After nearly 10 years of squabbles and protests and legal battles, the Union Square Pavilion is officially operating as a restaurant called, appropriately, The Pavilion. Just 30 minutes after opening last night the bar was already packed out and the "inside" portion of the restaurant nearly full; despite the gorgeous weather, outdoor tables weren't as popular, as the restaurant is waiting a bit to serve booze out on the square. Restaurateur Simon Oren, who runs nearby Park Avenue restaurant Barbounia, as well as the 5 Napkin Burger empire, tapped former Maison chef Mario Urgiles for the kitchen, which makes great use of the on-site Greenmarket to source many of its ingredients.

For now it's just drinks and dinner, though we're told that lunch should launch soon, followed by breakfast every day at 8 a.m. Lighter fare includes raw bar favorites—crudos, oysters and the like—a kale caesar salad ($11.95) and a classic beef carpaccio ($12.95) with baby arugula, fennel and shaved parmesan cheese. Short Rib Ravioli ($17.50), Hanger Steak ($23.50) and a Whole Branzino ($28.50) sound tasty but it's the daily market specials we're most excited about. Once things get rolling, Urgiles will offer seasonal dishes using components plucked from the Greenmarket, a theme that continues into the beverage program.

Mixologist Joel Cruz uses basil from the market in his Pink Me Up ($14), a sweet and sour strawberry drink made with tequila and chartreuse. Similarly, The Park-Side ($14) uses local pollen from the farmers just outside the door, which tops a delicious guava foam perched on a mint and rum drink. Wines are available by the glass, half bottle and full bottle and beers are mostly craft, including a Southampton Double White ($8) and Keegan's "Mother's Milk" stout ($8).

Opponents of the restaurant have long argued that it's a "flagrant misuse" of public parkland, noting there are only two small playgrounds in the area but 150 restaurants, bars and markets in nearby. Parks advocate Geoffrey Croft criticized Mayor de Blasio, calling his decision to allow the restaurant "utterly embarrassing." "There is absolutely nothing 'progressive' about displacing families, children, seniors and eliminating one of the county's most historic free speech sites in a public park," Croft told us in an email. "It is shameful that Mayor de Blasio feels an obligation to the concessioner's investment and NOT to the children, families, seniors, or to the taxpayers at large who invested $14 million." As public advocate, de Blasio urged the SLA to deny the restaurant's liquor license application.

The restaurant will operate seasonally, closing around the end of October and then reopening next spring. Croft points out that the community has been "fighting to have the historic pavilion in Union Square Park restored to its former uses which include a sheltered, indoor recreation center that serve a variety of year-round free recreation and arts programming for the greater community at large."

Deborah Brenner, the attorney representing the city, promised during the most recent appeal that children would be welcome in the pavilion during the winter months when the restaurant is closed, arguing that restaurants, too, serve a recreational purpose. "The pavilion will be available six months out of the year,” Brenner said. “We could put up heating lamps."

20 Union Square West, (212) 677-7818;

Pavilion Dinner

Pavilion Drinks Menu

Pavilion Dessert Menu