Grand Central Oyster Bar – The Grand Dame of NYC

Anyone who loves Mad Men or wants to go dancing after dinner should come to Grand Central Oyster Bar. This restaurant, which has been around since long before my grandmother’s legendary lunches (6 oysters and 2 martinis is still her favorite lunch), is a tribute to everything retro NYC.

I come here occasionally for delicious and very fresh raw oysters, but a recent visit had me craving something more substantial.

The decor is retro, but it wasn’t when it first opened. The signature cavernous room, filled with casual red checkered tablecloths, is only the first room that you see. There are also u-shaped counters where you can slurp bowls of rich oyster pan-roast, and a saloon in the back where you must order oysters with ice cold vodka shots. Go in jeans or suits, alone or with a whole group of people. Don’t worry about being quiet or sober

Bread Plate
Though I prefer the onion-y seeded crackers, my sister loves the dense biscuits, floury and hot from the oven. We both like the sourdough biscuits, just not enough to give them first place.

Oysters Rockefeller
Named for THE Rockefeller because they are so rich. Oysters broiled underneath a blanket of creamed spinach, topped off with bechamel. The salt of the oysters, the sweetness of the nutmeg-laden creamed spinach, and that creamy, thick bechamel make these the best Oyster Rockefeller in NYC.
Clam Chowder
Serviceable, nothing more. Sweet clams, creamy potatoes, and a touch of paprika in the background. The flavor was very pure, but the soup is far too thin and the clams are a bit sparse.

King Crab and Rock Shrimp Panzanella with Arugula and Tomatoes
King crab makes regular crab look like cat food. It is the most indulgent shellfish in the world – the sweetest, the butteriest, the richest. I love it when it is warm and served with fresh pasta, but here it is served chilled with snappy rock shrimp in a tart lemony vinaigrette. The tomatoes are a little mealy, but the arugula is properly spicy, the croutons garlicky, and the portion is extremely generous.

The Oyster Bar is an NYC institution. Come here for anything oyster oriented – the pan roast, the Rockefeller, and the extensive raw bar. Everything else is good to middling, and expensive to boot. But the atmosphere and the truly great oysters are a wonderful tribute to old NYC.
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