I first visited Grand Central Oyster Bar with my mother almost 10 years ago. Since then, I had the pleasure of visiting them several times, including their super fun Oyster Frenzy event. The Oyster Bar first opened its doors in 1913, where it used to be an old and rundown train depot on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal. It is one of the most popular and famous place to get oyster in NYC, but it was not always that way. They had to close down for couple of years in the 70s without much customers or money, which is so surprising! But after you hit rock bottom, the only place to go is up. It did come back to life, with new menu, renovated interior. Needless to say, it is full of life nowadays.
When you enter, there is a U-shaped counter tables to the right, small tables in the middle, and more table seating to the left. For people in a hurry, or the ones dining alone, the counter seats are preferred. If you want a wait service, or if you have a reservation, you would go to one of the table seating.
We always prefer to seat at the counter, because it is faster service, and we like the interaction with the staff. Also, you get a better view at the beautiful interior. Vaulted ceiling with lights always brings out the nice, warm atmosphere that has so much history behind it.
Now, the staffs here are not here to impress on their “friendly” service. But they are efficient and always on the move. Our counter was managed by a female staff, Nicole, who was not “all smiles and warm hugs” type, but rather a “strong big sister who would take care of you” type. We started off with one of their popular item, New England Clam Chowder ($6.95). Since we wanted to eat a lot, we didn’t want to get full with the chowder. So, we decided we are going to order one and share. Nicole kind of chuckled when we said we are going to share, but then surprised us with a really sweet gesture. She brought two soup bowls with just a little less chowder in it, so that we each have a bowl!
She said “half order in each bowl” when she brought them out. Now, the “full” order will be filled to the rim, but I felt like we got a lot more than just half portion. It was so nice!!! With the oyster crackers, there we went. It is really creamy, not watery at all, have generous amount of clams. Warms you up from the inside, really good bowl of chowder. They also have “Manhattan Clam Chowder” which is red. We tried that in the past, but we like the New England kind better.
She also brought their complimentary bread for each of us. The photo is for one person. The cracker thing is fun, and the bread was nice and moist, soft but dense. Great with the chowder.
For the main, we wanted their crab cakes (they are soooo good!), but then, Nicole told us that they are sold out… Noooo! She said to come on Wednesday for crab cakes. I guess they make them fresh on Wednesdays? Instead, we ordered Fried Oyster Po’ Boy Sandwich ($12.95) and Shellfish Platter ($39.15). My mother never had a Po’ Boy, so it ended up being a fun experience for her.
The Po’ Boy is pretty big, and had good amount of fried oysters. Each bite had oyster. The bread was tough enough to hold all the ingredients in its place, it was pretty good Po’ Boy. It might not be like the one from New Orleans, but hey, it still had really fresh oysters, fried up nicely.
And the Shellfish Platter? My goodness, it is the best if you want a little taste of everything. it is a “medley” of shellfish, and comes with 10 oysters, 2 clams, 2 shrimps, and 3 mussels.
Everything was really fresh and super tasty. They do have hot sauce on the counter, if you like to add a little kick. The clams had some kind of white sauce on it, which added nice, smooth flavor. The shrimp was bitter than I expected, really plump. All the oysters and mussles were nice size and give you smile after each slurp.
Thanks to our server Nicole, we were well taken care of. Our water was always filled and we felt welcomed. We enjoyed our meal there, as we always have, looking forward to our next visit. If you are a oyster lover and have never been to the Grand Central Oyster Bar, I recommend you try it once. The atmosphere is great, the selection of oysters (changes daily for the best freshness) is great, and they have so much more than just oysters. And if you are concerned about the price, visit them during their happy hour, they offer Bluepoint Oysters at $1.25/each! I haven’t had any dessert here, since I always get really full. But, I saw they have some amazing looking desserts in the show window. Maybe I need to go there for some dessert one day soon…
Grand Central Oyster Bar – Grand Central Terminal, 89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017