Americans love to eat out, and that’s never been truer than in the 21st century. Yet, despite our love for letting someone else cook for us, restaurants shutter their doors in large numbers each year.
With more than one million restaurants in the United States, you might wonder how the oldest standing restaurants have made it through the years. They all have something in common: great food that stands the test of time, ambiance, and superb service.
In this article, we look at seven of the most historic restaurants in America – the ones with longevity over 100 years. We’ll explore what they do to keep their doors open to give you some insight so you can do the same.
#1: Union Oyster House in Boston, Massachusetts
Heading up our list is America’s oldest restaurant. The Union Oyster House is located on the Freedom Trail near Faneuil Hall.
It’s housed in a building that dates back to our pre-Revolutionary days. They began serving food to customers in 1826. This restaurant is a National Historic Landmark and Boston classic.
Their popularity grew during the oyster frenzy in the early 1800s. Perhaps it’s these same oysters that keep people going back to enjoy dishes like Clams Casino and Fried Oysters.
#2: Antoine’s in New Orleans, Louisiana
Amazingly, Antoine’s Restaurant is still owned by fifth generation relatives of the original founder, Antoine Alciatore.
They are renowned for their amazing French-Creole cuisine, incredible service, and unique atmosphere.
Founded in 1840, Antoine’s is the originator of such delicacies as Oysters Rockefeller, Eggs Sardou Sardou (poached eggs topped with artichoke hearts, ham, anchovies, truffles, and hollandaise sauce), and Pommes de Terre Soufflées (their famous fried puffed potatoes).
Loved by presidents as well as locals, Antoine’s is certainly an experience in the heart of New Orleans.
Today, customers can enjoy fine dining, areas for private parties, weddings, birthdays, and corporate meetings. Whether your group is small or large, they can handle seating over 700.
Longevity, great food, superb ambiance, and top notch service unites these historic restaurants.
#3: Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut
Founded in 1895, Louis’ Lunch still cooks its world famous burgers on the original cast-iron grills from the late 1800s.
Louis made America’s very first hamburger sandwich in 1900 with hand-shaped patties served between toast with cheese and an onion.
Family owned and operated, the fourth generation of Louis’ family is at the helm. The attribute their success to staying true to their family history and preserving the past for future generations.
The Library of Congress recognized the restaurant as the birthplace of the hamburger sandwich. Print and television outlets have featured the restaurant many times.
To this day, they serve the same freshly ground hamburger made with five cuts of meat on white toast with only cheese, onion and tomato as garnishes.
#4: Tadich Grill in San Francisco, California
Tadich Grill is the third oldest continuously run restaurant in America behind the Union Oyster House and Antoine’s.
It opened in 1849 during the height of the California Gold Rush. The began as a coffee stand, but it’s been a full service restaurant since John Tadich bought it in 1887.
Tadich, a Croatian, is said to be the first American restaurant to grill seafood over mesquite charcoal.
They serve their customers at the same wooden bar as today. The restaurant has barely changed in all these years. Diners can enjoy the same delicious seafood Tadich’s has served for over a century.
#5: White Horse Tavern in New Port, Rhode Island
While the tavern and restaurant opened in 1673, the restaurant is housed in a building constructed earlier than that.
The name came to be when Jonathan Nichols bought the restaurant in 1730. Like others on this list, the White Horse Tavern is a National Historic Landmark.
The colonial building with its clapboard walls, gambrel roof, giant beams, tiny front hall, and enormous fireplaces have welcomed diners for centuries with their innovative menu and great service.
#6: Katz’s Delicatessen in New York, New York
This restaurant, which began in 1888, is a legendary icon in New York. It has so many fans that Katz’s even ships worldwide.
The original deli was called Iceland Brothers and resided on Ludlow Street in New York’s Lower East Side. When Willy Katz joined the team in 1903, the name changed to Iceland and Katz.
In 1910, Willy’s cousin, Benny, joined him, and they bought out the Iceland brothers, changing the name to Katz’s Delicatessen. Another man, Harry Tarowsky, joined the partnership in 1917, and they moved the building across the street (because of subway construction). This is where it stands today.
This legend serves sandwiches, deli fare, and their famous pastrami and corned beef to hordes of locals, visitors, and ship to order customers all over the world.
#7: Griswold Inn in Essex, Connecticut
Another one of America’s oldest continuously run restaurants, the Griswold Inn was founded in 1776 to provide shelter and food for shipyard workers who built ships for the war.
Diners may find themselves sitting in seats that George Washington, Mark Twain, and Albert Einstein sat in. They’ll enjoy rustic American food and the ambiance of many of the original fixtures from the late 1770s.
The artifacts include marine art, prints by Currier & Ives, ship’s portraits, illustrations by Norman Rockwell, and a collection of firearms used in the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War.
Today, new owners run the inn and the dining areas. Diners may choose historic dining, wine bar, or taproom and 34 unique guests rooms.
With modernization comes a bit of change, yet the Griswold Inn still serves its original purpose as a gathering place for the community. It’s a place to make family traditions, and where history continues.
The most historic restaurants in America are certainly doing something right. To be one of the longest-running restaurants, you need a timeless design, a solid menu that lasts through the decades, and service that’s top notch. (tweet this)
These restaurants have fortitude, patience, and determination to make it through the good times and the not-so-good times. They are unique and powerful survivors.
Take some tips from them and watch your restaurant move seamlessly into the next 20 or so years.