The familiar smell of fresh seafood wafted through the air at Grand Central Thursday morning, signaling the return of the station's most iconic eatery.
After a year of renovations on its storied Guastavino tile ceilings and two months of being closed to the public, the Grand Central Oyster Bar re-opened Thursday, just in time for the lunch crowd.
"Ultimately all the changes were driven by the new ceiling," says executive chef and co-owner Sandy Ingber. But in the meantime the 101-year-old restaurant has also optimized its seating capacity, installed modern equipment, updated its bars and kitchen and finally erased all traces of damage from a 1997 fire.
A number of the original ceiling tiles, in use since Grand Central Station's opening day in 1913, still remain. The rest, shiny and new, were painstakingly made to match the old ones (it took six months just to get the color right, Ingber says), and were then inspected and installed one-by-one by overnight workers.
"This is a landmark restaurant, so we had to restore everything back to its landmark status," Ingber says.
While the goal of the renovation was to stay true to tradition, Ingber said he and his staff-- some of whom have been there for 40-plus years-- are looking forward to a fresh start.
"It's like we're opening a whole new restaurant," he said with a grin, while taping a big "A" from the Health Department on the glass door. "We're very excited."