Opened in 1913, this Gilded-Age holdover in Grand Central Station has changed very little in nearly a century, and the architecture—a series of swooping, tiled vaults that always remind me of the grand crypts of some European cathedrals—still impresses. Don’t bother going to the restaurant side; you want to be able to see the handwritten menu above the shelling station (on the right as you enter), where the best choices will be laid out. There will be fresh oysters and clams, flown in from all parts of North America; shellfish pan-roasts and stews; and, of course, chowders of all kinds (from $4.75). Ignore the paper menu entirely (for some reason, everything that comes out of the kitchen is overcooked and tepidly sauced); confine yourself to the list of foods that is prepared right at the bar, and you’ll have a real, old-fashioned feast.
- Pauline Frommer