Monday, January 3, 2011

Review: Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant

NEW YORK CITY, Jan 3 - Good news for vegetarians! There's an animal you can eat! They're called "oysters". They're hateful little beasts who lurk under piers. They also lack central nervous systems and subsequently feel no pain. Just try and punch an oyster in the face! You can't! Eat away!

I'd never eaten an oyster until my pal Jesse took me to the GCOB&R two years ago. It's located on the lower floor of Grand Central Station (officially "Grand Central Terminal"). But because of the route to the restaurant - down to this lower level, through a hidden door and then down some more - it seems very much like one is going under Grand Central, down into the hidden bowels of central Manhattan, à la Lex Luthor's ornate, magnificent hideout in 1978's Superman.

In one of the recent seasons of Saturday Night Live, the opening credits feature all the young, hip cast members hanging out at the GC Oyster Bar. In reality, the clientele look like average New Yorkers - beleaguered people grappling with business problems and lousy marriages and life in cramped apartments. When I sat at the bar and tried to decide which oddly named regional delicacy I wanted, the waiter gave me that corny Robert De Niro grimace and walked off because I couldn't make up my mind.

I ate there again a year later, with a large group of locals. My pal S______, a strict vegetarian, didn't buy into the whole thing about oysters having no central nervous systems, so she ate a sad plate of creamed spinach while the rest of us slurped down our viscous, salty, brainless little meals. Later that night S______ suffered massive projectile vomiting. At the time, this seemed like a vindication of oysters over spinach. But then I ate more oysters a few months later, in San Diego, and spent a day dealing with my own massive projectile vomiting (my count had 26 separate instances of puking; I was going to attempt a photo essay for this blog, but I was scared I'd drop my camera in the toilet). I'm not sure what the lesson is here. Except, I guess, don't eat oysters after all.

Also, there are leather hand chairs in the foyer of the men's room. I wouldn't go so far as to say this is how H1N1 got started. But there is no amount of money that could get me to sit in one.