The American restaurant landscape is dominated by fast-food locations. McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway and several pizza chains have tens of thousands of locations. However, a small number of restaurants were established in the mid-19 century, and among them is the oldest restaurant in America.
The chance a restaurant is open for more than a century is tiny. Tastes in food change. Recessions take away customers. Many restaurants close soon after opening. Most venerable establishments have gone through many changes over the decades. Locations have shifted, and sometimes they have even been destroyed and rebuilt, or closed down for years before being revived.
24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of several restaurants around America that, as far as contemporary research can determine, were concerned with food as well as drink from the beginning, even if they opened as taverns or saloons. From these, we picked the oldest.
To determine the oldest restaurant in America, 24/7 Tempo consulted lists published on a variety of food, travel and history websites, as well as numerous local and regional publications and the historical sections of many restaurant websites.
Antoine’s is the nation’s oldest restaurant. Located in New Orleans, Louisiana, it opened in 1840.
The country’s oldest family-run restaurant, and by some definitions the oldest restaurant, period, Antoine’s was opened a block away from its current French Quarter location by 18-year-old Antoine Aciatore, an immigrant from France, and his wife, Julie. She, and later their son Jules, took over the place after Antoine’s health failed in the 1870s. Jules’ son Roy succeeded him and ran Antoine’s until 1972. Roy’s grandson, Rick Blount, became chief executive and proprietor in 2005. The menu of rich Creole specialties includes oysters Rockefeller and eggs Sardou, two famous dishes invented here.
Only places opened later than 1830 were considered, since that was the year Delmonico’s in New York City (widely considered to have been the country’s first real restaurant) started doing business. Establishments that were primarily bars, taverns, inns and the like in their early years, developing into restaurants only decades later, were not included.