Prohibition, wars, pandemics, and even fickle food trends—the oldest restaurants in America and Canada have survived it all, serving signature dishes with a generous helping of history.
Feast on gnocchi at a San Francisco trattoria that started during the Gold Rush. Devour nigiri and noodles at a century-old Japanese spot in Seattle’s International District. Peek at a vintage menu at a New York City steakhouse that first opened its doors in 1868 with prices still in cents.
The past proudly lives on through the plates at each of these storied spots. Read on for a list of 13 of the oldest restaurants in the U.S. and Canada.
Union Oyster House – Boston, MA
This pre-Revolutionary War building, a National Historic Landmark, has served as a restaurant since 1826. The daily catch is served on its two floors, but the vibe shifts on each level. Pick lobster from the massive tank that anchors the space on the first floor. Trek up to the second, with dim lights and higher booths, for a more intimate experience; it’s easy to see how John F. Kennedy could hide away in a back corner with a cup of chowder during his senator days. No matter where you sit, tuck into local classics such as slow-baked beans and Boston cream pie.
Antoine’s – New Orleans, LA
With its weekend jazz brunch and Mardi Gras memorabilia, Antoine’s is a perpetual party. Dating back to 1840, this vibrant grande dame is in its fifth generation of family ownership. It’s also the home of the original oysters Rockefeller, which debuted here in 1889. Antoine’s other claims to fame include baked Alaska for two, which sizzles with glorious abandon, and cornmeal-fried oysters served with foie gras.
Fior D’Italia – San Francisco, CA
Angelo Del Monte, an Italian immigrant, landed in San Francisco during the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. And though he didn’t quite make it as a fortune hunter, Del Monte’s legacy lives on through his Northern Italian gem, considered the oldest restaurant of its kind in the United States. Regulars, who refer to the North Beach trattoria as “Fior’s,” are drawn to its century-old mahogany and brass bar and classic Italian plates. Fior’s cozy tables make ideal perches for feasting on signature dishes such as gnocchi and osso buco, cooked by the current chef and owner Gianni Auidieri, who hails from Milan.
Buckhorn Exchange – Denver, CO
Buckhorn Exchange is just a light rail stop or two away from downtown Denver—but it might as well be light years away. The 19th-century building was a former bank, where owner Henry Zietz cashed local railroaders’ paychecks, giving each a token for free lunch and a beer. Today, Buckhorn’s menu harks back to the spirit of the Old West, featuring dishes such as buffalo sausage, fried alligator tail, Colorado lamb, and more. Those with hearty appetites should go for the signature big steak—four-pound New York strip loins served tableside, suited for two to five.
Maneki – Seattle, WA
This revered Japanese spot, one of the most visited locations in Seattle’s International District, has served sushi rolls, nigiri, noodles, and broiled delicacies for the last century. It’s a popular place for family gatherings, thanks to its inviting interiors, complete with intimate tatami (traditional straw mat) rooms. Fusae Yokoyama, a nonagenarian called “mom” by Maneki’s regulars, has spent nearly two-thirds of her life as a bartender and hostess watching generations toast special moments here. Yokoyama is as synonymous with the restaurant as its namesake, the maneki neko—a cat with a raised paw meant to usher in good luck.
El Charro Cafe – Tucson, AZ
Anyone who’s feasted on a chimichanga will want to thank Monica Flin, founder of El Charro Café in Tucson. In the late 1940s (or early 50s, depending on who you ask), one of Flin’s nieces bumped into her while she was making a burrito, which she then dropped into hot oil. The accidental result became El Charro’s claim to fame—it’s also one of the most common Mexican American dishes served today. El Charro is still a family-owned restaurant, serves up Sonoran-focused dishes at three locations in Arizona, and celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Old Ebbitt Grill – Washington, D.C.
The doors at this Washington, D.C. saloon have swung back and forth since 1856. Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Harding were known to gather around the stand-up bar. Old Ebbitt’s stately Victorian interiors, which include a marble staircase and carved glass panels (depicting area landmarks including the Treasury, the Capitol, and the White House) draw visitors and locals alike. Don’t miss all-American entrees such as the classic burger with housemade pimento cheese.
Columbia Restaurant – Ybor City – Tampa, FL
The striking Spanish colonial interiors are reason enough to visit Columbia Restaurant. But the history behind Florida’s oldest eatery, over 120 years old, also provides food for thought. This sprawling spot, which takes up an entire city block, was founded by Casimiro Hernandez Sr., a Cuban immigrant whose descendants still steer the business. On the menu, find original 1905 specialties such as the signature salad with baked ham, Swiss and romano cheese, tomato, olives, Worcestershire sauce, and housemade garlic dressing, all tossed together tableside. The salad holds its own as a main but can also be a worthy side to a Cuban sandwich or a palomilla steak sandwich (traditional Cuban steak cut thin and flash grilled).
Old Homestead Steakhouse – New York, NY
In 1900, New York City’s Meatpacking district was home to 250 slaughterhouses and packing plants. By 2004, the area became what New York magazine called the city’s “most fashionable neighborhood.” One place ties together the past and the present here: Old Homestead Steakhouse has been through it all as one of the longest continually serving restaurants in America. Opened in 1868 with a name that became a love letter to the neighborhood’s origins, the restaurant has dished up prime dry-aged beef since day one. For a true step back in time, check out the vintage 1934 menu upstairs, where everything is priced in cents—not dollars.
The Red Fox Inn & Tavern – Middleburg, VA
Since it was founded as a watering hole in 1728, the Red Fox Tavern has served as a popular stopping point for colonists and hungry motorists traveling between Alexandria and Winchester, Virginia. Welcoming everyone from George Washington to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (who visited the area on fox-hunting trips in the fall), Red Fox’s prestige has only increased over the years. Today, the family-owned inn serves intimate, four-course dinners, showcasing local game, against a cozy fireplace backdrop. Bonus points for the Virginia-accented wine list.
Deane House – Calgary
It’s doubtful that Captain Richard Burton Deane, the last superintendent of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police stationed at Fort Calgary, would have imagined elegant celebrations in his 20th-century home. During Deane’s time, Alberta was more rough-and-tumble than refined. Over the years, this riverside residence, just five minutes from Calgary’s city center, has hosted weddings, high teas, and five-course dinners. The interiors, kitchens, and gardens were recently restored. In its newly polished interiors, savor refined Canadian fare such as locally raised bison and Pacific halibut.
L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel – Montreal
This historic landmark, which dates back to 1754, was Montreal’s first establishment to score an alcohol license under British rule. Fittingly, the building now hosts one of the city’s trendiest nightclubs. This sleek spot, a blend of stone walls, exposed wooden beams, and black leather chairs, was conceived by restaurant design whiz Bruno Braën, who balances centuries-old grandeur with modern accents. L’Auberge’s menu pays homage to all things local: expect grilled Quebec halibut with ratatouille and shallot confit purée; Quebec AAA beef prime rib, and local strawberries with pistachio cream.
The Victor Cafe – Philadelphia, PA
There’s singing for your supper—and then there’s singing with your supper. At the Victor, a South Philadelphia mainstay since 1918, servers serenade those feasting on old-school Italian favorites. Opera professionals and musical students entertain diners seven nights a week. Standout dishes including the linguine and clams and veal saltimbocca are worthy of their own encores. Movie buffs may recognize the interiors as Adrian’s, the fictional restaurant in Rocky Balboa.
Carley Thornell-Wade is a Boston-based food, travel, and technology writer who’s been to more than 70 countries and delighted in tasting the regional delicacies of each.