The first thing you'll notice when you enter are the grand vaulted tile ceilings, which were restored to their original state after a fire in 1997. Red checkered tablecloths and an awesome 1970s signage give the magnificent architecture a sense of homeyness.
They take reservations, which I highly recommend. Even on a Saturday at 1pm, the place was fairly crowded. Not a surprise considering how many people rush through the terminal every day.
Once you're done gawking at the ceiling, a crisp white shirted man shows you to your table. Be prepared for an overwhelmingly over-stuffed menu filled with fresh catches, appetizers, platters, cold options, raw bar, cooked shellfish, lobsters, stews, and a few non-seafood options.
We both got the Grand Central oyster platters: eight plump, briny mollusks with the classic accompaniments. If you're just passing through and have an affinity for the celebrated and feared delicacy, I recommend stopping in and ordering this dish. At roughly $20, it's not a exactly a steal, but consider the extra dollars spent on ambiance.
Next we got our own chowders, Jim: an appropriately rich and creamy New England, me: a tangy Manhattan swimming with fresh clams. This could have been our complete meal on most days, but on this day we were starving, purposely skipping breakfast in order to gorge ourselves on a seafood feast. And so the feast continued.
In order to sample as much as possible, we got the foursome of cold seafood salads which included poached salmon, gigantic shrimp with a zesty sauce, crab meat Caesar, and a basil squid salad. We also shared a lobster roll that was really very good and positively stuffed with large, fresh chunks of lobster meat, not faked up with lots of celery and onions. It wasn't the best lobster roll I've ever had, but it was noteworthy for the quality and amount of the meat.
I guess my only complaint is that while everything we had was very, very good, we've tasted better versions of each dish elsewhere. Oysters at Marlow and Sons, squid at Zenon Taverna, lobster rolls in Maine and Massachusetts, and Manhattan clam chowder made at home. Still, one can't fault a place for failing to have the very best version of everything; lots of tourist spots that offer an impressive interior barely make their food decent to ensure repeat business–which is not the case here.
Book a table, share the oysters and lobster roll and take in one of the many marvels of the city, one that most of us who live here don't often notice anymore.