Take a delicious trip back in time.

Columbia Restaurant

The ingredients of the 1905 Salad, which is a thing most everybody seems to order at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, are about as classic as salad makings come. Iceberg lettuce, ripped to shreds. Green olives, the kind with the little pimiento pepper stuck in the middle. Ribbons of baked ham and Swiss cheese. Then comes the dressing, with sprinklings of dried oregano, and the white wine vinegar, along with a sizable hit of Worcestershire sauce, and an abundance of grated Pecorino Romano.

This is not so much the kind of salad we eat now, this is salad you read about in the pages of a brittle mid-century cookbook, and yet the 1905 is arguably the most important item on the menu at Florida’s oldest restaurant. Occupying a Spanish-to-the-nines palace of many rooms, the Columbia's menu is every bit as mashed up as the historic culture of Tampa's Ybor City, a place where immigrants came from around the world to work in the cigar factories, going back to the late 1800's. The restaurant knows just how much the salad matters to its loyal patrons, and they present the dish with a level of care many other restaurants reserve for big ticket items like, say, caviar.

Well-dressed servers mix the restaurant's calling card tableside, day after day, as they have done for so long now; the result, a crunchy, cold, satisfying thing, with that one-two umami punch from the Worcestershire and the aged cheese, and then there is that feeling that you get when something is made especially for you, with no small amount of care or attention. Julienned cold ham or no, this is a delicious, highly-craveable salad, one you will remember, long after you forget most other salads.

Of course, the setting helps—the Columbia is one of the most extravagant restaurants you will find in the Southeast, at least outside of a theme park; each corner has a story to tell, or stories, every table seems to have history. The original Ybor location of the Columbia—there are now a number of Columbias—is one of those places that you always find your way back to, even if you are not very hungry; you come, even if only for a moment, to touch a past that you will discover, in the case of Tampa, is not so past at all.

In nearly every state, from Revolutionary Period taverns in New England to Gold Rush holdovers in The West, America’s oldest restaurants offer us a direct line to days gone by in a country—and an industry—typically preoccupied with the now and the next. Again and again, the story repeats itself, from a century-old hotel dining room on Hawaii's Big Island, to one of the country's oldest Chinese restaurants, still going strong in Butte, Montana. Along the way, there’s plenty of fried chicken, and there’s so much pie, too, although in some states, the answer to the question, which is the oldest restaurant, is not always obvious. From Texas to Washington to Maine, the landscape holds so many surprises, so many finds, and we've collected them here for you, in one easy-to-find spot. Who carries the title in your state, currently? Let’s find out. — David Landsel

ALABAMA

The Bright Star Bessemer

1907

Famous for fresh-caught Gulf seafood, not to mention a fine beef tenderloin marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, this long-running, Greek immigrant family-owned restaurant is a mainstay not only in post-industrial downtown Bessemer, it’s also one of the state’s most treasured dining establishments. At heart, this is a classic meat-and-three establishment, one where ingredients and service (highly professional) still matter a great deal.

 

ALASKA

Peggy’s Anchorage

1944

Horseshoe counters, forest green banquettes, wood paneling, and garish accents of burnt orange tile—this coffee shop is about as classic as they come, for the longest time a favorite of the bush pilots flying in and out of Merrill Field, right across the busy highway. From morning until late, Peggy’s serves the working-class Mountain View neighborhood, as it has for generations; for many, Peggy’s is all about the pie—for thirty-five years, a woman named June baked them herself. When she retired, her recipes stayed, dozens of them, and don’t even ask what’s good, because this is Peggy’s—they’re all pretty great.

ARIZONA

The Palace Restaurant & Saloon Prescott

1877

Where does one start, really, when considering the overwhelming amount of history—the fascinating, the lurid, the plain hilarious—that you get when you pop into what is not only Arizona’s oldest bar, but also its longest-running business? How about the time when Wyatt Earp killed a couple of guys in a gunfight, out back? Doc Holliday doing knife fights, right in the bar? The speakeasy years? The brothel years? The time when the place caught fire (which happened more than once), when the patrons carried the actual bar out into the street, and kept right on drinking? There are tales about ghosts, there are stories about Hollywood types who stopped by, about Steve McQueen, about Peter Fonda and Brooke Shields, and you’ll want to stop too—enter via the 1901 vintage swinging saloon doors, have a drink, and stay for lunch or dinner.

