Eating at 15 of the USA's most historic Restaurants

Recommended Posts

Some people plan their overseas trips (remember those?) around landmarks.

I always plan mine around cigar bars, bars and food. :D

I came across the below and thought I would share. Travelling throughout the US is one of my favourite things to do. The food can be both brilliant and ....perplexing. 

I have only eaten at the Colombia from the below list. It is decent and I would certainly go back again. 

Let us know if you have eatern at any of the below + your thoughts :cigar:

Saugus Café

Where: Santa Clarita, California

Opened: 1888


The History: Founder James Herbert Tolfree began dishing up coffee, steak and eggs to Saugus Eating House patrons from the north end of the city’s brand-new train depot. In 1903, Teddy Roosevelt allegedly sampled the New York steak (verdict: “splendid”). In the 1920s, as automobiles displaced trains, the eatery moved across the road and took on its current classic SoCal diner look. It became a hangout for movie stars filming Western movies nearby. Framed photos of John Wayne, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich and other Hollywood royalty make up the décor.

Customers Return For: Community gossip, diner staples like chicken-fried steak and corned beef hash.


Jones Bar-B-Q Diner

Where: Marianna, Arkansas

Opened: c. 1910

Jones Bar-B-Q Diner | Marianna, AR |

The History: Run out of the Jones family home, the diner has only two tables. That’s a big expansion from the days when founder Joe Jones began smoking pork in a pit in the ground and selling the meat from a washtub at his back door. Today, it’s the country’s oldest Black-owned restaurant (now in the hands of the third generation) and keeps everything simple: BBQ pulled-pork sandwiches on Wonder bread, sliced meat by the pound, an sides of slaw

Customers Return For: The family recipe, which won a James Beard Award and routinely makes BBQ “bucket lists.” They know to show up early, since owners James and Betty Jones close whenever they run out of meat—sometimes before noon.

White Horse Tavern

Where: Newport, Rhode Island

Opened: 1673


The History: This colonial-era tavern-turned-fine-dining-establishment calls one of Newport’s oldest buildings home and may well be the country’s oldest restaurant. During the 18th century, it was (variously) owned by a pirate, occupied by British and Hessian troops during the Revolutionary War and (allegedly) hosted George Washington and his staff when they planned the Battle of Yorktown. The Preservation Society of Newport County saved it from demolition in the 1950s, after which it reopened as a fine dining establishment. An original beehive oven survives in the kitchen.

Customers Return For: New England staples, ranging from lobster mac and cheese to oysters—and (possibly) a glimpse of one of the resident ghosts near the dining room fireplace.

SAVE OUR RESTAURANTS: HISTORY is partnering with the James Beard Foundation for a philanthropic initiative aimed at providing resources and aid to help preserve historic, landmark restaurants in America who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more here.

Tadich Grill

Tadich Grill, San Francisco, California, America's Most Historic Restaurants

Staff on break at the Tadich Grill in San Francisco, California, 2011.

Where: San Francisco

Opened: 1849

The History: The roots of California’s oldest continually run restaurant lie in a wharf-side coffee stand set up by three Croatian immigrants to cater to the Gold Rush—first in a tent and then under a corrugated iron roof. The restaurant that followed became known for pioneering mesquite-grilled fish.  In the 1960s, Wells Fargo Bank, which owned the premises, delayed redeveloping the block Tadich stood on until the owner found new a new home; turns out, the bank’s CEO was a daily customer.

Customers Return For: The Art Deco décor, oysters and that iconic grilled fish.

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse

Where: Oklahoma City

Opened: 1910


The History: Founded to feed ravenous ranchers, cattle haulers and others doing business in the Oklahoma City’s stockyards. Some of the beef slaughtered in the area, known as “Packing Town,” ended up on the casual restaurant’s tables. Famously, a roll of the dice determined the restaurant’s fate in 1945, when local rancher Gene Wade rolled a double 3 to acquire the steakhouse from its former owner, an incorrigible gambler. Over the decades, everyone from rodeo stars to presidents (Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr.) has dined on its steaks.

Customers Return For: Those steaks (especially the T-Bone) and lamb fries, a.k.a. fried lamb testicles.

READ MORE: Automat: Birth of a Fast Food Nation

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Where: New York City

Opened: 1920


The History: Entering its second century of operations, this classic dim sum eatery in Chinatown is now run by the second member of the second family to own it. (Wilson Tang walked away from a Wall Street job in 2011 to take over Nom Wah from his uncle.) In the early 20th century, the Doyers Street location was notorious for gang warfare among the various Chinese “tongs.” Decades later, ruthless business conflicts among Chinatown bakeries pushed the Tang family to give up their popular mooncakes to focus on dim sum dumplings.

Customers Return For: Soup buns, rice rolls and Nom Wah’s “The Original” (OG) egg roll.


Columbia Cuban restaurant and cigar bar in Ybor City, Tampa, Florida.

