Why You Should Visit the 5 Oldest Restaurants in the U.S.A.

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Why You Should Visit the 5 Oldest Restaurants in the U.S.A.

Photo by Christophe Porteneuve / Flickr

You may love checking out the latest restaurant to open in your neighborhood, but these historic inns, restaurants, and taverns beat the new kids in town any day.

From New England to New Orleans, the following five establishments are still serving up food to the masses – and are well worth a visit for any gourmands with a taste for antiquity.

1. White Horse Tavern – Newport, R.I.

Established in 1673, White Horse Tavern is America’s oldest restaurant.

The building was originally a house, but was converted to a tavern in 1673. In the pre-revolution years, it was a meeting place for the Rhode Island colony’s general assembly, and during the war it was used as barracks for Hessian mercenaries hired by the British.

The tavern became an inn for 60 years in the late 1800s before reopening as a restaurant in 1957. In the past 350 years, the building has only had six different owners.

Why you should eat here:

Today, the tavern focuses on serving local, artisanal farm-to-table fare. Try a half dozen Narragansett Bay Littlenecks or a cup of Rhode Island clam chowder, made with a clear broth. Either way, you’ll be dining with history.

2. Fraunces Tavern – New York City

Operating since 1762, Fraunces Tavern has seen its fair share of history. It was a meeting place for the Sons of Liberty in the years leading up to the American Revolution, and the New York Chamber of Commerce was founded during a meeting that took place in the building. Later, it would act as a meeting space for George Washington, as he said goodbye to his troops in 1783 after British troops evacuated New York at the close of the Revolution.

Today, the building operates as a museum, restaurant, and tavern, and is allegedly the oldest building in Manhattan.

Why you should eat here:

Serving up more than 130 craft beers and ciders (along with 200 whiskeys), Fraunces Tavern takes its responsibility to slake the thirst of weary travelers very seriously.

3. Griswold Inn – Essex, Conn.

The Griswold Inn, opened in 1776, is the oldest continuously run tavern in the U.S. Yachtsmen and travelers have visited the inn and tavern for hundreds of years. The British used the inn as an operations base during the War of 1812, and the inn was a filming location for the television show Dark Shadows.

Today, The Griswold is decorated with historic artwork, including the largest collection of pieces by maritime painter Antonio Jacobsen.

Why you should eat here:

Join the inn on Sundays for its traditional “Hunt Breakfast,” a buffet tradition started by the occupying British during the War of 1812. Other dining options include classic New England seafood dishes and a seasonal menu.

4. Union Oyster House – Boston

Though the building is older, the Union Oyster House began serving food in 1826. Previously, the building served as the printing place for The Massachusetts Spy, the oldest newspaper in the U.S., and was a temporary home for future king of France Louis Phillippe in 1796.

Another fun fact: after the restaurant was opened in the early 1800s, the first toothpicks in the U.S., brought here from South America by Charles Forster of Maine, were used at the Union Oyster House.

Why you should eat here:

The Union Oyster House was a favorite of J.F.K., and to this day you can dine in his dedicated booth.

The restaurant is known for serving up the freshest seafood, including local Cherrystone and Littleneck clams, steamers, mussels, and lobster. The location near Faneuil Hall and Boston Harbor is tough to beat, too.

5. Antoine’s Restaurant – New Orleans

For 176 years, Antoine’s Restaurant has been serving up French-Creole fine dining cuisine to the people of New Orleans. Opened in 1840, the restaurant is still owned and operated by relatives of the original founder (though they moved locations, once, in 1868).

The restaurant is the birthplace of the iconic Oysters Rockefeller, which is still served there today in its original recipe.

Today, the restaurant is a favorite of celebrities, from presidents to popes.

Why you should eat here:

First, you have to choose from one of the restaurant’s 14 dining rooms, in itself a fun task.

Next, decide whether you want to pony up to the Hermes Bar, attend a jazz brunch, feast on one of the many preparations of Louisiana Gulf Oysters and shrimp, or sample the other offerings of fine French and Creole cuisine. You may be dining alongside celebrities, but chances are you’ll be too engrossed in your meal to notice.

"Why You Should Visit the 5 Oldest Restaurants in the U.S.A." originally published on The Menuism Dining Blog.

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