OPENED ON 1913 AND REBORN IN THE 70S, THE GRAND CENTRAL OYSTER BAR HAS MANAGED TO REMAIN ONE OF THE TOP U.S. RESTAURANTS IN TERMS OF MENU, ARCHITECTURE, AND LOCATION
By: Maria Velazquez
December 7, 2016
The Grand Central Oyster Bar and its more than a century of history is directly linked to the transportation and real estate development in New York City.
According to Eater, the Oyster Bar’s “grand and magnificent” space, with 440 seat capacity, was designed by renowned New York architect Raphael Gustavino.
Founded in 1913 in the lower level of Grand Central Terminal, the Oyster Bar became one of the most important in the Big Apple, seeing thousands of commuters pass by and enter its doors at the time. Following the decline of the long-haul passenger train system, the restaurant went bankrupt in the 70s, which led the Metropolitan Transit Authority to contact restauranteur Jerome Brody to take over and renovate it.
Brody decided to turn the restaurant into a real landmark and “destination restaurant,” and to shift the focus to solely sea food.
Hence, Brody and his wife traveled the two coasts of the country, looking for the best seafood suppliers: “In Maine we searched for lobster,” he recalled. “In Gloucester, Massachusetts, for the best fish from the Grand Banks; in Virginia, for oysters and crabs from Chesapeake Bay.”
In their quest to become one of the most renowned American restaurants, the next step for the couple was to enhance their wine list as carefully as they redesigned the seafood menu. “We won The Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine ‘Gold Vine Award’ in 1978 and 1979, we began serving wine by the glass in 1993, offering choices from among 70 different wines,” Brody states in the restaurant’s website.
In the words of New York Magazine reviewers: “Unperturbed by the arriviste competition in the food court next door, the jewel of the pre-renovation Terminal continues to serve superlative pan roasts and clam chowders, and an overwhelming assortment of East and West Coast oysters. The sprawling subterranean space has the hustle-bustle feel of a cafeteria, which its snaking counters resemble, but don't be fooled—you pay for the privilege of eating under that vaulted tile ceiling.”