Note: This guide was published in 2011. See our updated version here!
For anyone who cares about food, a lunch or dinner hour spent in Grand Central can provoke anxiety, particularly if you're unfamiliar with the city. You might find yourself asking, "How do I avoid the tourist traps?" "Should I venture outside the terminal?" "Where should I go for a solid, quick slice of pizza?" "Can I get a world-class dinner without hopping a cab?"
Grand Central isn't in the greatest food neighborhood, but there's more than enough to keep any traveler happy: some spots within the station itself, some a little farther from the platforms. Here are a few worthy spots to seek out when commuting or sightseeing.
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Breakfast Before Departure
Pershing Square: A good-looking, if frenetic cavern of a restaurant with really, really good pancakes.
Joe Coffee: One of our favorite Manhattan coffee mini-chains, with a location right in the terminal.
Eggs Travaganza: A bit of a walk, but it's Ed's favorite breakfast cart in New York.
Sandwiches, Slices, Cheap Eats
Murray's Cheese at Grand Central: Grab bread of your choice, along with some cheese and charcuterie, and build a sandwich of your own; or pick up one of the tasty premade sandwiches. Be sure to ask the cheesemongers (they're professionals) for the tastiest selections.
Num Pang: The recently-opened second location of one of our favorite sandwich shops; expect Cambodian-style sandwiches piled with well-prepared proteins, along with crunchy fresh cucumber, pickled carrots, fresh cilantro, and a house-made chili mayo.
Black Shack: Imagine a much better version of Burger King's Whopper; those are the sorts of burgers you'll find here.
Previti Pizza: A haven for pie-lovers in this generally pizza-poor area of Midtown. Check out their lunch deal (two slices and a soda at a discount) or their awesome roast beef sandwich.
Naples 45: Despite the name of this pizza joint within the MetLife building, we like the New York-style slices better than the Neapolitan. Dine in or take out.
Macchiato Espresso Bar: Great coffee, better sandwiches.
Oms/b: With exactly 48 different flavors of rice balls on tap, this Midtown eatery will never let you eat the same lunch twice. Be prepared to scavenge for an empty chair or to devour your lunch curbside.
Pret a Manger: Grab-and-go sandwiches, soups, and more.
Dishes: Imagine a typical lunch buffet, multiply that by a thousand, and you have Dishes. It's pricey and it's a zoo during office lunch hours, but it's a great place for the indecisive to put together an impressive cold-dish plate, or a sandwich, or a salad...
Bill's Bar and Burger: Excellent crispy-edged smashed burgers that first wowed us downtown before their new, huge Rock Center restaurant opened.
'wichcraft: Not every sandwich is perfect, and some are a little pricey, but we're rarely disappointed by the tasty sandwiches at Tom Colicchio and Sisha Ortuzar's breakfast and lunch joint.
Got A Little Longer?
Men Kui Tei: Not quite our favorite ramen in New York, but you're guaranteed big steamy bowls of noodles for a fair price. (Walk north to Hide-Chan Ramen if you've got the time.)
Akdeniz Turkish Cuisine: Big stews of lamb and okra, always-hot pide bread, and other warming Turkish fare.
Bierhaus: A German ale house with food offerings so substantial they deserve more than the designation of "bar food." Expect thick, malty pretzels, creamy potato salad, juicy wurst sausages, and more.
Katsu-Hama: Fried Japanese pork, and more.
A Few Steps Up
Michael Jordan's Steakhouse: Steaks, burgers, and tasty fried things.
Sushi Yasuda: Some of Manhattan's most highly acclaimed sushi.
Dos Caminos Midtown: Huge tequila selection, excellent guacamole, and upscale Mexican fare.
Aburiya Kinnosuke: Head to Aburiya for a taste of Japanese Izakaya cuisine. With side dishes that change daily, excellent desserts, and memorable tofu, their lunch special is a delight to any weary traveler.
Ai Fiori: Michael White's superb French-inflected Italian restaurant; pricey, but worth it. Visit the bar for options that will do less damage to your wallet.
La Fonda del Sol: Tapas, great desserts, and much more.
Grand Central Oyster Bar: For an upscale experience within GCS itself, head to the Oyster Bar. Especially if you're wearing a suit.
db Bistro Moderne: Modern bistro with great fries and French classics.
Tenpenny: You may not expect it from a hotel restaurant, but both the drinks and the food at Tenpenny are lively, exciting, and genuinely fantastic.
Smith & Wollensky: One more steakhouse for your consideration.
La Maison du Chocolat: While their Pistache makes our list of NYC's Best Chocolate Desserts, this polished dessert bar serves up a number of cocoa delights, in a setting as precious as the desserts' presentations.
Bouchon Bakery: The second New York location of Thomas Keller's fantastic bakery.
Financier at Grand Central: The perfect spot for an afternoon macaron or eclair.
Corrado Bread at Grand Central Market: Not everything's excellent, but we do recommend the Chocolate Velvet Boule (a delicious concoction of cake and chocolate ganache).
Minamoto: Delicate Japanese sweets.
You Tell Us
Where would you reccomend to eat near Grand Central Station? Let us know!