It’s so civilized, sitting down to a hearty meal before departing on a long train journey.
Since 1913, friends have been meeting for a meal at the Oyster Bar. This restaurant opened the same year as Grand Central Terminal, and still today, it’s a wonderful little spot for fresh oysters and people watching. In the short time it takes to slurp down half a dozen oysters, I recently encountered a couple enjoying a last meal before separating on business for six months, two polished ladies of senior citizen age who meet at the counter weekly, and a fellow poet who proclaimed that there’s just something so damn poetic about oysters (I couldn’t agree more).
The best seat in the house is undoubtedly right at the counter. Here you can ponder the long list of oysters, sampling a few at a time until your belly is finally content. Watching the staff pluck your order off ice, pop up it open with skill, and serve it on a bed of ice with lemon wedges connects you to your meal much more so than if it is just delivered by a waiter. Serving over 2 million oysters per year, the Oyster Bar is a great place to sample a variety of oysters from the 30 or so choices they have on the menu on any given day.
Individual oysters range from $2 – $3 each. Once you’re seated at the counter and sipping on a glass of cold white wine, you might be tempted to order entrees as well. While I recommend the soups for lunch, I must admit to being underwhelmed by certain fish entrees. The perfect visit would be either a lunch complete with a sampling of oysters and one of the house soups, or arriving in the early evening for some oysters as an appetizer to a meal elsewhere in the city. After all, the Oyster Bar is located in Grand Central Terminal, where the subway can whisk you to just about anywhere you would like to go.
The unfussy charm of the Oyster Bar is what keeps me coming back. Sitting at the counter, I love to see people rushing through the central hallway in Grand Central Station only to stop at the window, throw back a freshly-shucked oyster, hand over a couple dollars, and continue on their way. The location has all the intrigue of a restaurant in an airport: where are people going? Why are they here? Where is everyone from? Similarly, patrons of the Oyster Bar seem ready and willing to strike up a conversation, just like at an airport. If you have a few hours to kill alone in New York City, there are much worse places to do so.
With a belly full of oysters, there is one more stop you must make before leaving Grand Central Station. If you’ve never seen the glimmering 88,000 square foot ceiling in the main hall, stop in before heading off. The striking mural of constellations is one of the best known landmarks in the city, and yet in my eyes, hasn’t lost an ounce of its appeal. The hall has also maintained its historic charms, allowing visitors to envision what this train station was like at the beginning of the 20th century.
Readers, what are your favorite classic New York landmarks? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.