Earlier this year, Michael’s, the Midtown media power lunch spot, introduced its first new menu since it opened in 1989, now featuring small plates in addition to its full-sized entrees.
The old standbys remain (there is only so much change media people can handle), but among the new items, prices are tilting downward. An expense account remains advisable, however: pizza is $16, salads range from $13 to $27, and small plates like duck confit sliders, Korean steak tacos and crispy oysters with grapefruit and lemon butter range from $9 to $18.
“Things have become casual. That’s what happens after a big recession,” proprietor Michael McCarty told Off the Record. “Every restaurant you went to in New York five, six, seven years ago, there was a three-course prix fixe, but no one wants to have a first and a main and a dessert anymore. Some people want three first courses, maybe some of them want to have no desserts or two desserts.”
There are seasonal additions, like spring pea soup, spring risotto and spring succotash. And of course, this being 2013, there is now a Tuscan kale Caesar.
The Cobb salad is still on the menu, albeit smaller—and therefore better, according to Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles. “It used to be my weekly challenge seeing if I could make it to half a Cobb, but now it’s smaller I am not wasting a market garden,” Ms. Coles emailed OTR. “The bacon pieces are slightly smaller too, so better mouth feel.”
We asked Ms. Coles, who hosted her first celeb-studded luncheon as editor in chief in the Garden Room, if she had tried any of the new items.
“God no. I don’t want the stress of choosing a new dish. I have been having the Cobb for years,” Ms. Coles replied. “It’s like going to your grandmother’s house and her saying brightly that she’s made you nouvelle cuisine instead of her famous rice pudding.”
Time managing editor Rick Stengel gave the new menu high marks: “I like the small dishes,” he said.
However, so many petite plates do tend to crowd a table, noted Diane Clehane, the Mediabistro columnist who eats at Michael’s every Wednesday to conduct a census of the dining room’s boldfaced names.
One person unlikely to appear in Ms. Clehane’s column is Times coffee critic Oliver Strand, who said even a modernized menu was not enough to lure him into the Michael’s fold. “I’m too young for Michael’s,” he told OTR, putting the restaurant’s minimum age at 44. “I’m a few years away,” said Mr. Strand, perhaps too hyped up on coffee to sit through a lunch anyway.
Geoff Shandler, editor in chief at Little, Brown, is likewise unlikely to tuck into a Michael’s Cobb salad in the near future. “I can tell you a great deal about the food at the dumpling place across the street from my office,” he said, “but I don’t think I’ve been to Michael’s more than four times in my life, and not in a long time.”