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What old fine restaurants left in the USA?

I wonder which of the old, "legendary" restaurants in the US are left and still following their original "mission"?

In New York, there is La Grenouille, more than 40 years in business in the same location and by now the last of the old guard of fine French places with La Cote Basque, Le Pavillon, etc. gone....

Then there is Le Cirque, also rather long in business, but in changing locations.

Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia comes to mind, but I read, that the restaurant will be redone and reopen on a much more casual level, so the original mission of fine food in an exquisite ambiance with fine service seems over....

I do not know, if the Russian Tea Room would qualify?

What other dining establishments in the US are since a long time in business without a major interruption and can be called legendary?

New Orleans has possibly several and Boston as well, but I wonder which of these are actually very upscale as opposed to "just" good restaurants?

Of course this is not limited to French cooking,there must be some Italians, etc...

Visiting these places is a trip back in time for me, and I want to see them before they are gone...

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  1. Most diners do not appreciate a legendary restaurant continuing to do what made them famous. The decor and menu become "tired." They need to "innovate" and change with the times. Well, that is not what made them a legend. Try Peter Luger's for sticking with their game plan. Bern's in Tampa. Both happen to be steakhouses by the way (and Bern's now sells a lot of fish)

    2 Replies
    1. re: steakman55

      Yes, I am aware of that conundrum. Oftentimes there is no evolution in the restaurant and eventually the clients are getting tired of it or dying off and finally the restaurant closes... But iI am certain, that there are many places which evolved yet kept their standards and some of their classic dishes.

      1. re: steakman55

        but times and tastes DO change! you cannot berate people for having the tastes of their time and not the taste of another era. there was a time when these venerable old places were something fresh and new.

      2. The Original Pantry Cafe in Los Angeles since 1924 (85 years) and they've never closed their doors, open 24/7 and there are no locks on the door.
        "Never closed. Never without a customer."


        3 Replies
        1. re: monku

          If we're talking LA let's not forget Philippe's, home of the original French Dip (and that awesome mustard). Since 1908. Was there a couple of weeks ago after more than 10 years. Same as it ever was. Musso & Frank qualifies as well.

          1. re: monku

            The Pantry
            Musso & Frank

            sheesh ~~

            1. re: laliz

              Does El Tepeyac count?? Been open since the 50s? Manny must be pushin' 70 or 80 by now.....

          2. Brennan's in New Orleans comes to mind. Also the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station, New York City.

            Rao's - the best Italian place you'll never eat at - has been around for a million years. After a fire, they hired set designers to re-decorate the place *exactly* as it looked before.

            I'm delighted to see steakman55 mention Bern's in Tampa, Florida. I got ahold of a copy of their wine list from 1984 -- it's nearly 2,000 pages! Bern's is an institution with a rich history.

            Durgin Park in Boston is another institution that comes to mind. It's been reviewed poorly here on chowhound, however. I still like it.

            Finally, The Four Seasons in New York is still fresh and delightful after 50 great years - and going strong!

            5 Replies
            1. re: shaogo

              Uion Oyster House in Boston is the oldest, continuous operating restaurant in the US


              1. re: Sean

                The William Penn Inn in Gwynedd, PA has been in continuous operation since 1714 - if we are including inns as restaurants.

                1. re: Chefpaulo

                  The Griswold Inn in Essex CT has been a stagecoach stop / restaurant since revolutionary times -- that's 18th century, baby!!

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    Long life, yes. Retained quality? Not so much.

                    1. re: feelinpeckish

                      Hey, it's not that bad, at least when I was there quite a few years back!!! But, again, IT"S AN OLD INN. I wasn't expecting the French Laundry or anything! Seemed to have decent food. And a long list of waiting people to get in.

                      And I don't think the rest of the replies are strictly "FINE' dining either. Take the Original Pantry in LA - it's old and a DUMP. But it's still there, serving up decent food to willing customers. I believe that's the point here.

