Food has been a means of fostering community, bringing people together and creating history since time immemorial. Due to the American love of food, it stands to reason that restaurants often become an important part of history. Some of the oldest restaurants in the country have become national landmarks, and for good reason: They were places around which communities and economies grew, and over time, they also became a point of pride for locals.
Eating at a historical establishment is an experience that combines both history and gastronomy in the most delightful of ways. Knowing you're eating in the same spot and possibly even eating the same dish as a past president or a legendary movie star can make your meal that much more interesting or even tastier. Many people don't realize, however, that the opportunity to take part in food history might actually be closer than they think. Every one of our 50 states naturally has a restaurant that is the oldest statewide. If you're interested in eating somewhere with a certain degree of fame, and quite a bit of a past, check out our guide to the oldest restaurant in every state.
Alabama: The Bright Star (Bessemer)
Established in 1907, The Bright Star has served fantastic Greek cuisine since the days when it started out as just a counter. People come from all over the southeastern United States to have a taste of their famous seafood gumbo, as well as some Greek-style tenderloin steak and snapper.
Alaska: Olivia's Bistro at the Historic Skagway Inn (Skagway)
Over six decades before Alaska was even granted statehood, the Skagway Inn was established in 1897 in order to serve Gold Rush prospectors and their family members. Make sure you try their seafood chowder or Alaskan halibut cakes if you ever stop by for a visit.
Arizona: The Palace Restaurant and Saloon (Prescott)
The Palace Restaurant and Saloon opened its doors in September of 1877, and it's been serving drinks and meals ever since. Tragedy struck in 1900, when the saloon was devastated by a fire. Luckily, loyal customers at the time carried the establishment's bar to safety, which helped the restaurant get back on its feet by the next year. The 19th century bar is still in use today, and the Palace's dinner theater provides great Western-themed entertainment every Monday.
Arkansas: White House Café (Camden)
White House Café stands in the very same spot it was built in 1907, although its surroundings have changed plenty over the years. The restaurant was originally built to cater to lumber workers coming to the area looking to make a living and was therefore conveniently located right next to the town's railroad. With over 50 kinds of beer on tap, White House Café also has the oldest liquor license in the state, and it's a great place for some classic Ark-Mex cuisine.
California: Tadich Grill (San Francisco)
The Tadich Grill also opened to serve prospectors, established in 1849 right at the height of the California Gold Rush. It was originally a coffee stand, but soon became a full-service restaurant in 1887 when employee John Tadich bought it. The restaurant claims to be the first in the U.S. to grill seafood over mesquite charcoal, a cooking method Tadich used growing up in his native Croatia.
Colorado: The Buckhorn Exchange (Denver)
The menu at the Buckhorn Exchange is more or less the same as it was when the restaurant was established in 1893, when it was also the first in the state to receive a liquor license. In November of 1893, the restaurant was founded by Henry H. Zietz, also known as "Shorty Scout," a nickname given to him by William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, whom Zietz met at the age of 10 and whose band of scouts Zietz became a full member of within two years. Those early days of Colorado history are chronicled here, where businessmen, cattlemen, gamblers, miners, Native American chiefs, railroad builders, and silver barons, among others, frequented to eat and drink together. Famous patrons have included five presidents - Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eiseinhower, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan - as well as Bob Hope, Charlton Heston, Jimmy Cagney, and Princess Anne of Great Britain.
Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant/Yelp
Connecticut: The Griswold Inn (Essex)
The Griswold Inn is one of the oldest continuously-run restaurants in the United States, as well as the oldest bar in Connecticut. Founded in the same year as the nation itself, the restaurant and inn served to give food and shelter to shipyard workers building war vessels for the fight against the British. Famous guests have included George Washington, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, and Katherine Hepburn. Stop by for an art tour or to see enjoy one of its many historic rooms, tap room, or dine on the "hunt breakfast," an impressive brunch that has been served every week since 1812.