 

ARKANSAS

White House Cafe Camden

1907

Back in the earliest days, this modest, small-town cafe was situated so close to train tracks that passing railroad workers could practically reach out and grab themselves a plate—today, the trains don’t come quite so close to the building, and the railroads here, as elsewhere, aren’t nearly what they used to be, but there’s something about the restaurant—serving a very-this-part-of-Arkansas blend of Tex-Mex and Southern classics—that just won’t quit, not after the building of a highway that makes it easy to avoid Camden entirely, not after a series of ownership changes, or the passing of more than one hundred years. Grab a seat at the counter—here, as so often in these types of establishments, it’s the place to be.

CALIFORNIA

Tadich Grill San Francisco

1849

Standing on California Street, peering past the net curtains and into the warmly-lit dining room of the state’s longest-running restaurant, cable cars rumbling in the background, it’s impossible not to feel jealous of everyone inside. Beginning life during the Gold Rush era as a humble coffee stand on Clay Street, the restaurant was purchased in 1886 by Croatian immigrant John Tadich, who sold it to the Buich family, also from Croatia, in 1928; then, as now, the restaurant is all about fresh seafood, grilled over mesquite charcoal, and while you’d never know to look at it, the restaurant has only been in its current location since the 1960s.

 

COLORADO

Buckhorn Exchange Denver

1893

From Hollywood elite to English royalty to cowboys to degenerate gamblers, this all-comers welcome saloon, proud the holder of Colorado’s first liquor license, features a menu that apparently is said to have seen only minimal tweaking over the years; drop in for the rattlesnake dip, an order of Rocky Mountain oysters, and a gander at the impressive array of taxidermy on the walls. (Safe to say, there's a bit of overlap between the display and the menu.)

CONNECTICUT

Griswold Inn Essex

1776

As old as American independence, which is pretty old, old enough anyway, one of the country’s longest operating taverns, which was commandeered by the British and used as a command center during the War of 1812, has been serving meals since the very earliest days. Located steps from the protected harbor along the Connecticut River that has been a sailing port since forever, the inn retains a nautical theme; during Prohibition, it's said that the Griswold (The Gris for short) stayed afloat entertaining the sailors.

 

DELAWARE

Kelly’s Logan House Wilmington

1864

Proudly laying claim to the rather specific title of the country’s oldest continuously operating bar that has actually been continuously operated by the same family (that would be the Kelly’s), this fixture in Wilmington’s Trolley Square neighborhood is, as you might imagine, the place to be on St. Patrick’s Day. The rest of the year, drop in for a pint and an order of the crab dip.

FLORIDA

Columbia Tampa

1905

If only the walls could talk at this splendorous Spanish (with clear Cuban influences) palace in historic Ybor City, a Tampa essential more than one hundred years later. Iceberg lettuce receives the royal treatment via the famous 1905 Salad, constructed at your table with a great deal of pizzazz; the white chocolate bread pudding, made with the preferred local Cuban bread, will haunt your dessert dreams.

 

GEORGIA

The Plaza Restaurant Thomasville

1916

Today, visitors to one of the Southeast’s most pleasant small towns have an array of choices at their fingertips, eating-wise and drinking-wise, but none quite so well-established as this vintage fine dining institution, which over the years has been sought out by local and visitor alike for its long-running menu of Greek, Italian, and Southern specialties.

HAWAII

Manago Hotel Captain Cook

1917

Pile into the wood-paneled dining room at this Big Island institution (still operating as a highly recommended budget lodging alternative) for meals of fresh-caught Ono and Opakapaka, or perfectly-cooked pork chops, all served with generous sides.

IDAHO

The Snake Pit Enaville

1879

Tabloid-worthy crimes, Rocky Mountain oysters on the menu, and too many secrets for one building in small town Idaho make this spot—mercifully close to I-90, for the road tripper's pleasure—the sort of place you want to return to, again and again. Surviving fires, floods, booms and busts in the mining trade, and a phase as a house of ill repute, people come nowadays for the Saturday seafood buffet, prime rib nights, and monster-sized chicken fried steaks.

