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On the Water: Made in Manhattan

Thu, 06/22/2023 - 09:34
The Oyster Bar at Manhattan’s Grand Central Station is as good for people-watching as it is for seafood. 
Jon M. Diat

Given the amount of time I’ve spent in Manhattan recently dealing with a medical issue, I have not been on the Rock Water in several weeks. That will likely change shortly, as I plan to take advantage of the excellent striped bass fishing that’s been occurring in many areas. A few drifts for fluke will also be in the cards.

Alas, it was still good to spend a bit of time back in the big city. Picking up an egg and bacon sandwich on a fresh kaiser roll along with a hot cup of coffee at the local bodega on the corner of our block was nice.

Alex, the longtime owner of York Deli on the Upper East Side, always greets his patrons with a very generous smile. He also freely shows his love for music as he constantly sways back and forth to the energetic rhythm of the Puerto

Rican salsa that pulsates in his compact establishment. Alex is never not happy. And his egg sandwiches and coffee are always great.

His bodega is also where a gentle calico cat named Poquito, a former stray, now calls home. Often, Poquito can be found curled up, fast asleep near your feet where you place your order. She is nonplused by all of the fast-paced commotion that surrounds her every time I’m there. Much like a fisherman protecting his or her secret spot, it’s her turf. And she knows it.

“Poquito moves for nobody,” Alex reminded me on my last visit. “She’s the boss.” And a cute one at that.

Another treat is heading to Midtown to one of the four horseshoe-shape counters of the Grand Central Oyster Bar. Often before hopping aboard a Long Island Rail Road train to Bridgehampton, I make my way to the iconic white-tiled restaurant that first opened its doors in 1913. It was also my father’s favorite restaurant.

Making a decision on what to order off the extensive seafood menu is not easy. At any given time, there are around two dozen different varieties of fresh oysters to slurp down, several of which may have been harvested from the East End.

Other personal favorites include the soft-shell crabs sauteed in garlic butter, deep-fried smelts and squid, broiled codfish, shad roe fried with bacon, clams casino, oyster pan roast, and the rich, velvety smooth she-crab soup. The maatjes herring, flown in directly from Holland, is another seasonal treat.

Just as good as the food, the massive subterranean restaurant that can seat upward of 440 provides a great vantage point for people-watching. Men and women in business attire mix seamlessly with the constant stream of tourists who have found their way to the lower level of the train station. It’s an entertaining show.

A good chuckle usually happens when the seasoned waiters get exasperated by some of the questions posed by a newbie.

“What’s the difference between Manhattan and New England clam chowder?” is a rather common query I often overhear.

The clenched facial expression and tightened lips the waiters exhibit as they turn away after taking the order is worth the price of admission itself. I can sympathize a bit with their look.

The restaurant, given its reputation and history, brings back the spirit of old school New York City charm in action.

We have a new leader atop the Montauk Surf Masters Spring Shootout. And it’s a very familiar name among the surf-casting clan. Brandon Sausele has retaken first place with a 51-pound striper that he caught and released early on Sunday morning. Sitting in second is John Bruno with his 48-pound bass. Mike Coppola also weighed in a 48-pound linesider, but as per the tournament rules, the first fish weighed wins the tie.

Given all of the supersize stripers now in Montauk, it’s still not too late to enter the popular contest, which concludes on July 9. Bigger fish are clearly on the feed here. Sign-ups are still being accepted at Paulie’s Tackle Shop in downtown Montauk.

Once again, the East Hampton Kiwanis Club and the Montauk Friends of Erin, in concert with the hard work of Henry Uihlein of Uihlein’s Marina, will hold the popular Montauk Mercury Grand Slam Charity Fishing Tournament on July 15 and 16. It will honor Capt. Frank Braddick, the longtime owner of the charter boat Hurry Up, as the Fishing Legend of the Year.

Lots of prizes and cash are up for grabs for the largest striped bass, bluefish, sea bass, and fluke. Ten kids under the age of 13 will also have a chance to win a new rod and reel and tackle box as part of the Wayne Clinch Memorial Kids Catch program, along with an opportunity to win an inflatable boat with a Mercury motor. Additional details can be found at mtkmercurygrandslam.com.

It is truly nice to see the spirit of Clinch remain strong on the docks of Montauk nearly 10 years after his death. We still very much miss you, Wayne. Tight lines and continued calm seas. I’m sure the fishing is great in heaven.

Fishing tips, observations, and photographs can be sent to [email protected].

 


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