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My New York: Danny Meyer

Jessica Antola

Photo by Jessica Antola

Restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Shake Shacks are spreading around the world, but his heart is still in NYC.

Restaurateur Danny Meyer has crafted the ne plus ultra collection of NYC eateries, all equally renowned for their cooking as much as their spot-on service. From the long-running and iconic Union Square Cafe to The Modern, Gramercy Tavern and the just-opened outposts of Blue Smoke and Shake Shack at Delta’s Terminal 4 at JFK, the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group truly understands how to speak to NYC’s ever-fickle foodies. He’s even opened outposts of Shake Shack in Dubai, Kuwait City, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul and Doha, Qatar—with another one opening this summer in London. Here, the St. Louis native remembers his first visit to New York City at the age of 7.

“I grew up in St. Louis, and the first time I came to New York, I landed by boat. I was 7 years old, and I had taken my first trip to France because my father was in the travel business and we took the SS France from France back to New York. That was my first experience—docking in New York rather than landing on the tarmac. It was 1965 and the second summer of the World’s Fair. I remember being blown away by the city’s energy, the size, the power and the different languages that I had never heard. Granted, it was all magnified by going to the New York World’s Fair. We stayed at The Algonquin Hotel, and . . . I couldn’t believe how late the city stayed active, the lights and the crowds. We went to the famed Le Pavillon for dinner, but what I remember more than anything was a coffee shop right next to the Algonquin called The Red Flame [still open today]. I remember my meal there because I had never had that coffee shop/late-night experience in St. Louis, and I was mesmerized by all of the activity out the window. The Red Flame would eventually play an important part in my life. Before opening Union Square Cafe, I had a meeting with the mother of my college roommate who was a real estate broker in New York, and it was then that she convinced me that I should be looking in the Flatiron/Union Square neighborhood for the location of whatever this restaurant would be. Fast-forward, and New York is still magical to me, but in a very different way.”

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