Newsday food writer Scott Vogel breaks down the new dining options at Penn Station. Credit: Randee Daddona

Some people are never happy. Give them a new Penn Station loaded with lots of creative food and drink options, and they’ll wax nostalgic about the dingy and depressing corridors of yesteryear. Yes, the restaurant rollout has taken longer than expected — as of this writing, no fewer than seven lower concourse options, from Pollo Campero to Raising Cane’s, are still on the Coming Soon list. But tons of newish places are already up, running and credibly building a case for the new Penn as something not just to endure but enjoy. Really. From the Moynihan Food Hall to revamped trackside concessions, there’s something for every sort of Long Islander, no matter when, where or why you find yourself Penn-bound, from morning till night.


First and foremost, the commuters. To them, Penn may never be more than a necessary evil, the dividing line between personal and professional life, a place to arrive in the morning absolutely dead. How best to snap out of the funk that is a predawn train from Ronkonkoma? Well, there’s always Le Cafe, which is crawling distance from track 19 and brews up a morning beverage by the name of red eye ($4.75) consisting of a regular cup of drip coffee boosted by a shot of espresso. Equally convenient is Playa Bowls, where operating-room lighting and Welcome to Pineappleland neon signage provides a jolt in itself, as does the list of chia seed puddings, including the berry-loaded Jetty ($14.95). Meanwhile, LIers with a bit more time and/or desperate for a BEC should seek out H & H Bagels in the Moynihan main concourse, where they’re serving up a fine bacon-loaded specimen for $8.45.


Maybe it’s the Greek chorus of constant track announcements and last calls over the loudspeaker, but time is always of the essence at Penn, especially as a.m. becomes p.m., triggering a weekday stampede of souls running for a quick lunch.

J. Womack has lunch at the Moynihan Food Hall in...

J. Womack has lunch at the Moynihan Food Hall in Manhattan. Credit: Linda Rosier

Those with a penchant for grab-and-go can take their pick from a wide variety of attractively priced, pre-packed nigiri, sashimi and more at Yono Sushi in the Moynihan Food Hall (e.g., shrimp tempura roll with orange curry, $12.75), although a few minutes more is all it takes to enjoy an a la carte lunch or sushi rice bowl ($16.50-$18.50) at the adjacent stand-up bar. Employees also work at lightning speed at Naya across the hall, a sort of build-a-bowl workshop (or salad or wrap, $9.99-$12.99) boasting endless ways to customize a Middle Eastern lunch with proteins and dips.


Dos Toros Taqueria (

Le Cafe (

Playa Bowls (646-351-6401,

Rose Pizza (646-351-6504)


Alidoro (646-688-2924,

E.A.K. Ramen (646-222-8801,

H & H Bagels (

The Irish Exit (917-905-3556,

Jacob’s Pickles (646-766-0326,

Laduree (

La Maison du Chocolat (212-265-9402,

Magnolia Bakery (646-908-3500,

Naya (929-946-8406,

Pastrami Queen (212-600-4049,

Yono Sushi (929-969-1054,

Rainbow roll at Yono Sushi, a new eatery at Moynihan...

Rainbow roll at Yono Sushi, a new eatery at Moynihan Food Hall in Penn Station Credit: Scott Vogel


But maybe you need something even faster, as in my-train-leaves-in-10-minutes fast. Back on the LIRR concourse and within sprinting distance of the tracks is a new Dos Toros Taqueria, where the bowls might not be terribly portable but the carne asada quesadillas are. A decent effort albeit with less than fully melted cheese, DT’s best snack will set you back just six minutes — still plenty of time to make your train — and $13.99. (Note to morning folk: they also have breakfast burritos from 7 to 10:30 a.m.)

Then again, a Mexican repast won’t be possible sometimes, namely when the train leaves in five minutes. Fear not, Penn has a plan for such exigencies — at last — with the reopening of beloved Rose Pizza. Revamped digs, yes, but the vibe is exactly as you remember it, as is the clown car of oven-tending counter help. Even when timing is tight, a barmaid can draw a pint from among 30 on tap (45 seconds), a pizzaiolo can heat up a cheese slice (90 seconds, $4.29, most others $4.99), and you’ll still get a seat on the train to Babylon (gait- and track-depending).