Where: Ybor City, Tampa, Florida

Opened: 1905

Columbia, Ybor City, Tampa, FL, America's Most Historic Restaurants

The History: Local cigar workers flocked to the original small saloon for its Cuban coffee and sandwiches. During Prohibition, the family owners expanded and upgraded, offering fine dining and live entertainment. (Today, it’s flamenco dancers, nightly.) Over the years, luminaries like Babe Ruth, Liberace, Jack Dempsey and Marilyn Monroe flocked to savor both the food and the city’s first air-conditioned restaurant—now Florida’s oldest.

Customers Return For: Latin flavors, from Cuban black bean soup to arroz con pollo. Now that Prohibition is history, they savor sangria and mojitos.

READ MORE: Why Ice Cream Soared in Popularity During Prohibition


Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, c. 1900.

Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

Opened: 1840

Antoine's Restaurant, New Orleans, America's Most History Restaurants

The History: The iconic home of Louisiana French Creole dining, Antoine’s is now headed by the sixth generation of the Alciatore family, and named in honor of its creator, who launched his new business at the age of only 18. Antoine’s son, Jules, created Oysters Rockefeller. (The family recipe remains a secret.) The restaurant became a main character in the 1948 bestseller, Dinner at Antoine’s, by Frances Parkinson Keyes.

Customers Return For: Those oysters, and baked Alaska. Fine dining in rooms devoted to Mardi Gras themes.

Ben’s Chili Bowl

Ben's Chili Bowl restaurant on U Street in Washington, D.C.

Where: Washington, D.C.

Opened: 1958

Ben's Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C., America's Most Historic Restaurants

The History: Segregation, riots, gentrification: Family-owned Ben’s Chili Bowl has ridden out all manner of challenges from its perch on U Street, the heart of a social and cultural center once known as Washington’s “Black Broadway.” Habitués have included Martin Luther King Jr., Stokeley Carmichael and Jesse Jackson; Barack Obama made it one of his first restaurant outings as president-elect in early 2009.

Customers Return For: Ambiance at the long diner bar and the famous “half smoke”—voted the signature dish of Washington, D.C.—smothered in chili, of course.

El Charro

El Charro restaurant complex in Tucson, Arizona.

Where: Tucson, Arizona

Opened: 1922

El Charro, Tuscon, Arizona, America's Most Historic Restaurants

The History: The original owner of this Sonoran-style Mexican family café, Monica Flin, is said to have invented the chimichanga when she accidentally dropped a burrito into a frying pan while surrounded by children in the kitchen. It got its name from her rapid attempt to transform a curse word beginning with “ch” into the Spanish word for “thingamajig.”

Customers Return For: The trademark carne seca, dried on the building’s roof; handmade salsas and tamales.

Katz’s Delicatessen

Katz's Delicatessen on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Where: New York City

Opened: 1888

Katz's Delicatessen, New York City, America's Most Historic Restaurants

The History: By 1910, the Katz cousins (Willy and Benny) had bought out the founders of this Lower East Side Jewish deli. It became a second home for actors and comedians performing in the Yiddish Theater, and during World War II, urged New Yorkers to “send a salami to your boy in the Army.” Katz’s gained national fame as the site of famous movie scenes, including Meg Ryan’s faux orgasm in When Harry Met Sally.

Customers Return For: In the early 20th century, families noshed Friday nights on franks and beans; these days, it’s the pastrami on rye, day in and day out.


Where: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Opened: 1900

Ralphs Italian Restaurant |


The History: Francesco Dispigno had always dreamed of running a restaurant, and seven years after moving from Naples to Philadelphia, he opened a neighborhood eatery named in honor of his son Rafael, renamed “Ralph” by Ellis Island officials. Today, it’s the oldest Italian restaurant in the country and run by fourth- and fifth-generation members of the family. Ralph’s has catered to presidents (including Teddy Roosevelt and Joe Biden) and celebs: Frank Sinatra was a frequent customer, and Taylor Swift dropped a $500 tip after a family gathering.

Customers Return For: Mussels, calamari and the meatballs. Veterans suggest saving space for tiramisu.


Huber’s Cafe

Where: Portland, Oregon

Opened: 1879


The History: Frank Huber, originally a bartender at the original Bureau Saloon, bought out its owner and put his own name on the business in 1895. Back then, anyone ordering a drink got a free turkey sandwich with a small dish of coleslaw. Today’s owners are descendants of Way Fung (Jim) Louie, the Chinese-born chef hired by Huber to roast all those turkeys back in the 1890s. It was Louie who oversaw the transition of Huber’s from a saloon into what is today Portland’s oldest restaurant. Turkey dinners remain a specialty.

Customers Return For: Stained glass skylight ceiling; the spectacle of Spanish coffee being created tableside; turkey and ham dinners.



 A sign for Sylvia''s soul food restaurant mark the outside of the Harlem eatery.

