Bryant Park Cafe: New York’s Worst Tourist Trap
There are some bad restaurants out there, and I’ve unfortunately eaten at many of them; however, the ‘B.P. Cafe’ in picturesque Bryant Park has got to serve some of the worst food in midtown, and that’s saying something. The expansive patio cafe off the back of the 5th Ave New York Public Library is blessed with an ideal location – a sort of quiet and lush oasis in the middle of bustling Manhattan. And yet, this lovely setting is squandered by virtually inedible cuisine and appallingly bad service.
Despite being just off 42nd Street, B.P. Cafe is eerily quiet – you can almost here the wind in the trees and the birds twittering. The large patio, complete with casual deck furniture, sun umbrellas, and a wraparound bar, faces out over Bryant Park, surprisingly green and serene on a warm Saturday afternoon. Such outdoor space is a precious commodity in Manhattan, and I’ve learned to appreciate it.
Yet, it’s hard to feel at peace when the food you’re eating tastes like sawdust, or perhaps worse, like it may not be 100% clean. The menu is American, pure and simple, with strange nods to continental European cuisine and even East Asia if you look closely. In essence though, it’s nothing but a disaster. Particularly unfortunate offerings include the Tuscan Platter, a total flop with supermarket ricotta, Oscar Meyer salami, and various ‘charcuterie’ cuts that taste like they came out of a Lunchable, and the burger, little more than an overcooked slice of beef that looked more like roadkill than anything (terrible image, I know). The food tastes like crappy fast food with Manhattan jacked-up lunch prices, like something you’d eat at Arby’s or Denny’s (not the Grand Slam breakfast, which is, incidentally, awesome).
The quality of the service is in line with the quality of the food. The servers ranged from completely bizarre to utterly incompetent. One ‘dude’ seemed only to walk from one end of the patio to the other, humming and muttering strange sweet nothings to himself. Another server, ours in fact, just couldn’t get our order right and came back to ask twice what we wanted before proceeding to just get it wrong. It’s a good thing the overall vibe is relaxed or you’d have some ornery pissed-off New Yorkers wondering why the Tuscan Platter looks strangely like over-battered coconut shrimp.
B.P. Cafe is the type of place you want to love yet just can’t possibly bring yourself to. The picture-perfect location lends itself to daytime drinking, patio lounging, sun-bathing, and so forth, yet the food is regrettable. My advice? Steer clear of the grub and stick with cheap (and watered down) drinks in the ideal happy hour spot.
Perfect For: after-work drinks with co-workers, group booze excursions, outdoor dining, daytime drinking