Delaware: Kelly's Logan House (Wilmington)
Kelly's Logan House has been the best place to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Wilmington for nearly 150 years now. This Irish pub and restaurant was built in 1864 as a resort hotel, but in 1889, it was bought by the Kelly family who used the first floor as a tavern, the second floor as their home, and the third floor as a hotel. The Kellys still own it today, making it the country's oldest continuously-run bar owned by the same family. Come here for comfort food, such as pork nachos their delicious grilled cheese sandwiches.
Florida: Columbia Restaurant (Tampa)
The fourth and fifth generations of the founding family currently operate Columbia Restaurant, a Cuban eatery with traditional Spanish food located in Tampa since 1905. Founded by Casimiro Hernandez Sr., a Cuban immigrant, the restaurant has since expanded to seven locations within Florida. Serving Cuban coffee and sandwiches since its early days, the menu today also includes devil crab croquettes, paella, and a flan with a recipe dating back to 1935.
Georgia: The Plaza Restaurant & Oyster Bar (Thomasville)
The Plaza Restaurant & Oyster Bar has been serving the city of Thomasville, with a population of just under 19,000, since 1916. Because the restaurant has gone through many different owners of Greek heritage, the menu has a strong Greek influence, but Italian and Southern food are also staples.
Hawaii: Manago Hotel Restaurant (Captain Cook)
This 100-year-old hotel restaurant is known for the family-style pork chops it has served since its establishment in 1917. Long before Hawaii gained statehood, the Manago Hotel restaurant was a local favorite, and in recent decades its popularity has increased with tourists both from the mainland and from other countries.
My Two Cent S./Yelp
Idaho: The Snake Pit (Enaville)
Having gone through different names and owners since its establishment in 1879, The Snake Pit has had a long and rocky history. It nearly closed down in the 1970s when alcohol control officials cited the then-owner for illegal liquor sales, forcing temporary shut-downs and causing her to skip town to Mexico for months at a time. The Snake Pit also nearly closed in 2012, but managed to survive by staying open for just one day every week in order to keep its liquor license. A New Year's Eve fire of "suspicious nature" in 1911 and a murder-suicide are just two of many colorful events in the restaurant's history, but today the most exciting thing at the Snake Pit is its menu full of barbecue, local beer, and Rocky Mountain oysters.
Illinois: The Village Tavern (Long Grove)
Just north of Chicago lies the oldest bar in Illinois, which also serves as its oldest restaurant. The Village Tavern opened in 1849, and it's a great place to enjoy comfort food during the long and freezing Illinois winters, with steaks, stews, and plenty of warm meals such as corned beef sandwiches and baked French onion soup.
Indiana: The Log Inn (Haubstadt)
Honest Abe himself came to dine at The Log Inn in 1844, where you can still find a menu full of delicious comfort food and homemade pies. Established in 1825 as one of the earliest stagecoach stops in the country, The Log Inn is also especially known for its fried chicken and mashed potatoes.
Mary Kate A./Yelp
Iowa: Breitbach's Country Dining (Sherrill)
Established in 1852 and owned by the same family for six generations now, Breitbach's Country Dining is Iowa's oldest bar as well as it's oldest eating establishment. The venue is featured on the Iowa Park Association's Pork Tenderloin Trail due to its deep-fried pork tenderloin, and is so well loved in the region that charter buses from throughout the Midwest came to help rebuild it after it was devastated in a fire in 2007.
Kansas: Hays House (Council Grove)
Established as a restaurant and a local trading post in 1857, Hays House sits on the Santa Fe Trail and started out as a log cabin. It was built by Seth Hays, great-grandson of legendary explorer Daniel Boone, and over the years it was also used as a government courthouse, theater, mail distribution center, and even a location for Sunday church services. An 1886 fire in the area burned the roof, and it's said that many locals rushed to save Hays House before any other building on Main Street. Today, you can get a taste of their delicious cranberry-strawberry pie or some skillet fried chicken.