ILLINOIS

Village Tavern Long Grove

1849

Nowadays, most people know Long Grove as one in a string of suburbs to the northwest of Chicago, but go a little deeper and you’ll find the old village center, home to the state’s longest-running bar and restaurant, a reminder of a very different time indeed. A menu of comforting classics includes a great pollack and chips, and a top sirloin beef stew; the best nights here might just be Mondays and Wednesdays, which are the all-you-can-eat broasted chicken nights. (Broasting, a combination of broiling and roasting, is such a Midwestern thing to do to chicken, and it's delicious.)

 

INDIANA

The Log Inn Haubstadt

1825

Honest Abe Lincoln himself is said to have dined at this venerable establishment back in 1844, where to this day you will find comforting Midwestern cooking and plenty of baked desserts. First opened as a stagecoach stop—said to be one of the first in the Midwest—the Inn has been modernized somewhat over the years, but the tradition of stopping by for chicken dinners remains.

IOWA

Breitbach’s Country Dining Balltown

1852

Now owned by the sixth generation of the Breitbach family, Iowa’s oldest restaurant hasn’t just survived—two devastating fires, in the space of one year, can you imagine—it has thrived. The older Breitbach's gets, in fact, the more popular the place seems to be, and while an ever-changing buffet certainly helps draw in the hungry, it's the a la carte menu of reasonably-priced local Black Angus steaks and pork tenderloins, along with a particularly robust offering of house made pies, that make this rural stop-off near Dubuque an Iowa must.

 

KANSAS

Hays House Council Grove

1857

There’s more to the menu at this former Santa Fe Trail trading post than the cast iron skillet-fried chicken, but that’s a huge part of the appeal (along with the pies) of this vintage restaurant in a town of just two thousand people. First opened by Seth Hays, grandson of Daniel Boone, the restaurant evolved over time to become something of a Kansas landmark; after a 2011 kitchen fire, a group of local residents banded together and bought the place, re-opening just a year or so later.

KENTUCKY

Talbott Tavern Bardstown

1779

Hosting everyone from a five-year-old Abraham Lincoln—who lodged here with his parents—to Jesse James, who is said to have shot the place up one night in a fit of paranoia, this oasis of hospitality at the tail end of a historic stagecoach route has been a part of life for centuries in a handsome town that came up along with the bourbon trade. Said to have been open and serving its guests since day one, the preferred local tipple figures heavily on the menu, from bourbon barbecue ribs to a steak that goes out practically floating in compound bourbon butter, not that there's anything wrong with that.

 

LOUISIANA

Antoine’s New Orleans

1840

This suite of elegant rooms dedicated to Haute Creole cooking—a civilized retort to clamorous Bourbon Street, practically out the front door—is the birthplace of Oysters Rockefeller, and has hosted president and pope (as in, John Paul II) alike. This is the longest-operating, family-owned restaurant in the country, surviving everything from Prohibition, when drinks were served in coffee cups, to Hurricane Katrina, which wrought havoc on the restaurant’s considerable wine collection.

 

MAINE

Palace Diner Biddeford

1927

There are certainly older restaurants in Maine, but the not exactly overpopulated state has had a few issues with keeping the lights on—if you’re looking for old-old (and a stunning oceanfront setting), it’s the now very much updated Cliff House in Ogunquit you want—they first began serving in the 1860s, though the kitchen took a pretty significant break before firing the stoves back up. Longevity-wise, it’s another kind of New England classic—one of two dining cars of its kind left in the country, it is said—that takes the crown, and the Palace isn’t just any diner, it’s renowned for its sensitively updated menu, prepared with great care and excellent ingredients, in one of the most charming settings any diner lover could ever ask for.

 

MARYLAND

Old South Mountain Inn Boonsboro

1732

Back when places like Ohio were considered the Wild West, so to speak, the National Road was, as the name implies, one of the most important routes in a fledgling America. This well-kept stone tavern in Turner’s Gap was always a popular stopping-off point along the way, and certainly saw its fair share of Civil War drama. After a brief period as a single-family residence, the Inn returned to its original mission; today, it’s a destination spot—haunted, people say— for crab cakes (you’re in Maryland, are you surprised), stuffed lobster tails, and Beef Wellington.

