The restaurant business in the United States is notoriously competitive. Approximately 60% of new restaurants don’t survive more than a year in business, and 80% don’t last five years. And that was even before coronavirus caused an epidemic of restaurant closures, so even in normal times, it’s a tough racket.
Despite those daunting odds, some restaurants survive and even thrive, welcoming customers for decades or even centuries. While there’s no single specific reason why these restaurants endure as others fall by the wayside, consistently good food and a welcoming atmosphere combined with a location that gets lots of foot traffic probably helps more than it hurts.
The following 21 restaurants are the oldest in America. While some of them are located in cities that experience a steady stream of tourists, others are located in obscure, out-of-the-way burgs that suggest a bit of travel may be involved for many wishing to visit. Whatever the case, these restaurants have endured while others have slipped through the cracks.
Image Credit: unionoysterhouse.com.
21. The Golden Lamb (Lebanon, Ohio)
- Address: 27 S. Broadway, Lebanon, Ohio
- Established: 1803
Golden Lamb opened in 1803 shortly after the village of Lebanon itself was established. When it first opened, founder Jonas Seaman hung a sign with a golden lamb at the door since many travelers couldn’t read. The sign would become the restaurant’s namesake.
Since then, Golden Lamb has hosted 12 U.S. presidents, politicians like Mitt Romney and Henry Clay, as well as literary geniuses like Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Alex Haley, James Whitcomb Riley, Louis Bromfield and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). That’s not to mention the many stars who have dined at Ohio’s longest operating businesses (think Kesha and Charles Laughton, just to name two).
Image Credit: thegoldenlamb / Instagrm.
20. Keens Steakhouse (New York City)
- Address: 72 W. 36th St.
- Established: 1885
When you walk into a restaurant, does it make you sad that they don’t check your pipe? For many years, this was not a problem at Keens Steakhouse in New York City.
Established in 1885, Keens would allow patrons to check their churchwarden pipes, which were too thin and fragile to be shoved thoughtlessly into a pocket or handbag during a meal, lest they break. Sadly, this era is long gone, but you’ll still see hundreds of these pipes displayed throughout the restaurant. You can admire them as you enjoy delectable food,. The menu is chock full of steaks, lobster and some desserts that are pretty hard to pass up.
Image Credit: Keens.com.
19. Claudio’s (Greenport, New York)
- Address: 111 Main St.
- Established: 1870
Greenport is located in the north fork of Long Island in New York state, and it’s home to Claudio’s, a waterfront restaurant and national historic landmark. Like a lot of restaurants that survived the prohibition era, it served only food in an official capacity during those horrible dry years, and had a speakeasy upstairs.
Today, you can openly drink there while you dine on the goods from its predominantly seafood menu.
Image Credit: Claudios.com.
18. Pete’s Tavern (New York City)
- Address: 129 E. 18th St.
- Established: 1864
On its website, Pete’s Tavern describes itself as “the tavern O. Henry made famous,” as it’s the location where he wrote “The Gift of the Magi,” a moving story about two people who give each other presents neither can use. The establishment serves “O. Henry chicken wings” in his honor and even allows you, the intrepid diner, to “build your own burger.”
Image Credit: petestavern.com.
17. The Old Clam House (San Francisco)
- Address: 299 Bayshore Blvd.
- Established: 1861
The Old Clam House has been operating out of the same San Francisco location since 1861. It was originally called the Oakdale Bar & Clam House, and it survived such calamities as the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906, most likely because the food keeps people coming back. As of June 1, 2021, it is temporarily closed due to the pandemic without a firm re-opening date.
The menu contains lots of seafood, although the landlubbers might prefer their “Wicked Wiches” (sandwiches, get it?). The restaurant normally operates 365 days a year.
Image Credit: theoldclamhousesf.com.
16. McGillin’s Olde Ale House (Philadelphia)
- Address: 1310 Drury St.
- Established: 1860
McGillin’s Olde Ale House’s website wants you to know two very important things: “We opened the year Lincoln was elected” and “We survived prohibition.” Those are two data points that illustrate how much history this place has lived through, but none of it would have mattered if the food wasn’t any good.
The menu boasts everything from “fun food for grazers” (translation: fries, wings, and nachos) to sandwiches, burgers and “Mile High Meatloaf,” which one assumes is for people who need to gain a lot of weight very quickly.
