Grand Central Station is not just a place where trains come and go. It is a Beaux-Arts beauty, a temple to transportation, an homage to the Industrial Revolution, and also a great place to grab a delicious bite or enjoy a marvelous meal. Here are the best restaurants in Grand Central Station.
There’s so much to marvel at in Grand Central, it would be almost understandable if you forgot that it’s also a great destination for dining. Any good railway station should have good eating options. Still, Grand Central takes it to the next level with a European-style grab-and-go market and a small handful of incredible and iconic eateries that are worth going to even if you’re not coming or going via train.
The Campbell Bar
John W. Campbell, a railroad executive at Grand Central, demanded to have a grand office, one that would impress his clients and colleagues. He got it. Campbell’s office had 25-foot, hand-painted ceilings, Italian chairs and tables that dated back to the 19th century, and a Persian rug that stretched across the entire room that cost $300,000 at the time (today it would be $3.5 million).
Campbell died in 1957 and, like much of Grand Central, the office fell into disrepair. But it underwent a $2 million renovation in 1999 and was restored back to its former glory. And then it was turned into a posh cocktail bar. It is still an upscale drinking den today, as lovers of history and cocktails can cozy up to the bar and sip a $20 dirty martini and graze on hummus and foie gras. A few years ago, the Campbell Bar had a strict no jeans/no sneakers policy. It has since relaxed the dress code.
Located on the west balcony inside the Main Concourse, Cipriani Dolci may offer one of the greatest restaurant views in the country. From the family that brought us Harry’s Bar, an iconic restaurant in Venice where the Bellini cocktail was invented, Cipriani Dolci is a stylish and uber-atmospheric place to tuck into pricy pasta dishes where the view and ambiance may taste better than anything on the menu—making a visit here well worth it, oddly enough. The place was designed by Arturo di Modica who famously made the iconic Wall Street bull sculpture.
Grand Central Market
East of the Main Concourse is the Grand Central Market where there are 13 food and drink purveyors and some of the best gourmet grub that the Big Apple has to offer. The fabulous French bakery Bien Cuit is here, offering variations on the theme of bread. Pair a baguette with some cheese from Murray’s, the legendary Greenwich Village cheese shop that also has an outlet in the Grand Central Market.
And why stop there? Hit up Eli Zabar, an outpost of Zabar’s on the Upper West Side, where you can pick up smoked fish, cured meat, and other delectable items. And let’s not forget about the sweet stuff. The incredible Li-Lac Chocolates also has an outlet inside this European-style market. Besides the above, there is also sushi, Italian snacks, and a seafood purveyor.
Grand Central Oyster Bar
One of the most iconic restaurants on the planet, the Grand Central Oyster Bar goes deep into the dining fabric of the Big Apple. The Guastavino-tiled and vaulted interior is worth a visit in and of itself. Opened in 1913, the restaurant is still a must for anyone who loves ambient interiors and seafood.
In 1941, a dozen oysters cost 70 cents. The price has gone up since then—today a dozen bivalves will run you about $40, depending on the type of oysters you want to slurp down. Despite the name, the menu here goes far beyond the oyster, diving deep into the sea for any and everything that’s fresh and tastes great.
The offerings change daily, but expect to find excellently sourced and cooked clam chowder, fish stews, fish sandwiches, fried fish, whole lobsters, grilled octopus, jumbo shrimp salad, Maryland crab cakes, and succulent soft-shell crab. The restaurant is on the lower level, right in front of the so-called Whispering Gallery.
Lower Level Food Court
If you’re in the mood for something more casual, the Lower-Level Food Court offers a bounty of outstanding eating options—and some great local businesses. Enjoy the cupcakes that Carrie Bradshaw made famous at Magnolia Bakery, or one of the best fast food burgers on the planet at Shake Shack or a lobster roll at Luke’s Lobster. And save room for the sweet stuff: the Doughnut Plant, which makes market-driven artisanal doughnuts as you’ve never tasted, has an outlet in the food court too.
The dining options at Grand Central are sure to please just about every palate. But if somehow that’s not enough, there’s good news: by the end of 2022, there will be a few more interesting options. Cipriani is opening a massive Argentine chophouse next to Ciprianai Dolci. City Winery will be setting up shop in the huge Vanderbilt Hall. Dirty Taco is going to soon be slinging Los Angeles-style street tacos in the station. And popular Australian bakery, Bourke Street, will also be baking delicious pastries here.
Want to explore Grand Central’s history as well as its food? Check out the Official Grand Central Terminal Tour offered by our friends at Walks! This tour takes you through all the major sites, including the Grand Central Market, Transit Museum, Grand Central Clock, and even the delicious Oyster Bar!
David Farley is a West Village-based food and travel writer whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC, and Food & Wine, among other publications. He’s the author of three books, including “An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town,” which was made into a documentary by the National Geographic Channel. You can find Farley’s online homes here and here.