Kentucky: Talbott Tavern (Bardstown)
The oldest bourbon bar in the world is located in Kentucky, but it's also the state's oldest restaurant, serving some of the best of American cuisine, such as steak and fried chicken. Also known as the Old Talbott Tavern, it was built in 1779 and is even said to be haunted. Many famous names have passed through here, including presidents Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison, and even a five-year-old Abraham Lincoln along with his parents. It is said that King Louis Philippe I of France came here during his exile, and that the infamous American robber Jesse James left some bullet holes in the restaurant's walls. Legendary explorer Daniel Boone also stopped by at the Talbott Tavern, and NAACP co-founder Alexander Walters was actually born in the kitchen to one of the then-owner's slaves. A visit here is sure to fill you with awe at both the menu and the history.
Louisiana: Antoine's Restaurant (New Orleans)
In 1840, Antoine Alciatore opened up a boarding house and restaurant at the ripe young age of 18, and thus Antoine's Restaurant was born. Passed down to his descendants in the years since then, this lavish restaurant has 14 dining rooms and is the oldest family-operated restaurant in the country. Many of the world's most famous have come to enjoy New Orleans' oldest French-Creole fine dining restaurant, including Pope John Paul II, Franklin Roosevelt, George Bush, Bill Clinton, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Bing Crosby, Kate Hudson, and more. Try the crab meat omelet, soft-shelled crab, or the baked Alaska.
Maine: The Palace Diner (Biddeford)
The old train dining car that houses the Palace Diner was built in Lowell, Massachusetts, after which it was moved to Biddeford, where it has been operating since 1927. Open every day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., it's a fantastic breakfast and lunch spot with a classic menu and a unique atmosphere. Their buttermilk flapjacks, breakfast sandwiches, hash eggs, and Palace potatoes are fan favorites you don't want to miss out on.
Maryland: The Old South Mountain Inn (Boonsboro)
The Old South Mountain Inn was founded in 1732 and was a favorite resting spot for famed politicians Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. Its long history includes a role in the American Civil War, during which the inn was captured and held overnight in 1859 as part of John Brown's Raid and then later served as headquarters for a Confederate general during the Antietam campaign. Enjoy the Maryland crab cakes and other local seafood fare here while visiting Maryland historical sites such as the Antietam Battlefield, Harpers Ferry, and Washington Monument State Park.
Old South Mountain Inn/Yelp
Massachusetts: Union Oyster House (Boston)
The common toothpick was reportedly popularized at the Union Oyster House after a Maine businessman imported them from South America and then hired Harvard students to request them at the restaurant while dining there. Established as the Atwood and Bacon Oyster House in 1826, the restaurant soon changed its name to its current iteration. Daniel Webster dined here as well, coming daily for a tall tumbler of brandy and water with every plate of a half-dozen oysters he ordered (at least six). The Kennedys also came here for years, and President John F. Kennedy's favorite booth is dedicated to his memory as "the Kennedy Booth."
Michigan: The White Horse Inn (Metamora)
Built in 1848, the White Horse Inn was established as an inn and stagecoach stop in 1850, receiving its current name during the Prohibition Era. Weather the freezing Michigan winters with specialties such as chicken pot pie, venison chili, W.H. pickles and bread, and cowboy mac and cheese. You can also enjoy a walking tour of the establishment to learn more about its history.
Minnesota: Pracna on Main (Minneapolis)
Minnesota's oldest restaurant is located on Minneapolis's oldest street, and it has a great view of the city skyline. In business since 1890, locals love this restaurant for its happy hour, waffle fries, and great sandwiches.
Mississippi: Weidmann's Restaurant (Meridian)
A Swiss transatlantic steamship chef by the name of Felix Weidmann founded Weidmann's as a four-stool counter at a hotel. Under his grandson, Henry, Weidmann's moved to its present location in 1923, and over the decades the restaurant has garnered much popularity, having been featured in books, magazines, and even television shows. Enjoy Southern cuisine as well as a handmade peanut butter crock along with crackers, set at each table since the 1940s when Henry Weidmann found peanut butter to be a good replacement during the butter shortage of World War II.