Image Credit: mcgillins.com.
15. Gluek’s Restaurant & Bar (Minneapolis)
- Address: 16 N. 6th St.
- Established: 1857
Gluek’s Restaurant & Bar is the self-described “oldest bar in Minneapolis,” dating back to 1857. The building that it’s in suffered a devastating fire in 1989, and it was completely restored one year later, so that today it can bring customers the cheddar curds, fried pickles and Bavarian pretzels that perfectly compliment the cornucopia of beer that the restaurant offers. They also observe Oktoberfest.
Image Credit: glueks.com.
14. Old Ebbitt Grill (Washington, D.C.)
- Address: 675 15th St. NW
- Established: 1856
If Washington, D.C. is going to be a fetid swamp of corruption and degeneracy, there might as well be some good places there to eat. Old Ebbitt Grill has been serving that function since 1856, and even though it’s not in the same location where it started, you are highly unlikely to care about that once the food arrives at your table. Please put us down for a Reuben sandwich and one order of peanut butter pie.
Image Credit: ebbitt.com.
13. McSorley’s Old Ale House (New York City)
- Address: 15 E. 7th St.
- Established: 1854
OK, this is a special case. Founded in 1854, McSorley’s Old Ale House does not actually serve food unless you count the complimentary saltines that you can eat there. The main attraction here is ale, specifically McSorley’s Ale, which is the only thing they serve.
Why are we including them on this list? We’re including them because of all the famous long-ago names that were served there, such as William “Boss” Tweed, but also because it took a landmark 1970 lawsuit for them to start letting women in. A women’s restroom was installed just 16 years later.
Image Credit: mcsorleysoldalehouse.com.
12. Breitbach’s Country Dining (Balltown, Iowa)
- Address: 563 Balltown Rd.
- Established: 1852
Per Breitbach’s Country Dining’s website, Balltown, Iowa is a town so small it doesn’t even have a post office. What it does have in Breitbach’s Country Dining, however, is the oldest food and drinking establishment in the entire state. Opened in 1852 thanks to a federal permit from President Millard Fillmore, it serves all-American comfort food and even has an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Image Credit: breitbachscountrydining.com.
11. Tadich Grill (San Francisco)
- Address: 240 California St.
- Established: 1849
Tadich Grill is not just the oldest continuously-run restaurant in San Francisco; it’s the oldest one in the entire state of California. Founded in 1849, their website proudly proclaims that it has “large portions [and] fresh ingredients,” and the menu contains a diverse mix of salads, seafood, steaks and among much, much more. They even serve Boston and Coney Island Clam Chowder for displaced and homesick East Coast residents.
Image Credit: tadichgrillsf.com.
10. Antoine’s (New Orleans)
- Address: 713 St Louis St.
- Established: 1840
It’s really hard to get a bad meal anywhere in New Orleans, but some places are simply a cut above. Antione’s is one of those places. Situated in the French Quarter, it’s been serving customers since 1840, and considering how much competition there is among NOLA’s restaurants, that’s saying a lot. The menu is full of mouthwatering French-Creole dishes, and even has a four-course dinner special that starts with baked gruyere cheese bits and ends with Baked Alaska.
Image Credit: antoines.com.
9. Arnold’s Bar and Grill (Cincinnati, Ohio)
- Address: 210 E. 8th St.
- Established: 1838
Arnold’s Bar and Grill consists of two buildings that were both created in the late 1830’s. One was originally a barber shop and the other was originally a feed store.
According to the website, during the prohibition years, Hugo Arnold, a descendant of the founder Simon Arnold, made gin in his bathtub. Today of course, you can drink brazenly while you nosh, and in a sign of the times, the restaurant even has vegan and gluten-free menus.
Image Credit: arnoldsbarandgrill.com.
8. J. Huston Tavern (Arrow Rock, Missouri)
- Address: 305 Main St.
- Established: 1834
J. Huston Tavern asks potential patrons to “step back in time” when you dine within its four walls. Built in 1834 by Joseph Huston, Sr., it was originally meant to be his family’s home, but the immigrants traveling west became the first customers to eat and lodge there.