Where: Harlem, New York City

Opened: 1962

Sylvia's, Harlem, New York, America's Most Historic Restaurants

The History: Sylvia Woods hadn’t even been inside a restaurant before moving from South Carolina to New York in 1946, part of the “Great Migration.” Three decades later, food critic Gael Greene dubbed her the “Queen of Soul Food” and her eponymous restaurant is second only to the Apollo Theater as a Harlem landmark. A center for the Black community, it remained undamaged during the 1968 riots. Spike Lee has filmed there; Aretha Franklin rented out the place for a private party. Other patrons range from soul music doyen James Brown to Neslon Mandela.

Customers Return For: Community gatherings, Sunday gospel brunches, fried chicken or catfish dishes and (on weekends) chitterlings.

Bright Star

Where: Bessemer, Alabama

Opened: 1907



The History: Family patriarchs Bill and Pete Koikos bought the 25-seat café founded by fellow Greek immigrant Tom Bonduris in 1923, when the Birmingham suburb of Bessemer was a flourishing factory town. Today, the eatery—the oldest restaurant in Alabama, and the first in the state to win the James Beard “American Classic” Award—has more than 300 seats, but retains old-time touches like its marbled walls and hand-laid tile flooring. First-time customers get a free bowl of the restaurant’s seafood gumbo.

Customers Return For: Greek-influenced seafood dishes, made from fish brought in daily from the Gulf Coast.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great post! Great list- I have only been to 3

Tadich Grill- Fantastic- Cioppino is a must try! I have been going there for years and never miss it when I visit my daughter in SF.

Katz's- Pastrami is the best.  When you order at the counter they serve you a hot fresh sample. Great post drinking stop.  Or lunch, or whenever!

Antoine's - Get the Banana's Foster! All you'll need.



  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Columbia is a must-go if you're in the Tampa area. Everything I’ve ever had there was excellent! 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

26 minutes ago, Chas.Alpha said:

The Columbia is a must-go if you're in the Tampa area. Everything I ever had there was excellent! 

I second this.  Only restaurant on this list I've been to but the food is always excellent and has an awesome atmosphere! 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Columbia is the only one on the list for me too. I’d go back for the bean soup made with ham and garbanzo beans.  And I’m not generally a soup guy but that was fantastic. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On this list, I’ve been to:

1. Tadich Grill (San Fran)

2. Antoine’s (New Orleans)

3. Ben’s Chili Bowl (D.C.)

4. Sylvia’s (NYC)


The service at Tadich was exquisite! Also, there is nothing like eating a half-smoke at Ben’s after a night on the town!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Columbia, Antoines, Bens, El Charro, Katz, Ralphies. Would have put Bern’s in south Tampa on list. Living in Tampa for over a decade- Columbia pretty reliable for a tourist spot, but quite a few hole in the walls with tastier menu. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As one who spent some time at the Saugus Cafe (many years ago) I would say that unless you happen to be in the Santa Clarita Valley area - or are on your way to Palmdale - don't bother with it as a destination.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Boxer31 said:

Columbia, Antoines, Bens, El Charro, Katz, Ralphies. Would have put Bern’s in south Tampa on list. Living in Tampa for over a decade- Columbia pretty reliable for a tourist spot, but quite a few hole in the walls with tastier menu. 

As a Hillsborough cty resident suburbs of Tampa, Berns is a must.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Katz is gone man, solid gone. One of the sons opened up a Katz in Houston in the 90s and it's still around, but it's not the same. Same son also opened up a sex store using the family name.

Dreamland may be older than Jones' in Alabama. If not it's certainly one of the best bbq joints in the US and was for decades considered to be the number 2 bbq in the US second only to Goode Co.  in Houston  which isn't nearly as old. Dreamland is in Tuscaloosa and worth a trip to the best. Ribs only. 

I've been to many of the places on the list. Most are garbage. Not sure they're worth more than a check on a list of "I done it".

Can't speak for Tampa or Florida at all. Florida is the twilight zone of the south. Outside of the cigar places, that is.

Rechecked list: Sylvia's is interesting. They were absolutely garbage food until the late 90s the they got some competition and upped their game. As a southerner in Manhattan it was one of three places I could get my native eats. If I had to guess it's probably gone down a bit, but last memories say it's worth a try.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Meesterjojo said:

Katz is gone man, solid gone. One of the sons opened up a Katz in Houston in the 90s and it's still around, but it's not the same. Same son also opened up a sex store using the family name.


You sure Katz Deli is gone? It is still showing as open.

I went there the 2nd time I visited NY. Ate there probably half a dozen times in 10 days.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Been to Cattleman's, Katz's, and White Horse Tavern.


12 hours ago, Boxer31 said:

Columbia, Antoines, Bens, El Charro, Katz, Ralphies. Would have put Bern’s in south Tampa on list. Living in Tampa for over a decade- Columbia pretty reliable for a tourist spot, but quite a few hole in the walls with tastier menu. 

Bern's is very special place, but it doesn't fit the historic theme of the list.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

Community Software by Invision Power Services, Inc.