Going Underground: NY's Unique Subway Level Drink And Dining Spots
One of New York’s most beloved, under-the-radar, and underground—literally—watering holes was Siberia Bar, a legendary, buzzy dive bar tucked away in a subway station just off Times Square between 1996-2000 (Michael Imperioli was a fan!). Forced to relocate, it moved to Hell’s Kitchen, where it remained for seven years before permanently shuttering.
It took almost two decades, but subway stations are becoming an in-the-know destination for spots to not only get your buzz on from cheap booze to craft cocktails but, as of 2023, also Michelin guide accolade-worthy cuisine and urban food halls with retail shops (Columbus Circle’s Turnstyle Underground Market representing the latter).
Here’s a rundown of six of our favorites worth descending the stairs for and do note that none require passing through MTA turnstiles, so no Metrocard or phone tap fare required for access!
Grand Central Oyster Bar
Having celebrated its 110th birthday last year, this classic New York City seafood and raw bar venue (you’ve likely seen the interior during SNL’s opening credits) is an essential, trailblazing inclusion for this roundup, especially given its hop, skip, and jump proximity to a major subway line hub, including the 7, 4, 5, and 6 trains, and Grand Central’s satellite gallery and shop for NYC’s Transit Museum. The sizable raw and cooked menu—with seafood sourced from Fulton Fish Market during the still dark early morning hours—includes the iconic Manhattan Clam Chowder, Oysters Rockefeller, shrimp cocktails, and several meat and vegetarian options.
Grand Central Station, lower level
This is the era of modern Korean fine dining restaurants—Jua, Little Mad, and Naro to name a mere few—yet former Per Se chef Dae Kim added a twist to his exquisite 14-seat tasting counter venue by situating it in a subway station off Herald Square (just near Koreatown to boot). Opened in 2023, Noksu’s $225 12-course menu is largely seafood-based with some vegetarian and game meat courses peppered in (e.g. Millbrook venison with chanterelle, foie gras, beet and wasabi), all stunningly artful in presentation and flavor profiles with an accompanying menu of inventive cross-cultural cocktails like the Samwise with SG IMO Shochu, salted ube, creme de banane, rice, lime, coconut foam and “tiki bitters.”
49 W. 32nd Street
Spring 2021 saw this Chelsea neighborhood speakeasy open to much fanfare and a crazy long waiting list at the 28th Street and Seventh Avenue 1 train station. Jey Perie, of Williamsburg’s much beloved Kinfolk dance club (a casualty of the COVID lockdown, it closed in 2020), infused the 600-square-foot space with inspiration from venues he experienced in Tokyo and Barcelona, while the cocktail menu also bounces around the globe with a generous dash of Mexico flavor (the Hard Facts entrails tequila, pineapple, bell pepper, cilantro and lemon). Happily, you likely won’t have a wait these days, and as of this writing, La Noxe can be found on the reservations app Tock.
315 7th Avenue
Nothing Really Matters
Owner Adrien Gallo, whose previous F&B outings include Double Happiness and Tribeca’s oyster-bar-on-a-docked-boat Grand Banks, pays homage to Siberia Bar, an acknowledged inspiration, via doses of playful retro and fuck yeah welcoming vibes in his Times Square neighborhood subway-level watering hole. Opened on New Year’s Eve 2021 within the 1 train’s 50th Street and Broadway shopping arcade pathway with no obvious signage (so keep an eye and ear out), NRM offers up cocktails with names that pay homage to NYC’s icons and the city’s spirit like “Empire State” and “Under Broadway,” with even more joy mixed in through parties, events, and themes.
1627 Broadway/50th Street Subway
Forget cake, it’s all about the cocktails here at this eight-year-old Brooklyn Heights speakeasy where Marie Antoinette’s private Versailles chambers serve as inspiration (you enter via a replica of one of her library’s bookshelves). Frequently found on “best of” lists with rockstar mixologists behind its menus, current creations include the Amadeus (aquavit, pisco, purple corn tea, bergamot) while Friday and Saturday nights include a side order of live burlesque (two shows, at 9.30pm and 11.30pm).
135 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn
Adjacent to Grand Central Station, One Vanderbilt is home to the new Long Island Railroad station and, just steps from Grand Central’s tracks beneath a staircase, this 10-seat counter sushi omakase venue overseen by celebrity restaurateur/chef Daniel Boulod. For $275 and $375 at lunch and dinner, respectively, China-raised head chef George Ruan—who honed his skills at NYC’s insanely acclaimed (and priced) Masa—serves up a succulent 22 courses of painstakingly prepared, immaculate seafood (with at least two incorporating caviar).
1 Vanderbilt Ave.
WORDS Lawrence Ferber