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A Table With A Past

May 2024
2min read


With the holidays approaching, we asked Tim Zagat, the creator of the slim, ubiquitous oxblood guidebooks that have colonized America’s dining-out habits, to choose his favorite historic restaurants. Herewith a baker’s dozen, along with excerpts from their write-ups in Zagat’s surveys.

GRAZE AMONG, THE STALLS AT PHILADELPHIA’S OLD READING Terminal Market, just as the Victorians did before hoarding their trains. Savor Oysters Rockefeller at that grande dame Antoine’s, the dish’s New Orleans originator. Cross the sawdust floor for a French-dip sandwich at Philippe the Original, one of I..A.’s oldest restaurants. Conjure up Prohibition in the hidden wine cellar (the feds never found it) at New York’s swank “21” Club. When you dine in the restaurants listed below, you will both eat well and be steeped in the history of their cities. These places have survived not just on reputation but also on the overall superiority of their cuisine, service, and ambience. Home to locals and travelers alike, they invite you to savor both the flavors and the history of their towns.

Tim Zagat

ATLANTA 1840 Dante’s Down the Hatch • 3380 Peachtree Rd., NE, 404-266-1600 • “Decorated to look like an ancient pirate ship,” this “unique” jazz nightclub in Buckhead is one of “the coolest restaurants in Atlanta.”

BOSTON 1875 Locke-Ober • 3 Winter PL, 617-542-1340 • From the onion soup gratinée to the Lobster Savannah, plenty of old standbys remain at this Boston institution.

CHICAGO 1898 The Berghoff • 17 W. Adams St., 312-427-3170 • “Wiener schnitzel heaven” for more than a century, this “dependable” Loop German-American is a “bastion” of “oldworld” “Gemütlichkeit.”

LOS ANGELES 1908 Philippe the Original • 1001 N. Alameda St., 213-628-3781 • This venerable Dodger Stadium-adjacent “lunch counter with heart” is a “generational dining” experience where the French dip allegedly was “invented.” 1919 Musso & Frank Grill • 6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-467-7788 • The very essence of “old Hollywood,” this “time portal” is “a classic” Traditional American “institution.”

MIAMI 1913 Joe’s Stone Crab • 11 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-0365 • “Celebs, tourists, and those spending other people’s money” get their “annual fix” of “melt-in-yourtnouth stone crabs” and “world-class sides” at South Beach’s No. 1 popular “granddaddy.”

NEW ORLEANS 1840 Antoine’s • 713 St. Louis St., 504-5814422 • Nostalgists never stray from this “old-fashioned” 1840 French Quarter Creole-Classic French “landmark” where “half the fun is the history of it all.” 1880 Commander’s Palace • 1403 Washington Ave., 504-899-8221 • The “unrivaled” “queen of local cuisine” still rules with an “elegant” Haute Creole hand.

NEW YORK 1885 Keens Steakhouse • 72 W. 36th St., 212-947-3636 • This wonderful 1885 Garment District chop shop exudes so much history you’ll “feel like you’re in a Caleb Carr novel.” 1929 “21 ” Club • 21 W. 52d St., 212-582-7200 • “A timeless NY classic that’s still going strong,” this town-house “landmark” has “improved with age,” offering seamless black-tie service.

PHILADELPHIA 1892 Reading Terminal Market • 51 N. 12th St., 215-922-2317 • This “fantastic” farmers’ market next to the Convention Center is a “must-see for any visitor.”

SAN FRANCISCO 1908 John ‘s Grill • 63 Ellis St., 415-986-0069 • Maltese Falcon buffs migrate to this 1908 downtown chophouse that was a favorite hangout of Dashiell Hammett.

WASHINGTON, D.C. 1851 Willard Room • Willard Inter-Continental Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, 202-637-7440 • Since 1851 this “drop-dead” gorgeous downtown hotel institution has “defined elegance” and privilege.

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