My high school friend Dana works at a law firm near Grand Central Station. The other day we were chatting and we decided to lunch. “What’s good around Grand Central?” she asked.
I looked in my new Chowhound Guide to New York and in the Grand Central area it said nothing was particularly good to eat. But then I recalled an episode of one of those inane (but occassionally useful) Food Network shows where they tour around and I remember them singing the praises of the Grand Central Oyster Bar.
“The Grand Central Oyster Bar!” I said, excitedly.
“I don’t eat oysters,” replied Dana.
“I think they have chowder and other things,” I explained.
“Ok, let’s do it!”
So here’s Dana and I in front of the Grand Central Oyster Bar:
The entranceway and the font reminded me, for some strange reason, of childhood trips to Disney World. Maybe it was the tiled room or the vaulted ceilings: I felt like I was eating in The Pirates of the Carribean or It’s A Small World. Doesn’t this look like something in the Magic Kingdom?
However, while everything at Disney is mock-authentic the Grand Central Oyster Bar is the real deal. Let’s do some research.
**(pause while Adam does some research)**
According to my research, the Grand Central Oyster Bar opened in 1913. 1913! That’s old. It’s become, according to one website, “a foremost American landmark establishment” with its bustling 453-seat space. Dana and I took two of those seats and studied the menu.
The menu was a bit intimidating. Platters of raw oysters were wildly expensive, as were the fish entrees. So Dana and I decided to order Manhattan clam chowder (which I’d heard was very good there) and a fried oyster appetizer, despite Dana’s squeamishness.
The Manhattan clam chowder soon arrived:
Don’t let your eyes deceive you. I know it LOOKS delicious, but this chowder was unpleasantly watery and bland. Dana and I both dumped oysterettes (you know, those little crackers) into our bowls to give it more texture, salt and flavor.
“What do you think of the chowder?” asked Dana.
“It’s a little boring,” I said.
“Yeah,” she agreed.
Then the fried oysters arrived with a side of tartar sauce:
These were pretty delicious. The batter was cornmealy and dense and the oysters inside were barely detectable which pleased Dana. The tartar sauce helped.
After we paid the check, we made our way out—lots of tables had huge platters of raw oysters, so next time I go I’ll go with an avid oyster eater and get the true oyster bar experience–and made our way to the Grand Central Food Court.
The Grand Central Food Court is way cool—there’s a Pepe Rosso (same one from the Village?), a sushi bar (called Masa’s but probably no relation to the real Masa) and even a Jewish place called Mendy’s. We headed straight to Ciao Bella, famous for its sorbets and gelatos.
Though the gelatos all looked delicious, the hot weather put me in a sorbet kind of mood. So I ordered two different flavors—passionfruit and grapefruit. Dana ordered raspberry and something else. Here’s our sorbet cups, side by side:
Mine was delicious but so tart my lips began to pucker uncontrollably. “You should’ve gotten something sweet to go with one of those, they’re both so tart!” said Dana.
I tried her raspberry and it was very good. Dana left to go back to work and I pursed my lips through the rest of my sorbet, exploring the Grand Central Market and making my way back towards the sun. It felt like emerging from a ride at Disney. Yo ho yo ho a gourmet’s life for me!