Is it disengenous to have a open a restaurant in the same location, with a very similar name to a restaurant that got great national reviews but went down in flames? I'll just leave you to mull on that while I talk about the second new incarnation.
There's a problem, of course, with going out to eat at a mediocre place. There's no real incentive to writing it up. Yes, you've taken one for the team, but talking about it seems distasteful at best.
And so it is with the new owners/management at Gotham Tavern. A few months back, they had a press event that we attended where the beer was the best thing we tried. Which isn't to say the food was bad... but it was rather hotel-restaurant-esque. You know, Denny's-like rather than Clyde Common-like. And interestingly, the chef/owner was former chef at the Rose City Cafe at PDX, owned by Hilton.
They still have three taps, this time around they are PBR, Bridgeport IPA, and Off the Rails War Pigs (a hefeweizen). As soon as I saw the beer tap selection, that set the bar for me. Going from La Chouffe in the RIPE/Habetz days to Mac-n-Jacks African Amber in the Speakeasy days to PBR now -- aiming low. Aiming really low. (Though I have to admit I'm pleased to see Off the Rails in my neighborhood)
We were the only ones drinking beer. (and the only folks not dressed to the teeth). We tried their artichoke dip, calamari, crab cakes and baby back ribs, and they were all okay, but none of them were great, none good enough that I'd order them again. If anything, the fry oil seemed to not really be hot enough as the calamari was perfectly done, but not at all crispy, and the crab cakes were tough (but had some real crab shell in them).
So we went back recently. The place was quite when we walked in, with one table on the restaurant side, with a guy slumping in the booth. It was still happy hour, so we ordered our beers and an order of classic wings. Suddenly, the guy in the booth jumps up: oh, he's the chef.
The wings were very good ($3 happy hour, $7 regular menu). There were ten good-sized meaty "wings" with celery and bleu cheese dressing, and I'd go back there for them anytime.
The menu is divided into appetizers ($6-$9), greens ($6-$12), sandwiches ($8-$9), and entrees ($11-$22). There is exactly two items for vegetarians: the creamy risotto with spinach & portabella mushrooms ($12), and the portabella mushroom sandwich ($9).
So we ordered the Gotham Burger ($9) and the Bear's baby back ribs half rack ($15). The ribs are an entree, so a salad soon arrived with a sourish ranch dressing. The sourness put us off a bit.
The food came quickly: the burger cooked to order, with thickish steak fries; and the ribs with mashed potatoes and zucchini. I'm blocking out about the burger: I remember not really caring for it (and I like burgers), in spite of it being cooked to order. The baby back ribs however, were memorable: no flavor, eat-without-your-dentures-tender, with a sauce didn't really impart any flavor. The result was like eating bland pork. The mashed potatoes were also sour and a bit bitter, and the zucchini was limp, greasy, and tasteless.
Meanwhile, the place was becoming more surreal. It appeared a craigslist meet-up was happening across from us, and a young woman with a shirt cut down to there, and a skirt cut up to there was offering Kahlua drink specials with suggestive names and Kahlua recipes. The open mike was supposed to start at 8, but lucky us, it started early! Oh boy!