Missouri: J. Huston Tavern (Arrow Rock)
Originally a family home, J. Huston Tavern began offering shelter and sustenance to travelers in 1834. Located right in the middle of the Arrow Rock State Historic Site, it is the oldest continuously-run restaurant west of the Mississippi, and their award-winning fried chicken is a must-have.
J. Huston Tavern/Yelp
Montana: Pekin Noodle Parlor (Butte)
You may be surprised to learn that the oldest still-running Chinese-American restaurant, established in 1911, is located in Montana. However, during the late 19th century, the town of Butte had one of the largest Chinese populations in the West, and immigrants founded Pekin Noodle Parlor to serve those seeking labor during the mining rush. Both classic American sandwiches and Chinese-American dishes can be found on the menu at this restaurant, which also used to be a brothel and an opium den.
Nebraska: Glur's Tavern (Columbus)
A favorite of Buffalo Bill's, Glur's Tavern was established in 1876 and is the oldest continuously-operating tavern west of the Mississippi. Known for its burgers, the white clapboard structure doesn't have quite the same Wild West vibes of its early days, but it hasn't changed much since the 1960s.
Nevada: The Martin Hotel (Winnemucca)
This Basque-American restaurant was established in 1898 to serving train passengers and other patrons brought to the area by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Its bar, dining room, and meeting rooms continue to serve travelers, locals, and area ranchers with a delicious menu that includes Basque sweet bread, pork loin, lamb chops, and hand-cut fries.
New Hampshire: The Fox Tavern at The Hancock Inn (Hancock)
Until last year, the restaurant at The Hancock Inn didn't have a name. Still, this bed and breakfast is the location of both the oldest restaurant and the oldest bar in New Hampshire, established in 1789. In addition to a wonderful Sunday brunch, The Fox Tavern also serves classic New England-influenced foods such as duck, steak, and pork chops topped with fried pork rinds.
New Jersey: The Cranbury Inn (Cranbury)
A bar now stands where the original tavern - established in 1750 - once stood, and The Cranbury Inn today has multiple dining rooms, as its made up of two 18th-century taverns and a main dining room built in the 1930s. Believed to have possibly been a stop on the Underground Railroad, the inn is steeped in history, particularly since it's located in the historic town of Cranbury, where Revolutionary War heroes Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette were visited by General George Washington at their war headquarters. Albert Einstein frequently dined at the inn, and Brooke Shields came here as a student at Princeton.
New Mexico: El Farol (Santa Fe)
Established in 1835, El Farol was serving small plates 175 years before tapas started trending in the American food scene. In addition to tapas, this Santa Fe eatery is known for their paella and steaks, as well as their lively entertainment. All year round, guests can enjoy dinner with a live Flamenco show on Saturday nights. Their bar is also known for its signature cocktails and classic margaritas.
New York: The '76 House (Tappan)
No one is sure exactly when The '76 House was built, with legends citing dates of establishment from 1686 to 1754. Either way, it is the oldest eatery in the state of New York, and having been around longer than the United States as a country, it saw history being made during the American Revolution. Like many taverns throughout the colonies, the Old '76 House, as its also known, was a common meeting spot for local Patriots during the war. In 1780, it was also used as a prison for British spy Major John André, co-conspirator of Benedict Arnold, prior to his execution nearby. It also served as headquarters for war hero General Nathanael Greene and the Continental Army while they were in Tappan. Today, the historic tavern has a fantastic Sunday brunch and is known for their wild boar sausage, steak, and Famous Onion Soup Lafayette, which they originally served in celebration of the British evacuation at the end of the Revolutionary War.
North Carolina: Carolina Coffee Shop (Chapel Hill)
Since 1922, UNC students have been frequenting the Carolina Coffee Shop, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in addition to coffee, and also becomes a college bar at night. In addition to the common American fare of burgers, sandwiches, and steak, you'll find some great Carolina barbecue here as well.
