Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to the beloved commuter bar & grill Tracks in Penn Station... where the food ain't great but the commuting community loves it anyway.

THE VIBE
Like everyone else I've ever known, I've spent my entire life avoiding Penn Station. It can't be helped at times, of course, descending into the bowels of the most aggressively non-user-friendly transportation center on the planet. And I'll admit that in the late 1970s it seemed almost luxurious down here, as compared to my other option for getting back to school, Port Authority. However, a miserable year spent reverse commuting to Garden City in the early 2000s ensured that my memories of Penn will never be tainted by nostalgia.

Still, there was an outcry over the news that Tracks, a bar and restaurant by the LIRR ticket windows, would be closing at the end of the summer because of a station overhaul, particularly amongst the commuting community that has formed there. And with that came declarations that the food at Tracks and its raw bar are actually not all that bad. So, over the weekend I sat and ate and lingered before two enormous meals at Tracks, to see what I've apparently been missing since 2003.

The first thing you notice when you enter Tracks—besides the fact that the long bar is predictably slammed on a Friday at 5 p.m.—is how much energy and passion co-owner Bruce Caulfield put into the decor. Train imagery is everywhere, from the placemats and dishes to many of the multiple murals and all kinds of random signs and details scattered throughout the space. Thankfully, despite the packed conditions up front, it was easy to get a table in the back dining room on Friday, and on Sunday evening there was plenty of space everywhere. Service was pleasantly brusque in the best diner fashion, and, while I never forgot that I was eating in deep-ass Penn Station, if I had to be here, I might as well be here.

THE BITES
The Tracks menu is heavy on the seafood, which makes sense conceptually I guess, but the raw bar by the bathrooms didn't inspire much confidence. Nevertheless, I dove right in, slurping down six just-shucked oysters (a Blue Point, a Mermaid Cove, a Silver Fox, a Wellfleet, a Kumamoto, and a Shibumi), all of which were a little sad and stringy, and only one of which I wouldn't describe as tasting "off."

That said, the two best dishes I ate here had some connection to the sea. The New England Clam Chowder was satisfying in that thick and creamy way, and it was fun to eat from a sourdough bread bowl. Definitely dump in a bunch of hot sauce though; not the Tabasco your server will offer you, but a plastic crock of the buffalo wings sauce from the kitchen. And the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, while not jumbo, at least tasted fresh and clean and, mostly, of horseradish.

The menu is loaded with traditional bar/diner food, but I wasn't blown away but what I ordered. The Chicken Wings were remarkably dry, and the Tracks Nachos were strewn with unremarkable bird bits (in lieu of the promised chili), which no amount of guacamole could save. The oddly seasoned "1/2 L.B Cheeseburger Deluxe" was unfinishable at any size, and the accompanying Waffle Fries were quite soggy. The Shepherds Pie, a long shot to be sure, though my server's Irish accent gave me some hope, was also bad.

THE VERDICT
It really sucks for commuters and everyone who relies on Tracks for their paycheck that this spot is set to close at the end of the summer, but those mourning the menu have got nothing much to lose. If you do find yourself down there before closing, definitely get the Clam Chowder.

Editor's Note: If they had served food at Cheers it probably wouldn't have been great, either—but that beloved fictional bar and this very real one are about community! Community and martinis.

Tracks is located at "Penn Station Space #11" between the McDonald's and the LIRR ticket windows, and is open on Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., and on Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. (212-244-6350; tracksbargrill.com)