The Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant (at Grand Central Terminal at 42nd Street) opened in 1913 and is one of the world’s most famous oyster bars. Before this establishment, the Grand Union Hotel near this location had New York’s most famous oyster bar from the 1870s until the hotel was demolished in 1914.
The term “oyster bar” has been used in New York City since at least the 1850s. Other terms used in this period—but seldom used today—include “oyster saloon” and “oyster parlor.”
Wikipedia: Oyster Bar
The Oyster Bar, officially the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, is a restaurant located on the lower floor of Grand Central Terminal in New York City and owned by Jerome Brody. It opened along with the terminal itself in 1913 and has been in business ever since, although it closed briefly for renovations following a 1997 fire.
As its name suggests, it specializes in seafood and has been renowned for its excellent offerings in this area. Its architecture is also notable, featuring the vaulted, tiled ceilings common in the era of its construction. It has become over the years one of the landmarks of the New York culinary scene, visited by the famous and obscure alike.
The archway in front of the restaurant is also famous for an acoustical quirk, by which someone standing in one corner can hear someone standing in the other corner perfectly no matter how softly they speak.
A sister restaurant, the Atre Shinagawa, is located in Tokyo.
The bar can be seen as the back drop for actors in the current opening introductions for Saturday Night Live.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
oyster bar n. (a) U.S. = oyster bank n.; (b) a bar at which oysters are served as food.
1823 J. L. WILLIAMS Jrnl. 23 Oct. in Florida Hist. Q. (1908) Apr. 44 At 3 p.m. we entered the river at ebb tide and beat among the *oyster bars until evening.
1878 R. L. STEVENSON in London 8 June 441/1 They were driven by a sharp fall of sleet into an Oyster Bar.
1925 E. SITWELL Troy Park 74 That child is the small wicked ghost Of Metropoles and oyster bars.
1993 Esquire July 81 Though the tide was low, she made her way at near full speed among the oyster bars, circling in off the sandy point..and grinding her right up onto the beach.
12 September 1856, New York (NY) Herald, pg. 3, col. 1 classified ad:
M. WRAY, AUCTIONEER.—SALOON FIXTURES, &c., at auction, at 258 Canal street (old number), corner of Greenwich, on Saturday, Sept. 13, at 10 1/2 o’clock, comprising liquor and oyster bar, decanters, chairs, tables, stove, cooking utensils, gas fixtures and lease; also one soda water fountain, in good order.
6 September 1857, New York (NY) Herald, pg. 7, col. 2 classified ad:
A RESTAURANT, WITH BAR, OYSTER BAR AND stock, for sale, situated down town, doing a profitable business.
19 February 1860, New York (NY) Herald, pg. 3 ad:
At a considerable expense he had fitted up an oyster bar, so that persons who may prefer it can partake of them raw.
(A supper for the Independence Guard at the Academy of Music—ed.)
28 April 1869, New York (NY) Herald, pg. 16, col. 5 classified ad:
FOR SALE—MIRRORS, BAR AND BAR FIXTURES, Eating Counter and Oyster Bar, strictly first class; now in No. 2 Irving place.
A. P. SMITH & BRO., 1,804 Broadway.
27 May 1888, New York (NY) Times, “An old friend in a new house,” pg. 5:
It is divided on the ground floor just as the old restaurant in THE TIMES Building was. On the east are the lunch counter, the oyster bar, and the other bar.
2 May 1914, New York (NY) Times, pg. 4:
MANY SAY GOOD-BYE
TO THE GRAND UNION
Managers Discover There Are
No Keys to Doors to be Closed
FAMOUS BLACKBOARD GONE
Guests No Longer Invited to Chalk
Down Sentiments—Oldest Em-
plye a Bellboy of 72.
Anybody who supposed Simeon Ford was going to hang about the Grand Union yesterday spinning some of those reminiscences for which he was famous was disappointed. True, it was the last day except one in the history of the hotel, but things went on pretty much as usual, except toward afternoon something like sadness seemed to pervade the famous oyster bar.
Frank Sullivan, who presides over that region, and who has been shucking oysters and opening clams on the same spot for twenty-three years, said as many oysters as usual had been caught on the bar at noon time, and kept methodically sticking his knife into the backs of soft-shell clams and placing his victims uncovered on plates. He was sharing the general regret that the house had to shut down, although he mentioned that yesterday was the last day of the oyster season anyhow.
The oyster bar was thronged at lunch time, just as it has been every day for many a year, and in that informal sort of cafe-restaurant, where the fathers and grandfathers of many up-State folk and New Englanders have made their first acquaintance with metropolitan fare, and where you sit on a backless stool, a S. R. O. sign would not have been out of place. In the adjoining room something like a million and a quarter oysters have been in the habit of annually paying tribute to the appetite of man, and during the last automobile show, when so many visitors were here who were not in the habit of getting fresh oysters at home, the output and intake at the oyster bar ran up to 10,000 a day.
Some are going to miss their Little Neck clams after to-day. According to Sullivan, there are many New York men who have formed the clam habit to the entire exclusion of oysters. If you once get the clam habit, according to Sullivan, you can’t shake it off, and mere oyster flavor will not satisfy. Every working day of the twelve months the clam devotees have been dropping in for their raw clams. Sullivan almost sighed as he wondered where these faithful patrons of his dexterity would now have their clams opened.
4 June 1922, Syracuse (NY) Herald, “Covering New York with the Herald Man” by Ed Allen, pg. 12, col. 1:
His (Simeon Ford, owner of the Grand Union Hotel—ed.) investigation told him that the one thing New York had for them and not to be obtained back home was oysters, hence his oyster bar and the bill of fare which told in suggestive lines the many glories of the bivalve. Quality and medium prices did the rest and Mr. Ford became wealthy.
27 September 1925, New York (NY) Times, “Forty-Second Street Surveys 100 Years” by James C. Young, pg. SM7:
His (Commodore Vanderbilt—ed.) plans reached fulfillment in 1871, when the terminus of the New York & Harlem Railroad was opened for traffic, an event of high importance in the rail history of the country.
After the opening of this terminal the neighborhood progressed as never before. Upon the opposite corner of Park Avenue the Grand Union Hotel, with its celebrated oyster bar, became an institution.
9 June 1928, The Restaurateur and the American Hotelier, pg. 17, col. 1:
Derouet (Leony C. Derouet, Hotel Commodore chef—ed.) is said to have been the originator of (Col. 2—ed.) the “oystar (sic) bar” idea, establishing what is thought to have been the first of its kind at the old Grand Union Hotel.
Champagne Days of San Francisco
by Evelyn Wells
(Forward by Lucius Beebe)
New York, NY: D. Appleton-Century Co.
Opposite Pg. 179, Photo Caption:
“Ladies and Gents Oyster Parlor.” Home of the Oyster Cocktail.
New York City • Restaurants/Bars/Coffeehouses/Food Stores • (0) Comments • Tuesday, December 30, 2008 • Permalink