All Aboard for the Coolest Train Station Restaurants
Train station dining is usually serviceable at best: a fast food mega-chain here, a coffee-and-newspaper stand there. Real culinary tourism is best saved for one’s destination, not the journey. But there are some real gems bucking that norm. Iconic or even Michelin-starred dining experiences can be found in stations in major metropolitan centers such as Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and London. Meanwhile, stations in Denver and Washington, D.C. have seen their fare improve in recent years. (And New York’s Grand Central is slated for another winning concept—a Nordic restaurant and food hall from respected Copenhagen restaurateur Claus Meyer.) Read on for nine of the world’s best restaurants that just so happen to be located inside train stations.
Grand Central Oyster Bar
Grand Central Oyster Bar is a New York City landmark. Opened in 1913 on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal, the oyster bar was both an architectural beauty and go-to stop for travelers coming to and from New York. To this day, it remains one of the best places for oysters in a city full of options, and the kind of restaurant that inspires food writers to wax nostalgic for its Manhattan clam chowder and timeless ambiance.
Stoic & Genuine
When Denver’s Union Station reopened last year after extensive renovations, it brought with it a clutch of new—and worthy—restaurants. Stoic & Genuine, a seafood temple from Denver chef Jennifer Jasinski commanded attention even before it opened. Between its raw bar, “seafood tower of power,” and “surf in turf” dish of big-eye tuna wrapped in New York strip steak, Stoic & Genuine won strong reviews and was even named one of 5280 magazine’s top ten new Denver restaurants.
Mercantile Dining & Provision in Denver's Union Station
In a stroke of fortune, Denver Union Station’s remodel project actually yielded two highly regarded restaurant projects. Mercantile Dining & Provision, run by chef Alex Seidel, is one part casual restaurant and one part food market selling charcuterie, cheese, jam, and more. The menu here offers a variety of pasta dishes such as squid ink bucatini, Spanish octopus a la plancha, a crispy half chicken, and family dinners like a bone-in 36-ounce rib-eye or roasted lamb shoulder, each served with a variety of sides. Mercantile, too, was named one of 5280 Magazine’s best new restaurants in 2015.
Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo's Ginza metro station
Just as Tokyo is a place for world-class dining, the Japanese capital also offers world-class train station eats. Sukiyabashi Jiro is the most famous sushi restaurant on the planet, particularly since owner Jiro Ono’s dedication to perfection was immortalized in David Gelb’s film Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Attached to Tokyo’s Ginza metro station, Sukiyabashi Jiro has three Michelin stars, one of the world’s toughest tables to book, and an omakase offering that has won praise from critics, chefs, and even world leaders.
Rokurinsha in Tokyo Station
Tokyo Station is the city’s main train station and it, too, has some pretty incredible dining. For one, there’s an entire section of the station called Ramen Street, home to some of the city’s best ramen restaurants. Rokurinsha commands some of the biggest lines with its focus on tsukemen, a type of ramen in which you dip noodles into a separate bowl of soup. This is the spot that Momofuku’s David Chang has declared “the best ramen in the world.”
Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s dim sum favorite Tim Ho Wan has several locations across the city, including one in Hong Kong Station. Famed and affordable, Tim Ho Wan’s specialties include a barbecue pork bun, steamed egg cake, and pan-fried carrot cake. Hong Kong-based food writer Janice Leung Hayes notes that the Hong Kong Station location is convenient to the Airport Express train “and if you get takeout, the queue is much shorter!”
Le Train Bleu in Paris
Open since 1901 in the Gare du Lyon in Paris, Le Train Bleu is a legend of train station dining. With a dining room that’s ornate and palatial, Le Train Bleu is named for the express train to the French Riviera that once was a symbol of all things luxurious. It has served as a scene in a variety of films, and though it’s certainly not a top-tier dining option in Paris anymore, it continues to command respect for its menu of French cookery.
Gilbert Scott in London's St. Pancras
Dining has long been an afterthought in London’s railway stations, but the 2011 opening of The Gilbert Scott was a welcome change for many, including The Guardian food writer Tim Hayward, who declared that the new restaurant was “a rare treat: destination dining to be proud of.” Owned by British celebrity chef Marcus Wareing, The Gilbert Scott celebrates British produce and cuisine with dishes like Cornish chicken, rabbit and prawn pie, grilled sea bream, and a weekend roast menu.
Shake Shack at Union Station, DC
Shake Shack isn’t just another fast food company. It is a cultishly beloved burger chain borne of Danny Meyer’s New York-based Union Square Hospitality Group. In recent years, Shake Shack has expanded not only aggressively beyond New York City, but also into the airport and train station game. There’s a location in New York’s Grand Central station, but it’s by far the best dining option in Washington, D.C.’s historic Union Station. As of this spring, this outlet serves breakfast burgers now, too, for early morning travelers.