Grand Central Terminal Food Court

I think I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again.  I love food courts.  What’s there not to like?  It’s like 20 cheap restaurants, all under the same roof.  Sure I always get the Chinese food, or the Chinese food knock off (bourbon chicken I’m looking at you)… but having the options (whether you use them or not) is great- because if you go with other people, everyone can get what they want.  So when I want Chinese food (which I always do), my wife and I can go to a food court even if she doesn’t want Chinese food, because there’s other things for her to get!  It’s a fool proof scheme…

There aren’t many food courts in Manhattan (you’ve gotta go to a mall in the suburbs for that), but there are a few.  And one, that seems like it should be amazing, is the Grand Central Terminal Food Court.  One walk through this place, and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to food court heaven.  No wasted space on generic fast food joints like McDonalds or BK, and they have all the requisite food options (Chinese, Sushi, Indian, Cajun, Caribbean, BBQ, Pizza, and more.) 

And yet, for a food court- with a ton of options- right in the middle of Midtown, it’s not nearly as crowded as you would think.  None of the places have lines, and we didn’t have too much trouble finding a place to sit.  To top it off, I get emails all the time recommending places to eat in Midtown.  Very few “good” (a relative term of course) or popular places have gone unrecommended.  And yet, nobody has ever recommended the food court, or singled out any of the choices in an email.

A superficial look at the options, more pictures, and a call to arms… after the jump.

Here’s a look at some of the more interesting options at the food court, with some initial thoughts (none of them from actually eating the food…)

    • Feng Shui – The requisite Chinese option.  Doesn’t look great, but I’ve seen worse.  Ironically, it seems as if all the flies in the entire building have flocked to this corner of the food court (in much the same way the Manhattan flies seem to hover around Chinatown).  Maybe it is part of the “positive energy flow” of the restaurant set up…
    • Golden Krust Carribbean Bakery - I love Golden Krust.  They actually have a bunch of locations around Manhattan where they sell different kind of patties, and various curried meats.  The one in the terminal is a kiosk with a limited menu, but they have jerk chicken patties (which is enough for me).  Despite being in a kiosk, the patties are baked fresh on premises.
    • Dishes – A smaller version of the enormously popular soup, salad & sandwich place on 45th btw. Madison & 5th
    • Jaques-Imo’s To Geaux - A to-go version of the Cajun restaurant on the Upper West Side, that is a New York version of the famous Jacques-Imo’s in New Orleans.  Their specialty is fried chicken.  (Full review, coming this week)
    • Chirping Chicken – Rotisserie Chicken with sides.  Looked pretty good (aside from there being nobody there)
    • Two Boots – Another outpost of this “not your average” pizza place.
    • And the rest of the bunch… Cafe Spice for Indian, Hale & Hearty Soup, Mendy’s, Junior’s, Masa Sushi, Eata Pita, Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, and Zocalo.

Having eaten at Jacques Imo’s to Geaux, and Golden Krust (in the food court), I can see why people aren’t flocking to recommend these places.  If you’ve ever eaten at the real Jacques-Imo’s in New Orleans, it is easy to be disappointed by the po-boys and fried chicken at the New York version (full review coming later on this week)… and Golden Krust,  like many of the restaurants in the food court, was more expensive then it’s other locations in NYC ($3.50 for a jerk chicken patty.  I could be wrong, but I remember them being at least a buck cheaper at the location over by Madison Sq. Garden).

I understand the whole rent thing, but everything is a little more expensive then it should be in Grand Central Terminal.  But can that be the only reason it is not insanely popular?  Are all the places just terrible, or in the end does it just come down to price?  “Let the tourists coming in on trains pay the high prices… I know cheaper places above ground”. 

In the end, I feel like it can’t be just about price.  Midtown Lunches can get pretty expensive, and these still come in under $10.  So what is it?  Are all these places just terrible, or are there some jems in the Grand Central Terminal Food Court?  Help us out people.  If you’ve eaten at one of these places, comment below on what you thought.  Is one of your favorite places to eat lunch in the food court at Grand Central?  Or all they all just wasted money.  Let us know by commenting below…

In the weeks ahead I’ll try to dedicate some full reviews to the places worth mentioning.  I’m not ready to let this food court go.  It has got to at least be better than the one below Rockefeller Center!


  • Cafe Spice is very good Indian food at fairly reasonable prices. Also, the sandwich/salad place next to the bathrooms (can’t remember the name) has really good buffalo chicken sandwiches – again a bit pricy, but under $10 with a drink. Juniors is good, but also somewhat expensive and you can’t get in and out quickly enough for a work-day lunch.

  • For the love of sour cream apple walnut pie, you’ve neglected to mention the Little Pie Company’s GCT location! My informal survey proves their cheesecake is FAR superior to Junior’s. Their seasonal selection is phenomenal (e.g., last year they had a marvelous pumkin marble cheesecake and cranberry bread for turkey day – order in advance or you might find yourself bribing and begging someone who did). They carry a nice quiche for the lunch crowd (around $7), but really it’s a pretext for the abundant sweet stuff. Bring a girdle.

