This week, New York rounds up the greatest everything — the greatest year, the greatest mayor, the greatest novel — in the history of Gotham. But of course we read it wondering one thing: What’s the greatest dish to ever grace a menu in what is easily the world’s greatest restaurant city? Fortunately, Adam Platt has the answer: the oyster pan roast from the Grand Central Oyster Bar.
The Oyster Bar pan roast — still being served at the Oyster Bar in the bowels of Grand Central — is a silky concoction, thicker than soup but gentler than a stew. It’s made with half a dozen Bluepoints, sweet butter, a dash of secret chile sauce, and flagons of country cream, all poured over a comforting mattress of soggy toast. I would argue that it’s grander than that other great New York icon the pastrami sandwich on rye, more versatile than eggs Benedict (invented at the Waldorf-Astoria) or the porterhouse steak, and heartier than vichyssoise soup, which the great chef Louis Diat first served at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on 46th Street in 1917. The last time I enjoyed it, the steamy bowl took exactly four minutes to reach my place at the bar, which is more or less what you’d expect for the greatest New York restaurant dish of all time. In that magisterial, eternally bustling room full of strangers, it tasted exactly the way it did when I ordered it for the first time, 40 years ago, with my grandfather, a lifelong New Yorker: opulent, mysteriously spicy, and faintly like the sea.
Also of note is Jason Epstein’s pick for New York’s greatest market. (Sorry, Eataly — it ain’t you.) Epstein says it’s the old Washington Market: “Imagine Russ & Daughters, Di Palo’s great cheese store, Citarella, Lobel’s, Zabar’s, all the city’s Greenmarkets, the Indian spice shops, Chinatown, under a great cast-iron roof, and you will begin to get the picture.”