization of Madison Square Park, near Tabla and Eleven Madison Park. So, we set up a hot dog stand there as part of the art project, hoping to draw traffic to the park. The stand was such a hit that it evolved into our first Shake Shack.”

Running a more casual food outlet, be it Shake Shack or the pizza restaurant Marta, doesn’t mean that you change your philosophy, he noted.

“It’s like wearing different clothes every day or playing different music," said Meyer. "You still want to look great and sound great. But the style always needs to be harmonious with who you are.”

Shake Shack, Marta, Porchlight

Danny’s Casual Digs

Shake Shack

Opened in Madison Square Park in 2001, the mega-popular burger and shake joint now boasts over 100 locations worldwide.

Marta

His first foray into a Roman-inspired trattoria produced Marta, a bright, casual restaurant with an open kitchen serving Italian specialties, including crackly thin pizzas like this funghi-topped one.

Porchlight

Meyer opened this Southern-inspired bar in 2015. With a handsome centerpiece filled with knickknacks, a distressed wood floor and brick walls, the space serves craft cocktails and nibbles like smoky beef jerky and pimento cheese sandwiches.