            2. Antoine's ~~ New Orleans ~~ Since 1840

              Tujague's ~~ New Orleans ~~ Since 1856

              1. Three come to mind in Colorado:
                Buckhorn Exchange - since 1893, Colorado liquor license #1
                Palace Arms at the Brown Palace Hotel
                The Penrose Room at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs
                and a few others:
                The Cloisters, Sea Island, GA
                River Oaks C.C., Houston
                The Forge, Miami (some would disagree)

                1. Locke-Ober in Boston...since 1875

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Beach Chick

                    Locke-Ober was the first thing that came to my mind!

                  2. Would Chez Panisse in Berkeley qualify? It's been in business for almost 40 years, and hasn't changed its original mission one iota.

                    There are several historic grills in San Francisco, the most famous of which is Tadich. Sam's and John's would also qualify, but I'm not sure if they meet your criteria.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Didn't Sam's close and then become a Jeanty place? Then that closed. Or am I thinking of someplace else? I've only eaten at John's once and loved it but have had "a few cocktails" there. And Tadich? First place I ever had abalone - a special place in my heart (especially since I'll never be able to afford it again.)

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Jack's, which was another traditional SF place closed, and became Jeanty at Jack's, which also recently closed. I assume another restaurant will open there someday -- the building itself is a historic monument.

                        However, nearby is another SF classic: Alfred's. Although it's been open since 1928, it's only been in the current location since 1997; however, the current location had previously been another old SF classic, the Blue Fox.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Did Alfred's used to be on Broadway near the tunnel? If so, I ate there about 20 years ago. Thanks for the reminder about Jack's. If I had said it out loud, I'd have realized my mistake.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            Good memory! Alfred's was indeed on Broadway. I remember when I was a kid Jack's was a "special occasion" restaurant for my parents.

                    2. Joe's Stone Crab restaurant in Miami Beach is beginning it's 97th Season.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: AdGuyMG

                        True, but it used to be a shack across the street from a dog track. I'm old enough to remember. I like(d) it, old and new.

                      2. Bookbinders in Philly still around?

                        Cape Cod Room Chicago

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: celeryroot

                          Their website is alive and well (still singing Sinatra) but I think Bookbinder's swansong was sung this past March. At least you cannot find any events or make reservations from the website.

                        2. Unless I missed something, Le Perigord in Manhattan is still running...it the the survivor from my childhood. As noted, Locke-Ober in Boston, although its menu has been re-vamped and is not the wonderful museum piece of yore. Antoine's and Galatoire's in new Orleans..although the latter never styled itself haute cuisine. Brennan's is post WWII and does not, I think, fall into your category.

                          It is an interesting question and I have ruminated on the disappearance of many place that were seemingly eternal and which served my grandparents..in NY, Boston, New Orleans. People may not like those Lucullan offerings anymore...or say they don't. More than once I have heard an old place being criticized for not being "innovative" whateverthehell that is. That is crticizing a lamb for not being a free-range chicken.

                          There is also an old German place in Milwaukee, I think, that i have heard of but never been to and that might fit the bll.

                          This Gris, referred to somewhere in the thread, had not, on a visit a few years ago, completely recovered from a certain owner who took it out of its charming past.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: hazelhurst

                            You touch on a good point. Many of the old classics have experienced major changes, i.e. ownership, remodeling (The Four Seasons benefitted from both), relocation (Le Cirque in NY is visually shocking compared with the original), rebuilding (Joes). Or they contemporize their format to fit the times (Le Bec Fin). Does the loss of continuity take away from the nostalgia? Fair question. I think it often does. It's like The 10,000 Maniacs without Natalie Merchant or Jefferson Airplane without Gracie Slick. Just not the same, and rarely better.
                            The remodel of The Tavern on the Green by the new leaseholders will be interesting to follow; they claim they will spend a near-breathtaking amount.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              Just paint the place, take out the ticky-tack, and put the money on the food. Tavern on teh Green always seemd like most hotel dining rooms---noting lethal but nothing spectacular either.