It’s the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi, and the smoked pork, fried chicken and beef brisket keeps people coming back for more. You can even get a chicken fried pork tenderloin, which sounds heavenly.
Image Credit: hustontavern.com.
7. New Hudson Inn (New Hudson, Michigan)
- Address: 56870 Grand River Ave.
- Established: 1831
The New Hudson Inn was founded in 1831 and, according to its website, was “solidly built out of 18” sewn timbers and hardwood held together with wooden pegs.”
Those who choose to dine there can do so free of concern that their meal will be disrupted by shoddy workmanship, allowing them to focus on such delicacies as “White Trash Nachos,” otherwise known as potato chips covered in bacon, smoked pork and cheddar cheese. Ask your cardiologist if White Trash Nachos are right for you!
Image Credit: newhudsoninn1831.com.
6. Union Oyster House (Boston)
- Address: 41 Union Street
- Established: 1826
Union Oyster House proclaims itself “America’s oldest restaurant,” which some other restaurants on this list may take issue with. Located right next to Boston’s Faneuil Hall, the building it’s in dates back to before the Revolutionary War.
Since it started serving food in 1826, it’s boasted such luminaries as Daniel Webster as a customer. Because it’s in Boston, the menu is heavy on seafood, not that anyone’s complaining. You can get a steak there too, if you feel you must.
Image Credit: unionoysterhouse.com.
5. The Griswold Inn (Essex, Connecticut)
- Address: 36 Main Street
- Established: 1776
Despite the Revolutionary War starting in 1776, someone apparently thought that was a good time to open a restaurant. Built primarily to serve the appetites of shipyard workers who were building the warship Oliver Cromwell, the restaurant mainly serves comfort food, and even though it’s steeped in history, their website assures one and all that the food at the Griswold Inn is “anything but dated.”
Image Credit: The Griswold Inn.
4. Gadsby’s Tavern (Alexandria, Virginia)
- Address: 138 N. Royal Street
- Established: 1770
Founded in 1770, Gadsby’s Tavern is just 21 years younger than the city of Alexandria where it resides. Today the site consists of two buildings – a second tavern that was built in 1785 and the City Hotel, built in 1792.
The part that was the original tavern in 1770 is now a museum. It gets a little confusing, but since you can eat a dish called “George Washington’s Favorite” (roasted half duck with corn pudding), just put on your tri-cornered hat and get eating!
Image Credit: gadsbystavernrestaurant.com.
3. Fraunces Tavern (New York City)
- Address: 54 Pearl St.
- Established: 1762
Fraunces Tavern is located in a landmarked building in Manhattan’s Financial District that is the city’s oldest standing structure. It was established prior to the Revolutionary War, and none other than George Washington himself used it as the site to thank his officers nine days after that war ended.
The tavern has a museum on-site, and while most of the food is pretty modern, although you can also get “Jefferson’s Cobb Salad,” which one assumes refers to the dude on the $10 bill.
Image Credit: frauncestavern / Instagram.
2. Tivoli Bar and Grill (San Diego, California)
- Address: 505 Sixth Ave.
- Established: 1885
Tivoli Bar and Grill opened in 1885, and it has a rich and colorful history. By “rich and colorful,” we mean that the apartments above the bar once served as brothel rooms, with hourly rates to boot! Also, Wyatt Earp used to frequent the establish to gamble and drink when he wasn’t taming the Wild West.
The wooden bar is an original fixture dating back to the establishment’s earliest days, along with its silver cash register. Eater gave it high marks for having a “friendly staff, a laidback clientele of varying age groups, cheap drinks and respectably decent bar fare–think wings and burgers.”
Image Credit: Tivoli Bar and Grill / Facebook.
1. White Horse Tavern (Newport, Rhode Island)
- Address: 26 Marlborough St.
- Established: 1673
The White Horse Tavern is the oldest restaurant in America. Built in 1652 as a residence for an English immigrant named Francis Brinley, it was acquired in 1673 by William Mayes, Sr. and turned into a tavern.
It didn’t get its name until tavern keeper Jonathan Nichols dubbed it the White Horse Tavern in 1730. Today, its locally-sourced menu offers Beef Wellington, Waygu Beef Short Ribs and Lobster Mac & Cheese.
This article was
produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.
Image Credit: whitehorsetavernnewport.com.
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