February 15, 2012

Grand Central Station Oyster Bar Is One Of Those New York Institutions

From 1913 until the early 1970s, the — located on the lower level of New York’s main train terminal — was a happening place for U.S. presidents, actors, literary types and City Hall politicians to drink beers and eat oysters pulled from Long Island Sound, New England and other prime spots along the East Coast. Then came the 70s, a well-documented period of blight in New York City, when the restaurant fell into disrepair and eventually closed.

Enter the late (great!!) restaurant fixer Jerome Brody, a colorful character who had revived the Rainbow Room a decade earlier and would transform the gaudy space into a happening place. The seafood was the key, which Brody sourced from top fishermen, big and small. The ethic has remained to this day; you meet friends after work or grandparents visiting from Westchester for rows and rows of immaculate oysters — North Havens from Maine, Malpeques from PEI and briny Watch Hill from Rhode Island waters.

But oysters are only a fraction of the menu served in a space that seats over 400 — there’s sometimes a wait. Fried scallops and ocean trout appear on the daily catch portion of the menu. And, yes, you can still get the classic Oysters Rockefeller and Clams Casino. We like to grab a group of six and pack around a circular table. Beers and tart white wines will flow. And we’ll order raw seafood until our wallets run dry. Thankfully, Grand Central has a couple Chase ATMs ready for the reload.

Grand Central Station tel 212-490-6650 oysterbarny.com

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