North Dakota: Peacock Alley American Grill and Bar (Bismarck)
Right around the time Prohibition ended, a restaurant and bar by the name of Peacock Alley opened in the historic Patterson Hotel in 1933. The hotel has since closed down, but Peacock Alley continues to thrive. Try their burgers, steaks, and Buffalo fries next time you're looking for a good spot for a bite and a drink in downtown Bismarck.
Ohio: The Golden Lamb (Lebanon)
Investing just $4, Jonas Seamon founded the Golden Lamb over 200 years ago in 1803. Also Ohio's oldest hotel, the Golden Lamb is known for its turkey dinner and hickory-roasted prime rib, but patrons also love their sauerkraut balls and Amish free-range fried chicken. Twelve U.S. presidents have dined here, the earliest being John Quincy Adams and the most recent being George W. Bush.
The Golden Lamb/Yelp
Oklahoma: Cattlemen's Steakhouse (Oklahoma City)
Cattlemen's Steakhouse is not only the best steakhouse in the entire state, but it's also Oklahoma's oldest restaurant. Established in 1910 as a small café, the restaurant has changed many times, most notably in 1945 when local rancher Gene Wade won it from the owner by rolling a "hard six," or two threes, in a game of dice. As a result, you'll see the number 33 branded all over the restaurant even today. Many famous customers have enjoyed a delicious meal here, from country stars such as Toby Keith, Reba McEntire, and Garth Brooks to big-name politicians such as Rudy Giuliani and presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Oregon: Huber's Café (Portland)
Huber's Café moved to its current location in 1910, but it's been feeding Portlanders since 1879. Known for their turkey sandwiches and coleslaw, Huber's house-favorite iced Spanish coffee is the reason it's also the largest user of Kahlua among independent restaurants in the United States.
Pennsylvania: McGillin's Olde Ale House (Philadelphia)
In 1860, the year that Abraham Lincoln was elected president, Irish immigrants Catherine and William McGillin opened the Bell in Hand Tavern in Philadelphia. Bar patrons nicknamed it "McGillin's," and that was the name that eventually stuck, with the tavern switching to its current name officially in 1910. The history of this place is extremely apparent, as the walls are decorated with the signs of iconic Philadelphia stores that have come and gone from the area, as well as the tavern's liquor licenses dating back to 1871. Known for their beer selection, McGillin's is a great place to find cheap and satisfying bar food.
Rhode Island: White Horse Tavern (Newport)
The oldest bar in America lies in the town of Newport, Rhode Island. White Horse Tavern was a popular meeting place in the Colonial era, frequented by our nation's Founding Fathers, members of the Rhode Island General Assembly, British soldiers, Hessian missionaries, sailors, and pirates alike. (In fact, William Mayes Sr. - the man who established the tavern - passed it down to his son, William Mayes Jr., who was a known pirate.) With so much history and so many people coming through, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the tavern is said to be haunted. It's also said to have a delicious lobster BLT and beef Wellington that you just have to try.
South Carolina: Henry's House (Charleston)
Known today for its nightlife, Henry's House has been around since 1930. Henry's claims to have been "the only place to be in Charleston" from the time it opened through the the 1960s, and it's had many changes since then. Today, the menu is full of authentic Lowcountry cuisine, with modern twists to Southern classics such as Carolina cannonballs and shrimp and grits that you can enjoy along with its great cocktails and classic jazz bar.
South Dakota: Legends Steakhouse (Deadwood)
Stop by the historic Silverado Franklin Hotel for a legendary meal at Legends Steakhouse. Both hotel and restaurant were established in 1903, and have seen famous visitors such as presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, as well as legends such as Babe Ruth, Kevin Costner, and John Wayne. If you're looking for fame on the menu, try their prime rib or their lobster tail.
Tennessee: Varallo's Chili Parlor and Restaurant (Nashville)
This classic, old-school chili parlor is one of the last of its kind in America. Established in 1907 when an Italian immigrant named Varallo brought a South American bean soup recipe to Nashville, Varallo's offers you your pick of classic, spaghetti, or tamale chili. To this day, Varallo's Chili Parlor, run by the fourth generation of the family, continues to serve some of the best chili in America.