                            2. re: hazelhurst

                              I think Karl Ratzch's and Mader's in Milwaukee are both pretty old. Are you thinking of either of those?

                              1. re: iluvtennis

                                Karl Ratzch is the one--I had an idea of pronounciation but did not want to take a fling at spelling it. As I said, never been there but always heard good things..

                                1. re: hazelhurst

                                  I was in Milwaukee only once and decide to eat there on the assumption that this must be the best rest. in Milwaukee and the best German rest. in the U.S.

                                  Like many people, we would not have rated German food as our favorite. We'd been to the Berghoff in Chicago with my FIL a few times, never thought it was so great. I haven't even really enjoyed German food, unless it was home-cooked, in Germany or Austria.

                                  Well eating at KR in Milwaukee opened our eyes, or should I say, our tastebuds. I still remember very clearly a fabulous leberknudel soup (who'dathunk?) and my entree of roast goose and spaetzle w/mushrooms. And DH had a pork shank served with a divine potato-onion dish. We both still remember that as a favorite meal among many . . . .
                                  If you're ever anywhere near Milwaukee, go and eat there.

                                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                    I am pleased to hear your endorsement. I have been in Milwaukee once in my life, en passant, but I always thought I'd try this place if I got within eating range. I agre about Chicago's Berhoff. I love German goodies--but stop at the sweet satuff usually, going for the meats/sausages/cheese route. But good soups are always a sign that someone knows what's what. Thanks for the comments.

                              1. re: rochfood

                                Only one I know of is in Santa Barbara, CA

                                1. re: monku

                                  There's still a bunch of them in the south, on the way to FLA from NY.

                                      1. re: monku

                                        If Sambo's is not extinct, I will buy you a beer. Call them.

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          Phone: (805) 965-3269
                                          Any beer is fine........

                                          1. re: monku

                                            erm 805 area code IS Santa Barbara

                              2. The Columbia Restaurant of Tampa's Ybor City, since 1905.

                                1. http://stock-yardrestaurant.com/

                                  Only 30 years, but I think it qualifies, even as a steakhouse.

                                  1. Jack's Oyster House in Albany, NY claims to have been operated by the same family for longer than any restaurant in the US except for Antoine's (I think, or is it Arnaud's?). It's been in the same family since 1913. Not a bad joint, either.

                                    1. both keens steakhouse and the old homestead (manhattan) are still going strong. galatoire's in new orleans continues to satisfy.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: steve h.

                                        and don't forget Peter Luger's in Brooklyn

                                      2. Lamb's in Salt Lake City since 1919. Ate there once after a day of skiing. I liked it. I'd go back. Anyone been?

                                        1. Duarte's in Pescadero, CA (Pronounced doo-artz) since at least 1920 if not earlier- it was a barbershop, a bordello, a speakeasy, etc.
                                          Casa Orinda in Orinda, CA since 1932. Not a Mex joint as the name would imply but a cowboy themed decor with "Continental" cuisine and awesome fried chicken (they use a pressure fryer that's 80 years old) and darned good prime rib, too.
                                          Sciortino's Pizza on Rt. 1 in NJ claimed to have been there since 1880's!! adam

                                          1. They are not public restaurants, but some of the best remaining places to sample old-style fine cuisine are in private clubs. Certain country clubs and urban clubs in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston and New York come to mind.

                                            1. Louis' Lunch in New Haven CT. It's a tiny, tiny place, but they still use the original toaster like cooker made of cast iron, for the hamburgers, which is all they make, I believe. And the burgers are hand cut chuck everyday. Served on toast. Been there forevah!! Like at least 100 years.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Phurstluv

                                                I was in New Haven a few years ago and had to go there because everyone raved about it. It was definitely a unique experience - toaster and all!