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What old fine restaurants left in the USA?

apple11 Oct 10, 2009 08:14 AM

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. steakman55 RE: apple11 Oct 10, 2009 08:24 AM

    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
      apple11 RE: steakman55 Oct 10, 2009 03:00 PM

      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
        thew RE: steakman55 Oct 10, 2009 07:24 PM

        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. monku RE: apple11 Oct 10, 2009 08:24 AM

        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
          GroovinGourmet RE: monku Oct 11, 2009 08:19 AM

          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
            laliz RE: monku Oct 14, 2009 05:03 PM

            The Pantry
            Musso & Frank

            sheesh ~~

            1. re: laliz
              Phurstluv RE: laliz Oct 15, 2009 02:10 PM

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

          2. shaogo RE: apple11 Oct 10, 2009 08:36 AM

            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
              Sean RE: shaogo Oct 10, 2009 09:02 AM

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


              1. re: Sean
                Chefpaulo RE: Sean Oct 10, 2009 02:14 PM

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

                1. re: Chefpaulo
                  Phurstluv RE: Chefpaulo Oct 10, 2009 05:01 PM

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

                  1. re: Phurstluv
                    feelinpeckish RE: Phurstluv Oct 13, 2009 06:45 AM

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

                    1. re: feelinpeckish
                      Phurstluv RE: feelinpeckish Oct 13, 2009 07:24 PM

                      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. Uncle Bob RE: apple11 Oct 10, 2009 10:24 AM

              Antoine's ~~ New Orleans ~~ Since 1840

              Tujague's ~~ New Orleans ~~ Since 1856

              1. Veggo RE: apple11 Oct 10, 2009 11:45 AM

                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. Beach Chick RE: apple11 Oct 10, 2009 12:02 PM

                  Locke-Ober in Boston...since 1875

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Beach Chick
                    CreativeFoodie42 RE: Beach Chick Oct 13, 2009 07:23 AM

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

                  2. Ruth Lafler RE: apple11 Oct 10, 2009 03:15 PM

                    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
                      c oliver RE: Ruth Lafler Oct 10, 2009 03:54 PM

                      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
                        Ruth Lafler RE: c oliver Oct 10, 2009 06:32 PM

                        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
                          c oliver RE: Ruth Lafler Oct 11, 2009 04:51 AM

                          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
                            Ruth Lafler RE: c oliver Oct 11, 2009 09:22 AM

                            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.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              laliz RE: Ruth Lafler Oct 14, 2009 05:05 PM

                              House of Prime Rib on Van Ness

                    2. a
                      AdGuyMG RE: apple11 Oct 10, 2009 04:07 PM

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

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: AdGuyMG
                        Veggo RE: AdGuyMG Oct 10, 2009 04:15 PM

                        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. c
                        celeryroot RE: apple11 Oct 10, 2009 04:31 PM

                        Bookbinders in Philly still around?

                        Cape Cod Room Chicago

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: celeryroot
                          Chefpaulo RE: celeryroot Oct 10, 2009 04:43 PM

                          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. h
                          hazelhurst RE: apple11 Oct 11, 2009 08:02 AM

                          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
                            Veggo RE: hazelhurst Oct 11, 2009 08:34 AM

                            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
                              hazelhurst RE: Veggo Oct 12, 2009 08:27 AM

                              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
                              iluvtennis RE: hazelhurst Oct 11, 2009 09:12 AM

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

                              1. re: iluvtennis
                                hazelhurst RE: iluvtennis Oct 12, 2009 08:24 AM

                                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
                                  nomadchowwoman RE: hazelhurst Oct 13, 2009 01:24 PM

                                  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
                                    hazelhurst RE: nomadchowwoman Oct 14, 2009 06:42 AM

                                    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.

                            3. r
                              rochfood RE: apple11 Oct 11, 2009 09:57 AM


                              7 Replies
                              1. re: rochfood
                                monku RE: rochfood Oct 13, 2009 08:34 AM

                                Only one I know of is in Santa Barbara, CA

                                1. re: monku
                                  Phurstluv RE: monku Oct 13, 2009 07:25 PM

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

                                  1. re: Phurstluv
                                    Veggo RE: Phurstluv Oct 13, 2009 07:57 PM

                                    All of them are gone.

                                    1. re: Veggo
                                      monku RE: Veggo Oct 13, 2009 08:28 PM

                                      Are you sure?
                                      The original Sambo's.

                                      1. re: monku
                                        Veggo RE: monku Oct 13, 2009 10:37 PM

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

                                        1. re: Veggo
                                          monku RE: Veggo Oct 13, 2009 10:57 PM

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

                                          1. re: monku
                                            laliz RE: monku Oct 14, 2009 05:08 PM

                                            erm 805 area code IS Santa Barbara

                              2. BeaN RE: apple11 Oct 12, 2009 12:09 PM

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

                                1. k
                                  ktb615 RE: apple11 Oct 12, 2009 04:35 PM


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

                                  1. PSZaas RE: apple11 Oct 12, 2009 04:41 PM

                                    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. steve h. RE: apple11 Oct 13, 2009 08:48 PM

                                      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.
                                        bagelman01 RE: steve h. Nov 9, 2013 03:10 PM

                                        and don't forget Peter Luger's in Brooklyn

                                      2. Kate is always hungry RE: apple11 Oct 17, 2009 05:18 PM

                                        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. a
                                          adamshoe RE: apple11 Oct 17, 2009 05:52 PM

                                          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. r
                                            Roland Parker RE: apple11 Oct 18, 2009 03:52 AM

                                            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. Phurstluv RE: apple11 Oct 21, 2009 04:32 PM

                                              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
                                                CreativeFoodie42 RE: Phurstluv Oct 22, 2009 06:17 AM

                                                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!

                                              2. Kholvaitar RE: apple11 Nov 9, 2013 01:36 PM

                                                The Oldest Steakhouse in the City of Las Vegas.


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