The Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the city, educating the public about its distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation.
The Grand Central Oyster Bar is a New York icon. Since 1913, people have flocked here to eat as well as take in the unique surroundings. The ramp leading to the restaurant's doors is modeled after the roads Roman chariots took to Caesar's army camps, and the ceiling is covered in tile arranged in a herringbone pattern by the architect of Carnegie Hall.
Over the years, many famous people have frequented Grand Central Oyster Bar including Woodrow Wilson, Lucille Ball, and Paul Newman. Its archway appears in the current opening sequence of Saturday Night Live. Former SNL cast member Chris Farley had a raucous birthday party here in the 1990s, where he infamously took his pants off and started running around like a wild man.
The restaurant was built in an abandoned train depot on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal. Its central location for commuters and the terminal's reputation as an engineering feat were the sources of its popularity. Though the interior was beautiful, Grant Central Oyster Bar did not initially build a reputation based on its cooking, and few people actually went for the food. It wasn't until 1974 -- after it had gone bankrupt and remained empty for two years -- that the New York Transit Authority approached Jerome Brody, the restaurateur behind New York's elegant Four Seasons and The Rainbow Room, with hopes of reviving the restaurant.
With some initial reluctance, Jerome and Marlene Brody decided to take on the project, renovating the eatery to its former glory and reinventing the menu. Since then, its success has relied upon a network of high-quality seafood suppliers that the couple initially put in place. On any given day you may find two or three dozen different kinds of oysters (as well as other seafood and entrees) on the menu. Enjoy a taste of this celebrated mollusk, and keep in mind how it helped shape New York's past. Perhaps your empty shells will help shape its future ecology.
Fun fact: The archway in front of the restaurant is an acoustical marvel. When two people stand in opposite corners and whisper towards the wall, they can hear each other's words perfectly. This phenomenon is known as a whispering gallery.
Cover photo by keinoshin15 via Instagram