The National Bar & Dining Rooms

When we needed a last minute brunch reservation in midtown for a party of six, The National was able to squeeze us in. I’ve read mixed reviews about Geoffrey Zakarian‘s version of a Euro-American “Grand Cafe”, but actually had a relatively nice experience.

The place was fairly empty around noon on a Saturday – never a good sign – but it worked out for us because the servers were extremely attentive and diligent about refilling much-needed water glasses after what had been a long night. I had read the Ugly Burger was a safe (and hearty) choice, and went with that, which turned out to be a good decision. The burger was cooked exactly to medium rare and crammed with tasty toppings including pickled onions and jalapenos, with a good batch of fries on the side. I also love that they serve Sir Kensington’s ketchup; that stuff is great. Nevertheless, the consensus around the table was that the rest of the more traditional brunch dishes – an omelette, eggs benedict, etc. – were less exciting. None were bad, but no one was necessarily impressed either.

The National didn’t blow me away for brunch, but it seems like a reliable option in midtown, which I don’t find myself saying often.

Summary:

Rating System Guidelines:
4 Stars: outstanding, cannot wait to return
3 Stars: great, would be happy to return
2 Stars: good, though not necessary to seek out
1 Star: forgettable, ought to dine elsewhere

My rating is meant to account for not just the quality of the meal and experience, but also the value, without favoring the ultra expensive. In other words, a high-end restaurant (e.g. Del Posto) and a casual eatery (e.g. BaoHaus) can both receive 4/4 stars, even though they are extremely different atmospheres and the former is clearly “nicer.”

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