Texas: Scholz Garten (Austin)
Also known as Scholz Beer Garden, Scholz Garten is the oldest operating business in the state of Texas. German immigrant August Scholz founded this beer garden and restaurant in 1866, and it soon became an important spot for German immigrants and German culture in Austin. Today, it continues to be a popular meeting spot for those interested in politics or University of Texas sports. Local menu favorites include their giant pretzel and the Wiener schnitzel.
Staci Kae A./Yelp
Utah: Hi-Mountain Drug (Kamas)
Opened in 1920, Hi-Mountain Drug doesn't exactly look like a restaurant from the outside - or even from the inside. A drug store combined with a restaurant, Hi-Mountain Drug makes their own syrups for delicious frozen drinks and shakes, and locals love their hamburgers and sandwiches, served with fried pickles, onion rings, or fries.
Vermont: Ye Olde Tavern (Manchester)
As its name may suggest, Ye Olde Tavern is a trip through history, complete with a Colonial-era vibe. Established in 1790, the year before Vermont joined the union, it was first called the Stagecoach Inn; it went through various names and owners through the years until it received its current name in time for the United States' bicentennial. A great place for delicious New England fare, Ye Olde Tavern's guests especially love their traditional pot roast, lobster bisque, lobster mac and cheese, cranberry fritters, and maple butter. It also happens to have the best bar in the state.
Ye Olde Tavern/Yelp
Virginia: The Red Fox Inn & Tavern (Middleburg)
America's oldest continuously running inn, the Red Fox Inn & Tavern was established in 1728. Its long history has been marked by visits from many famous patrons including President John F. Kennedy, who held a press conference here once, and his wife Jackie, who often stayed here on foxhunting trips. Elizabeth Taylor often came here to eat with U.S. Senator John Warner before and after they got married, and other Hollywood notables who have stopped by include Tom Cruise, Paul Newman, and Joan Woodward. Diners especially enjoy their fried chicken, peanut soup, and braised beef short ribs.
Washington: Horseshoe Café (Bellingham)
Horseshoe Café is the oldest 24-hour restaurant in the country, and it's been a local favorite since its establishment in 1886. Delicious churro waffles, heavenly stuffed hash browns, taco omelets, juicy burgers, and the restaurant's signature Chicken Fried Chicken are just some of the house-favorite specialties locals will insist you try.
Washington, DC: Old Ebbitt Grill
Washington, D.C.'s oldest saloon is its oldest restaurant as well as its oldest bar. Established in 1856, the Old Ebbitt Grill has changed locations multiple times over the years and is currently located less than a block from the White House. Having served most presidents since Ulysses S. Grant, this was a favorite haunt of Grant as well as Teddy Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland. The deep mahogany bar is a sight to behold: A beautiful antique stein collection runs along the top, punctuated by animal head trophies purportedly bagged by Teddy Roosevelt. Try the oysters; there is an oyster happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily and again from 11 p.m. until close.
West Virginia: North End Tavern & Brewery (Parkersburg)
Open since 1899, the North End Tavern got in on the microbrewery trend early when it added its own brewery in 1997. Their menu includes classic German-American fare, and local favorites include their 5-way IPA and their legendary NET Burger.
Wisconsin: Red Circle Inn & Bistro (Nashotah)
Established in 1848, the Red Circle Inn & Bistro is, believe it or not, named after the old logo of Pabst Blue Ribbon, the famous Wisconsin-based beer company. German-American brewer Frederick Pabst owned the inn in the late 1880s, and today they're known for their award-winning wine, as well as their oysters and other seafood dishes.
As its name would have you believe, Miners and Stockmen's Steakhouse & Spirits served local laborers from the time it it opened in 1862. Today, it serves a small Wyoming town of just over 60 people with a menu of USDA prime steaks, soup, and salad. Consisting of red, white, and sparkling wines, it also has a drinks menu that makes it the oldest bar in the state.
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