Sophisticated Flavors Make This A Bucket List Eatery!

By Anne Raso | Photos courtesy of David Burke Tavern

Legendary NYC-based chef David Burke is always full of surprises: his numerous eateries have a theme. However, one consistent element of all of them is that the food has a wow factor from taste to presentation. Did I fail to mention that the atmosphere is always stunning as well? It’s no surprise that David Burke Tavern is beloved by foodies from all walks of life. The wild-haired chef’s creative and contemporary approach to opening restaurants has been known since he opened the ultra-popular David Burke & Donatella on the Upper East Side.

This New Jersey native was schooled at NYC’s Culinary Institute Of America and Ecole Lenotre Pastry School in Plaisir, France. As a 26-year-old chef at the long-gone but legendary River Café, he cut his professional culinary teeth, later moving up to Executive Chef. He also is a veteran of the hit show Iron Chef America and a James Beard Award winner.

Our visit to David Burke Tavern was one of our all-time great NYC culinary journeys. DBT feels welcoming despite the plush atmosphere.

The staff is attentive without being overbearing. My guest and I were amazed by the fabulous Filet Mignon with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Mashed Potatoes. DBT uses beautiful Patented Salt-Aged beef from local farms resulting in some of the most amazing steaks you will ever order. (Salt-aging is a patented dry-aging method using Himalayan sea salt developed by Burke himself.) We also had the Braised Short Ribs with Homemade Cavatelli recommended by our server and were totally satisfied by the fresh pasta and savory brown sauce. For seafood lovers, the Avocado Tuna Tartare is in a league of its own, and you can almost see it on every table. Finally, don’t forget to treat yourself to a Rum Passion, one of the house drinks—it’s fruity and potent at the same time.

We were curious as to why his restaurants always have a sophisticated yet whimsical vibe and how this aesthetic developed. “I think it comes from my personality,” the chef told us. “I take the same approach to my food, so the décor and the food at my restaurants are in sync. I infuse both with a sense of artistry and as an art collector, I am always looking for unique pieces that will add an intriguing visual element to my restaurants. For me, décor is about accessorizing.”

With so many unique choices on the DBT menu, we found that the most popular are his signature dishes. “Everyone loves the Clothesline Bacon! It’s a signature dish at most of my restaurants. The DBT menu is loaded with signature dishes, and they tend to be the most popular: The dry-aged steaks with my patented Himalayan Salt process, Lobster Dumplings, The Burger, and the DB Brined Roast Chicken to name a few. The menu is designed to appeal to foodies and locals alike. We’re a neighborhood spot, a dining destination, and our variety of food reflects that.”

David Burke Tavern is housed in a stunning century-old Upper East Side townhouse. It turns out Chef Burke loves townhouses as much as most architecture-loving New Yorkers do. “My very first restaurant, David Burke & Donatella, was in a townhouse on East 61st Street right around the corner from where David Burke Tavern is now. It became David Burke Townhouse. Then I opened Fishtails, which became Tavern 62 By David Burke before morphing into its current state. So, I have a lot of experience with townhouse restaurants!”

The difference between DBT and his other restaurants is that it operates on two levels, each with a different vibe. “The ground floor is the bar and lounge with a more casual feel, where we offer a daily happy hour that is very popular with our neighbors because it has specially priced food and drink. The second floor, while not fussy, is more formal with an old New York club-like ambiance. It’s where people like to settle in for a full-blown dining experience. But, of course, people can and do enjoy the full menu in the bar area, too.” 

What is the menu looking like for this fall and winter? “I’m thinking of braised meats, like lamb shank. I am also interested in adding pork chops with clams, one of many variations on surf ‘n’ turf. Maybe hay roasted lobster and roast duck. We’re going to go into the fall and winter season full force!”

David Burke Tavern is a wonderful way to escape for locals and visitors. As Chef Burke concluded “That’s the secret to its success. The equal appeal to those audiences and the fact it can satisfy different dining moods for each.”

For more information on David Burke Tavern, visit davidburketavern.com