This is a place for members, and guests to participate in the experience on Oystergeek.com. Stories can be anything from your first oyster, to most memorable oyster experience, or something about your favorite oyster. When you submit your stories please include your name and where you are from.
At the recommendation of the Oyster Geek himself, I decided to pay a visit to the Grand Central Oyster Bar on my annual Thanksgiving visit to Manhattan.
I ventured into Grand Central on the day after Thanksgiving and, as expected, it was teeming with travelers making their way into and out of the City. If you’ve never been to Grand Central Station, be sure to stop and take it all in as you arrive. Then head down to the “Dining Concourse” to find the Grand Central Oyster Bar.
I wasn’t certain what to expect from this oyster bar. Downstairs is a typical food court so I was initially concerned that I might be disappointed. WHOA. The Grand Central Oyster Bar is not part of the food court. It’s tucked behind it and dates to 1913. This place oozes history.
This place is big. When you walk in, there is traditional dining managed by a Maitre d’ to the left. But, to the right the atmosphere changes dramatically. A series of horseshoe counters bustle with diners coming and going, orchestrated by well-seasoned servers. If you go a little farther in, you will find the actual oyster and pan roast bar. This is where the real action is. Servers, shuckers and pan roast preparers move in seemingly choreographed rotation and it’s a sheer joy to absorb. Grab a seat at the bar and prepare to be entertained. But be aware, these experts are not interested in entertaining you like the servers in a fudge-making shop. They are New Yorkers, they are busy and they are not at all interested in making small talk. But, if you want to talk oysters, they’ll be well-versed and will guide you if you don’t know a Moonstone from a French Kiss. My server also suggested a Brooklyn beer when I wasn’t certain what I wanted to drink to accompany my oysters. Delicious. I had two.
The Grand Central Oyster Bar boasts 30 varieties of oysters but on the day I visited 27 were offered. To a relative novice, but nonetheless passionate oyster lover it was a bit overwhelming. So, I engaged my server by letting him know I was friends with the Oyster Geek. Once this was established, he was more than willing to help. I ordered up a dozen: four French Kiss, four Moonstone and four Martha’s Vineyard. All were deliciously fresh. If that were not enough, I couldn’t resist the tomato and cream oyster pan roast. Did I mention the cream? Each pan roast is made to order and watching it being prepared is enough to let you know that you are about to pay a visit to Heaven. Served piping hot, its aroma wafts up and takes you over—in a good way. I enjoyed mine slowly, blowing first on the steaming spoon then sipping it in wanting to enjoy every bit of flavor. Yes, I was in Heaven.
This little visit to Heaven does come with a cost. The oysters were about $3.00 a piece and the oyster pan roast ran $11.95. Add in a couple of beers and my bill came to about $62.00. This was a bargain considering the overall experience: entertainment, people-watching, history and above all, the freshness and flavor of my chosen oysters and pan roast.
If you go:
Explore the building first (including the Saloon which is through double doors past the oyster bar and horseshoe counters)
Sit at the oyster bar
Try different varieties
Definitely order the pan roast (although a neighbor’s lobster roll looked amazing as well)
Take your time
Be prepared to spend some cash
It’s all very worth it
As the Oyster Geek, I obviously like oysters and have a great deal of stories about them. I thought the most fitting story to begin this segment with a little something about Wellfleet and how I ended up here.
Like a great deal of folks who were looking for employment in the last 24 months I was finding it very difficult to find the job. For the first time in my career, a nationwide job search took more than 30 days. No one was hiring executive chefs from out of town. As my contract in North Carolina was coming to an end and with the reality bearing down. that I would soon be an hourly employee, I decided that if I was going to punch a clock it was at least going to be a clock that I wanted to punch
I had spent a couple of summers on Nantucket when I was in my very early twenties and thought that might be an option. So I hopped on my computer and went to Craigslist to see what might be happening for the summer. While there was nothing on Nantucket, there was an opening for an oyster shucker at a place called Mac's Shack in Wellfleet on the Cape. So I sent in my resume with the text, "Please do not let my resume disqualify me for this job; it may be exactly what I am looking for this summer."
One thing led to another and I got a little better than the shucking job that I had applied for. I took on the position as kitchen manager for Mac's Seafood restaurant at the pier in Wellfleet.
Leaving Jazzfest, Pearl and New Orleans on May 3rd, I stopped in NC for a moment to handle some final details and headed up the coast to the Cape for the summer.
Wellfleet is a pretty small town. The little magazine that is handed out by the local Chamber brags of 3125 residents. But, the year-round residents I've spoken with say that is an inflated number. A small town nonetheless, you don't have to spend too much time at a few establishments around town or in the chairs in front of the liquor store having morning coffee to learn a good amount about the town.
There are many ways to describe the town of Wellfleet. One of which is: a small drinking town with a big oyster problem. And except for in the months of July and August when the tourists and summer residents are here in full force, it really redefines "laid back". You don't have to lock your bike, your car or your house. Everything is pretty much within two miles of the center of town, so even with only a bicycle for transportation, getting around is no problem. It really is the Little Easy, the Big Easy being New Orleans, of course, which is a large drinking town with a big oyster problem; unfortunately not in a good way currently. Now when I lived in New Orleans I did not lock my car there either, but that was so would-be vandals would not break my window in order to decide that my stock radio was not worth stealing. Now when I say you don't have to lock your car, some folks are even more "laid back".My boss Sam leaves his keys in the ignition of his truck. I don’t really know the make or model of the truck, only that it is green. On one particular day I had a package at the post office so I asked to borrow his truck to go pick it up. "Sure, keys are in it", he said and off I went out in the parking lot, jumped in the truck, picked up the package and came back to the pier, about a fifteen minute round-trip all together. A couple of weeks went by and I had another package arrive, so again I asked the boss if I could use his truck and off I went. When I returned from the post office, I walked into the fish market where Sam was shucking oysters "Hey Sam" I said, "I don't know whose truck that was that I borrowed last time I went to the post office but it was not a stick" We all had a good laugh. I still don't know whose truck that was and have not seen it around since. I'm guessin' I owe that guy a little bit of gas money or at least a free dozen of Wellfleet's finest.