Penn can’t do everything — like, say, ensure you have a stellar day at the office — but it’s there for you afterward. When five o’clock means it’s time for an unhealthy way to cope with a bad day at work, therapy both sweet and convenient awaits at Magnolia Bakery in Moynihan train hall. You’d be surprised what a chocolate cupcake with green buttercream icing ($4.15) can do for a working stiff’s morale, or for that matter, a tub of banana pudding ($4.95-$8.75), or a truffle or two at nearby La Maison du Chocolat’s kiosk ($3.50 each).

Chocolate cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery in the Moynihan Train Hall...

Chocolate cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery in the Moynihan Train Hall in Manhattan. Credit: Linda Rosier

After a long day in the salt mines, periodic indulgences like the foregoing are to be expected, even if they do require making amends after missing the 6:46 to Huntington. Smoothing things over at home is as simple as paying a visit to a lovely teal kiosk off the main Moynihan hall for some appropriately lovely confections by master of the macaron Laduree. Like its signature sweet, the shop is small in size but features a rotating cast of vibrant flavors from pistachio to cassis ($3.20 each), each a potentially powerful peace offering and antidote to the silent treatment at home.


When the afternoon commute is in full swing, it’s a cinch that many LIers will be rushing from Gotham, but also TO it, the latter desperately seeking a place to sup before Knicks or Rangers games at the Garden. Snagging an early train is essential, if only to ensure a good seat at Moynihan’s classy-but-functional Irish Exit bar, where you can nurse one of their buzzy train-themed cocktails, from a cognac sidecar with salted banana syrup (In the Knick of Time, $18) to a single-cubed old fashioned (Hampden Bound, $18).

The Irish Exit, a new bar at Moynihan Food Hall...

The Irish Exit, a new bar at Moynihan Food Hall in Penn Station Credit: Newsday/Scott Vogel

Munch your way through a bag of Tayto’s salt and vinegar ($3) while you wait, or QR your way to something more substantial from the food hall. Speaking of which, there may be no better pregame nosh (or value) than the bacon ranch chicken loaded fries at Jacob’s Pickles ($12 for a massive portion), although the honey fried chicken sandwiches on a biscuit run a close second ($10). And while something of a misnomer, the Italian cheesesteak at Alidoro is a sub worth seeking, featuring tender, boldly pink roast beef with provolone cheese on your choice of fine sub bread slathered with truffle cream ($17.50).

Done with work but not in a hurry to head home? Penn hears you. Anyone looking for reasons to miss the 6:53 to Ronkonkoma  will find plenty at Moynihan. Haven’t you wanted to try something from E.A.K. Ramen, that popular Tokyo chain serving up top-drawer bowls? Of course you have. Besides, nothing can return a person to zen-like calm after a frenetic day like the Zebra ($14.80), E. A. K’s Yokohama-style soup composed of pork and chicken broth, shoyu tare seasoning, thick but springy noodles, generous helping of spinach, garlic oil and a few planks of chashu pork that — on one occasion at least — were a bit on the tough side.

Or sidle over to Pastrami Queen, where a few slices of ho-hum rye belie what lies between, a formidable stack of thinly sliced meat juicy enough to support a sandwich all on its own ($18.50), although nearby pots of Thousand Island dressing and brown mustard stand ready to assist if needed.


Rose Pizza has reopened at Penn Station.

Rose Pizza has reopened at Penn Station. Credit: Ed Quinn

Penn only gets sleepier and sleepier as things get later and later, although even then the station stands willing to serve emotional eaters of every stripe — the hangry after late evenings at the office, the binge-jubilant after wins at MSG, the dazed and famished after a long night of clubbing. And in the wee-est of wee hours, all roads, corridors and concourses lead to Rose Pizza again (where else?) and its matchless by-the-slice variety, where there’s something available for every taste, every mood and — best of all — every night until 4 a.m.

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months