Oyster Bar

Review by: Jane & Michael Stern

It is all too easy to take the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station for granted. In fact, it is one of the great seafood restaurants of New York, great in every respect: beautiful to see with its vaulted tiled ceiling and counter-seat views of the oyster shuckers and pan roasters at work, and amazing in its menu, which is printed every day. It is not unusual to count several dozen kinds of raw oysters available, and an itemized “day’s catch” from around America and the world that would put most fish markets to shame. Anyone for whole smelts? How about black cod filet, Arctic char, wolf fish, weakfish, pink snapper, sturgeon steak, or seared hamachi (that’s yellowtail)? All were on the menu one day in June.

Every day, it is possible to eat totally classically. This kitchen makes fine fish ‘n’ chips, bouillabaisse, crab cakes, oysters Rockefeller, and fried clams. On a splurgy evening, there’s nothing better than its perfectly prepared Dover sole meuniere. If you want shrimp, you can have them grilled, fried in rice batter or coconut, cocktail-cool, or stewed.

Other than raw oysters, probably the best-known thing to eat at the Oyster Bar is one of its pan roasts, which are made up front in the open kitchen where the shuckers work. A pan roast is a buttery soup/stew of seafood, cream, pepper and spice. It is based on the shellfish of your choice and served in a broad bowl.

Whole meals can be very expensive, especially if you get lots of raw oysters, which can cost $3 or more apiece. Most entrees are $30 and up. But it is also possible to have a satisfying lunchtime pan roast or sandwich for around $20. There is a big wine list and a spectacular round-the-world beer list; and we think the Key lime pie served here for dessert is the best for miles around.

What To Eat

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raw oysters

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pan roast

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Manhattan Clam Chowder

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Oyster Po Boy

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Ipswich Clam Sandwich

DISH

Oyster Bar Recipes

Discuss

What do you think of Oyster Bar?

2 Responses to “Oyster Bar”

Jane & Michael Stern
Jane & Michael Stern

January 24th, 2010

We’ve been to the Grand Central Oyster Bar a number of times before — the whispering gallery right outside is a great trick to show out-of-town visitors — but I never even noticed “pan roast” on the menu. Even if I had, I probably would have thought it was a casserole. Or something else baked.

Thanks to Roadfood, we’ve seen the light. We endured some of the slowest, most indifferent service I’ve had in New York but the payoff was worth it. This rich, creamy flavorful soup was absolutely substantial enough to be a meal, especially starting with a half-dozen on the half shell while we waited.

The Oyster Bar is like three totally separate restaurants:
— walk in and go to the left for a nice upscale-ish dining room.
— go to the right and you’re in a cafeteria-type area with long counters and the thick smell of Old Bay hanging in the air.
— keep going to the right, walk through a small doorway that looks like it might lead to the bathroom, and you’re in a wood-paneled, rowdy bar popular with the after-work crowd.
Before you commit, I suggest walking through all three to test the vibe and see which works for you.

And don’t forget to try the whispering gallery if you’ve never done it:
http://www.newyorkology.com/archives/2005/02/the_whispering_1.php

Reply

Jane & Michael Stern
Jane & Michael Stern

April 24th, 2004

Along with a foodie friend, went to the Oyster Bar yesterday with the express purpose of tasting the po’boy sandwich that Michael wrote about not too long ago. I usually sit at the counter and have the fried oysters or oyster pan roast, but my buddy was lusting for the sandwich. While I was waiting for him, I noticed that it wasn’t on the menu and also noticed that there were plenty of sit down table available. When we went inside, we went to the maitre ‘d who told us there were plenty of twos available. We asked him if we could get the po boy and he said he’d have to check the kitchen. Fair enough. He got off the phone and said, it was fine. When seated we ordered the sandwich and fried oyster platter. The waitress said they don’t serve the sandwich in the dining room. We said that we’d checked with the maitre d who checked with the kitchen, etc. She said Ok, but shortly thereafter who returned with another guy who said they don’t serve it in the dining room. Explained the whole story to him and he disappeared only to return and say that he’d checked with the general manager who said they couldn’t do it or everyone in the dining room would want one (imagine what a disaster that would be! Reminded him that the maitre d had checked with the kitchen and asked him to bring him over. Maitre d comes over and said that he assumed we were asking an academic question, not whether we could actually have the dish. We said that since we were already seated and they made the mistake, why not just serve the dish this once. No, they said, we have our rules and no exception will be made.

Point of all this, is that while the oysters and raw bar are terrific, the service is never very good and this management attitude explains why. Be forewarned.

Reply

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