Inside Grand Central Terminal, 89 E 42nd St
A New York institution serving oysters since 1913.
As you enter the room, the first thing you’ll notice is the cave-like multi-arched ceiling laid with interlocking terracotta tiles. They were created by Rafael Guastavino, whose brickwork can also be found in the Municipal Building, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and in the Ellis Island Registry Room, among other places.
Your first impression is best described by Ruth Reichl of the New York Times: “The rich aroma of shellfish, Worcestershire sauce, and cream still greet you the minute you walk through the door. The chefs still work right at the counter, using vats of cream with remarkable abandon as they concoct their rich and wonderful seafood stews.”
The Oyster Bar started serving food in 1913 when the Grand Central Terminal had just opened. It quickly became one of New York’s best-known spots, serving thousands of commuters, shoppers and office workers. The 440-seat restaurant stayed busy serving pan roasts and its famous oyster stew until it closed in 1974. Only then did the head cook reveal the highly guarded recipe for the stew, a recipe that hadn’t changed since 1919.
By the 1950s, when train travel lost its place as a primary form of transportation and the Grand Central Terminal fell into disrepair, so did the Oyster Bar. But the tide turned again in the 1970s when Grand Central was saved from a potential wrecking ball and the Oyster Bar was re-invented by restaurateur Jerome Brody to be even better than its old self. It once again lived up to its Oyster name by serving 25-30 kinds of oysters daily. Mr. Brody brought it back as a “great American seafood restaurant,” collecting the best recipes and getting the best suppliers of both food and wine.
The wine list features 80 selections by the glass!
One of the best ways to enjoy the famed restaurant is to stop by a bar at Happy Hour for some oysters and a martini, appropriately nicknamed “Oyster Bar-tini.” If you are lucky, you’ll be served by Mr Marcelo Hernandez who has been mixing Manhattans and stirring Martinis to weary commuters there since 1982. He’s been there for so long that he’s now mixing drinks for the second generation of his patrons. He’s been known to pour drinks to married couples who would stop by separately on the same day, but he would never tell…
By his own admission, he became a part of the landmark. Just like those Guastavino tiles.