  • Second the rec for Little Pie Company – but I go only for the sour cream apple walnut pie. Regular apple isn’t half as good, and in my opinion Junior’s is still the best for cheesecake…

  • I eat here fairly often. I really like brother jimmy’s pulled pork (North carolina style) but the sides aren’t that great. Everything seems expensive in there to me, which is why I have a hard time recommending it. The chinese was pretty horrible the one time I had it. Chirping Chicken is one of the better deals down there, but not amazing by any means. Mendy’s was bland, Ciao Bella’s crepes were not very good, the mediterrean (Shawarma, gyros) place is ok but again, a little more expensive.

  • I’m working in the Met Life building for a couple weeks and agree, the Food Court is waayyy too expensive, but then again, it sure is convenient. Got the vegetarian two dish combo yesterday at Cafe Spice. Saag Paneer a little on the salty side, but delicious nonetheless, cheese cubes were fresh and just the right touch of chewiness in that sea of creamed spinach. The other thing was the special — not quite sure what the name is, but you know, the veggie mix with potatoes, cauliflower, in a sauce the consistency of week-old beef stew? Not as salty (sorry, I tend to qualify a lot of foods as salty or not salty enough), but still, the veggies were fresh and tender and the sauce was otherwise pretty good. The chutneys came free of charge. Recommend the green stuff. And actually not that bad for $9.00 considering that there was enough left for lunch today (supplemented with garlic naan for $2.00). The garlic naan I got was seasoned well enough, too bad it was a little on the doughy side and not at all warm.

  • I used to work in GCT and have eaten at many of the places there.

    The BBQ chicken at Brother Jimmy’s is decent and they give you quite a bit of food for around 9 bucks. I think you get a chicken breast, cornbread, pickles and a side (the mashed potatoes are good).

    I never ate the actual Mexican food from Zocalo, but the crab cake sandwiches are bang-up, although you’re probably better off going to the Oyster Bar.

    I LOVE Chirping Chicken. Now that I don’t live in Manhattan, there is no way in hell I would pay 8 bucks for chicken fingers and french fries, but the french fries are damn good. They also have a good grilled chicken pita sandwich with lots of pickles and veggies.

    Hale and Hearty soups are pretty great. I used to be a zealous adherent of the Boston Baked Bean soup with sausage. When they’d have it (not often enough!) I was probably the only one ordering it. They’d see me coming and start getting it ready.

    The Chinese place had a MAJOR rat problem when I worked there (2004-06). I think it was even on one of those undercover expose news shows, where they videotaped all the rats running everywhere. Of course that’s pretty much to be expected in GCT what with the easy access to the tracks, but still. The food’s not that good.

    I love Junior’s! They also give the best takeout accessories in Manhattan… really sturdy plastic forks/knives, heavy napkins, butter and rolls with every order. Their cheeseburgers are good but enormous. Good fries and of course the cheesecake is great. Especially the chocolate mousse cheesecake.

    Dishes has a great Croque Monsieur sandwich– basically a grilled ham and cheese with some fancy sauce. Also good salad, especially since they are large and have plenty of the good stuff (chicken, etc.)

    Hmmm, the pasta place I don’t remember the name of is good, and they make your stuff to order.

    But above all, my recommendation is to skip the food court (which does get insanely busy on the weekends with all the tourists, and during lunch hours), and head to the Oyster Bar… best lunch in Midtown for under 7 bucks… a huge bowl of New England clam chowder and a old-fashioned root beer. And I love sitting down there. It’s neat-o.

  • Oh and I forgot about EATA PITA. The falafel pita rocks, and is about 6 bucks I think. Very good and very messy.

  • I guess calling them bucks instead of dollars makes it seem cheaper. I won’t spent 7, 8 or 9 “bucks” for lunch. I bring my own from home, eat at my desk and go for a walk. I save a fortune and eat whatever I want to without wasting time on a line.

  • your weak……very very weak……

  • You don’t wish to enjoy your midtown lunch dining experience, (9.95 is a small price to pay for culinary heaven) however you blog on!!! A website dedicated to the plight of the midtown worker searching for a delicious and affordable meal. hmmm…..paradox. If you don’t agree with our lifestyle please don’t litter our boards with this blasphemy. thank you.

  • Just had Fend Shui-

    I’m huge into Chinese, but this was downright the worst I’ve ever eaten. Stay away.

    Bro Jimmy’s Beef Brisket Tips Sandwich is amazing and you get a side-Their fries are soggy, greasy, and delicious, but their Mac n Cheese is great too.

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    Caution: All of the GCT food court restaurants are subterranean–below street level, attached directly to the train tracks and surrounded by subway tracks. For all the restaurants in the world that worry about verman, these guys have that worry x 10.

    I had one particularly bad experience at Eat-A-Pita. That night I had a hallucination that I drove myself to the hospital. It was a quite a happy moment given the way I was actually feeling. Feng Shui was also spotlighted on the local news about all of the visitors who would live, work, and play on all of their cooking surfaces in the wee hours of the night. Both near the “fly side” of the FC, so maybe that also has something to do with it.

    Aside from that, Bro Jimmy’s has great chicken wings, Beef Pastrami at Dishes is amazing, and the samosa’s at Cafe Spice are always enjoyable.

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    I freelance every few months for a client near GCT. Discovered the food court and Chirping Chicken has become my favorite. There’s usually only a handful of people on line and service is fast. I usually get the small grilled chicken sandwich. The serving is pretty generous, considering it’s “small” – warmed pita bread, a couple of pieces of grilled chicken, with romaine lettuce, tomato, and choice of dressing on the side. All for $4.95. It’s tasty, affordable, and so far, it’s always been good.

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