Tracks To Chug Back to Its Underground Roots at LIRR Concourse in Penn Station

Tracks Raw Bar and Grill, which was forced from the LIRR concourse by the MTA due to station renovations in 2019, is heading back to its old home near Track 18 by the end of the year. It had taken up a perch on West 31st opposite MSG in recent years.

| 10 Jul 2024 | 12:27

After a 5-year hiatus, Tracks Raw Bar and Grill will be moving back home to the Long Island Rail Road level of Pennsylvania Station from its current W. 31st home, opposite Madison Square Garden.

The original partners of Tracks are splitting up, with majority owner Bruce Caulfield heading up a new investment group that will return the bar its underground roots.

As to the current location on West 31st Street: the pub/restraurant will stay, but rebranded, with the other co-partners there, the brothers Michael and Patrick O’Brien. Caulfield will remain a partner there, but the brothers will not be part of the Penn Station location or a new Tracks that will become the first restaurant in the heretofore amenity-challenged LIRR station at Grand Central Madison. That Tracks also plans to open later this year.

Caulfield said a host of former Tracks Penn Station employees will be brought back, including several who returned to their native Ireland when the old Tracks closed five years ago.

One of the reasons for the return to its underground roots? Co-owner Caulfield told Straus News in an exclusive interview: “Many people said bring back Tracks!”

Neither Caulfield nor Vornado disclosed the terms of the new lease, which has a ten year term. But it is pricey. The MTA disclosed that the lease for the other planned opening of Tracks in Grand Central Madison in a separate ten-year lease will charge the restaurant about $300,000 in rent for its first year, plus 12 percent of all its gross sales that exceed $2.5 million.

The return to the LIRR concourse coincides with the extensive makeover of the Long Island Rail Road’s facilities, whose many retail establishments are reopening in a brighter, wider space even as the station’s long term fate remains a political hot potato.

Tracks Raw Bar and Grill will re-occupy the same 3,150 sq. ft. space where it was originally housed. There will be 66 seats in the dining area, which will evoke a Victorian-era club car and 35 in the bar space. The new location will stress offerings which include a gustatory gamut from chicken wings to a NY strip steak and the award-winning oyster bar. Tracks will also reintroduce its highly popular seasonal Lobster Fest and Soft Shell Crab menu.

The unique railroad items currently on display at the West 31st location will head back to the once and future home as well, reviving the original look that made Tracks a unique destination. In a nod to decor, the restaurant’s railroad heritage will contain vintage prints and murals celebrating the history of the Long Island Rail Road.

The new space in Penn Station is managed by real estate developer Vornado Reality Trust’s which is involved in the overall redevelopment and ongoing revitalization in Penn Station. That effort has been controversial to say the least. Vornado was originally planning to ring the station with ten new office towers but after starting the first two, opted to put the remainder on indefinite hold, citing the soft office real estate market in post-COVID Manhattan.

Community Board 5 has pushed to have Madison Square Garden move to make way for an above ground rail hub. But the plans have stalled and MSG recently got a new ten year lease, which means any Penn Station redevelopment is clearly a long way off. Caulfield told Straus News that he signed a ten-year lease with Vornado.

Architect Alessandro Preda, who is also assisting with the new Tracks Raw Bar and Grill at Grand Central Madison also spoke with Straus News.

Preda noted: “Designing the two new Tracks locations, I aimed to preserve the essence of the original while embracing the unique characteristics of each site. Tracks Penn will be situated in its original location at Penn Station.”

“This space features low ceilings, a rhythmic pattern created by ceiling beams, and a long, narrow layout. Its inherent intimacy enhanced by an elegant and warm material palette that pays homage to the original Tracks, while clearly updating the design for the 21st century. The railroad theme is subtly woven throughout the space, expressed in an abstract manner.”

“Tracks has always been more than just a bar—it’s a piece of New York’s history,” said Caulfield. “We’re thrilled to bring back the cozy atmosphere and exceptional hospitality that made it a favorite for commuters and locals alike.”

He added this about his new landlord, “We appreciate the team at Vornado who have made this transition so seamless, and look forward to continuing to be a part of this thriving neighborhood.”

Penn Cellars another enterprise owned by Caulfield, a successor to his previous Penn Station liquor store that had closed a while ago should re-open soon as well, Caulfield disclosed.

Caulfield said he plans to stage a grand re-opening for Tracks Raw Bar & Grill before the end of the year.