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Grand Central Is Going Hard on a Plan to Be a Hip Dining Destination

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Are transit stations the new food halls?

The main grand central terminal with a golden vaulted ceiling with green paint. Some people are seen walking inside the terminal.
Grand Central’s main terminal

Grand Central is doubling down on a plan in place to transform itself into a dining destination for a newer, hipper clientele. The transit hub is replacing five of its longtime food vendors with trendier restaurants and cafe — including a restaurant and whiskey bar from Oprah Winfrey’s former personal chef, the Post reports.

Heading in next year will be Soho French open-faced sandwich restaurant Tartinery, as well as Art Bird & Whiskey Bar from chef Art Smith, who formerly cooked for Oprah and has since turned into a TV chef. Art Bird is replacing Dishes, a grab-and-go spot, with a $4.1 million-per-year rent compared to Dishes’ $3.3 million offer.

But the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — Grand Central’s landlord — wants hotter tenants so badly that it was willing to take lower rents, too. Tartinery offered a lower bid than competitor coffee shop Irving Farm, which is on the outs. Tartinery won out because the MTA believed it could have the “ability to attract new customers,” MTA told the Post. Others out the door are cheesecake king Junior’s, Two Boots Pizza, and Grand Harvest Wines.

The transit company will issue five requests-for-proposals for existing spaces by the end of the year, in addition to the three they issued this year. Twelve RFP’s will go out in 2018. Despite Tartinery decision, the MTA expects total rental income by 7 percent this year. By comparison, 2016 and 2015 saw 4.5 percent and 1.1 percent year-over-year increases respectively, so it’s a marked difference.

Clearly the MTA is hoping to draw in more money to Grand Central with these moves too, a tactic that has been deployed in other transit hubs as well. The Oculus, Penn Station, Columbus Circle subway station, Fulton Center subway station, and more have all upped their food game in recent years, hosting a lot of hipper food tenants. It’s part of a growing trend nationwide.

At Grand Central, the dining options have gone through several changes recently, too, with chef Claus Meyer’s Nordic entrants in Great Northern Food Hall and Agern, recently renovated swanky cocktail bar The Campbell, and celebrity chef Donatella Arpaia’s Prova Pizzabar all opening in the last year and a half. Stay tuned for more.