Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Great Food In An Unexpected Place

Due to some ongoing health issues, I have the occasion to take a trip into Manhattan a few times a year to see a specialist at NYU Medical.  As much as we'd love to stay right in the city, it can be more than a bit cost prohibitive, especially when the doctor I'm seeing doesn't take ANY health insurance.  Yep.  None.

We generally stay just over the river in New Jersey and drive into the city the next morning for the appointment, but this time Hubbs decided he'd like to try driving just to Poughkeepsie and then take the train into the city instead.  Parking, even at places like the major hospitals can be a nightmare and very costly. The last time I had an appointment, they had us double parked in the parking garage!  You should have seen Mr B scanning the car with an almost cyborg like precision for dents or dings when we went to pick it up. I think it was just more than his heart could stand!  

Anyway..... The point of my story is less about parking and more about the amazing Food Concourse at Grand Central Station.  The building itself has been a Manhattan treasure and a stunning example of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture, since it's current structure first opened officially as Grand Central Terminal in 1913.  It's gone through dozens of renovations, additions and restorations during the years since, but has remained  the central hub of all train travel activity leading in and out of New York City.

One of the many levels and wings of Grand Central is the Food Concourse.  Now, when one thinks of "travel food" or food you would most likely get while on the road, it generally isn't anything that could be considered fine dining.  If anything, the words "fast food" usually come to mind.  At Grand Central's Food Concourse this is definitely not the case. There are dozens of casual dining restaurants as well as some of the finest dining in Manhattan right there for you to enjoy.  The world famous Oyster Bar Restaurant and Campbell Apartment Cocktail Lounge are prime dining and socializing destinations for both locals and tourists alike.

The Oyster Bar Restaurant at Grand Central Terminal
The Campbell Apartment Lounge at Grand Central Terminal

As much as hubby and I would have loved to have sipped on a cocktail or two (well, micro-brewed beer would probably be more like it) at The Campbell Apartment and dined on succulent oysters at the Oyster Bar, we were a bit worse for the wear. Between a restless night's sleep (the hotel bed was not our blissfully comfortable Tempur-Pedic) and the train ride into the city, followed by my 2 hour appointment and some crazy cab rides to and from place to place, we needed something satisfying that would still allow us enough time to catch our train back to the station and our car in Poughkeepsie for the 3 - 4 hour drive back home. So we opted for one of the "Casual Dining" restaurants in the concourse instead.  We chose a place called Zocalo because it gives the diner the option of either going to the counter and ordering, then taking your food to one of the hundreds of (quite lovely) seating areas that are open to the patrons of any/all of the restaurants/vendors OR their own seating area where you can grab a table and be waited on in a more relaxed setting.  Needless to say, after the long day that we'd had, we were definitely happy to sit down and have someone wait on us! 

(We didn't have our cameras with us, so I had to find some pictures that looked as close as possible to what we had)  Both of our meals were absolutely delicious and it was obvious that they were prepared with fresh, quality ingredients. I adore a good Cuban sandwich and this one did not disappoint. The roasted and shredded pork was moist, tender and beautifully seasoned. The ham was carved right off the bone, as opposed to the standard deli sliced ham usually found on most Cubans and the cheese was a perfectly stringy and slightly salty delight.  Now, I don't want to give the impression that there's anything wrong with sliced deli ham..... This version was just a very pleasant surprise. The fries that I ordered to accompany it were piping hot and the perfect combination of soft inside and crispy outside.  

Hubbs proclaimed that his Tostada was one of the best he's ever had and that it was spiced well. This most likely means that it would have been considered in the "medium hot" range for the majority of people, which is a little too spicy for me, but I simply don't have the asbestos tongue that he does. (Our fridge and pantry are never without a supply of different sauces made with a plethora of chili peppers from Jalapeno to Habenero) I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a total wimp when it comes to hot and spicy food.  He was also quite happy with the Cholula Hot Sauce that was provided on each table. 

We really only had a few minutes to look around at the many offerings available in the concourse, but I would have loved to have had the time to sample just a little something from each one. There is a choice of cuisines for pretty much every taste, from Indian to Barbecue to Kosher Deli. The list is too long to include here, but there is a directory online here, if you're planning to be in the neighborhood of Grand Central Terminal in the future.  Believe me, if we hadn't been all fat and happy from the yummy meal at Zocalo, I'd have seriously considered a slice of cheesecake from Juniors. There's also the Magnolia Bakery, Zaro's Bread Basket, Neuhaus Chocolatier and sooo many other places to indulge even the mightiest of cravings for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Next time, I think we'll factor in a couple more hours to our trip, just so we can spend more time roaming around (and possibly nibbling our way through) the wonderful restaurants and shops at Grand Central Terminal.  We never even had a chance to peruse the famed Grand Central Marketplace, and I have a feeling that could take us half the day!

Live Well,  Eat Well   


  1. Like you, I leave that hot stuff for someone who can take it. Glad you had such a wonderful dining experience. You will have to let me know how the appt itself went.

  2. Only because I am dying of curiousity of course and I CARE.

  3. I feel like I have missed out on a treasure! I have been to the Grand Central Terminal but missed, or was so intrigued by the architecture, that I was oblivious to a Food Concourse!!
    Hopefully, I will return to NY, for a visit, in the next year or two.

  4. It's been ages since I've been to Grand Central. It certainly looks like a destination. I'm sure those New Yorkers would not be satisfied with regular food-court food. You're right, it looks like you need more time :). Take care!

  5. Robin: I'll be in touch after I talk to the doc today or tomorrow, when I'll (hopefully) get some feedback/test results. Hope you're hanging in there my friend.

    Shawn: The architecture truly is stunning. I'm not sure we would have eaten there if we weren't a little more pressed for time than usual. We generally go to the Carnegie Deli or somewhere else in the theater district. I'm glad we found this little gem. (well, not so little)

    Kim: You're absolutely right. New Yorkers have so many places to choose from that you really need to be exceptional to keep the people coming back. I'm sure there are plenty of restaurants that would be happy to fill an empty slot there!

  6. Wow! That place looks amazing!! Thanks for sharing :)



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