WATCH: The South’s Best Restaurants 2019

MASSACHUSETTS

Union Oyster House Boston

1826

From Daniel Webster, who is said to have been able to eat multiple plates of oysters in one sitting—for his lunch, mind you, washed down with a brandy—to an up-and-coming John F. Kennedy, a who’s who of New England have walked through this door, to eat oysters, in a building said to date back to the early 1700s, which already had something of a past before it became a restaurant. (The oldest continuously-operating restaurant in America today, thank you very much.) Among the stories: An exiled French king—Louise Philippe—lived upstairs for a time, not long before the oyster house moved in.

 

MICHIGAN

New Hudson Inn New Hudson

1839

While the White Horse Inn over in Metamora might be nearly as old and definitely has the more in-depth menu, it’s hard to compete with Michigan’s oldest business on the good times front—this sometimes raucous bar, just a little over a half hour from Downtown Detroit, attracts its share of bikers, for beers, cheeseburgers, live music, and dancing. Fridays, stop in for the best deal of the week, at least where food is concerned—they do an all-you-can-eat fish fry.

MINNESOTA

Pracna Minneapolis

1890

This storied bar on the oldest street in the city may have spent much of the 20th century on hiatus, a chain of events that began with Prohibition, and for a while there, back in 2015, it seemed like a temporary closure might have been the end of the line for the brick tavern, named years later for founding father Frank Pracna, who first opened the place in partnership with a local brewery. Good news—it’s back, and while the menu is strictly bar food, that’s fine with fans, who are mostly here for the drinks, anyway.

MISSISSIPPI

Weidmann’s Meridian

1923

The sign says 1870, and the Weidmann family (immigrants from Switzerland) and Meridian definitely go that far back, but in its present state and location, things have been up and running for nearly a century. Swiss they may have been, but this is one restaurant that definitely knows its audience; whether you come for lunch or dinner, you start with crispy fried green tomatoes, moving on to the likes of gumbo, and catfish, and shrimp salads luxuriating in remoulade; meals begin, as they have for the longest time, with peanut butter and crackers; many end with a slice of the black bottom pie, a house specialty.

MISSOURI

J. Huston Tavern Arrow Rock

1834

A handsome callback to a time when Missouri was the frontier, rather than right in the middle of it all, this carefully-restored tavern is a highlight of a visit to the village of Arrow Rock, a short (and worth the time) detour on the run between St. Louis and Kansas City. Now part of the state historic site that ensures Arrow Rock’s pioneer times heritage remains alive, the tavern is something of a destination for rather generous chicken dinners. Note: A kitchen fire in May of 2019 has closed the restaurant for the time being.

MONTANA

Pekin Noodle House Butte

1911

Said to be the oldest continuously-operating Chinese restaurant in the country, this terrific throwback stands as living tribute to the hard-working immigrants who built the West. Dishes you most likely haven’t seen on menus in decades—egg foo young, chop suey, chow mein—never went anywhere; meals are served up in a series of private booths, as was the style when the Noodle House blew onto the scene in a then-booming Butte.

NEBRASKA

Glur’s Tavern Columbus

1876

The vibe says mid-20th century Midwest watering hole, but this burger-slinging relic not so secretly goes all the way back to frontier times, when Buffalo Bill is said to have been a regular.

NEVADA

The Martin Hotel Winnemucca

1898

You can still get to Winnemucca by train, just like in the old days, and when you get here, on the California Zephyr, which stops once a day on its run between Chicago and San Francisco, you can still roll up for a full Basque dinner with all the trimmings at this vintage boarding house, which once hosted sheepherders and cowboys and everyone else passing through. Meals are served family style, there’s always lamb, and sweetbreads, and all the grilled garlic you can stand on the side. Save room for the desserts—homemade flan, or bread pudding, or both.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

The Hancock Inn Hancock

1789

More living museum than actual town—most of the charming Main Street is listed—Hancock was once partly owned by John Hancock, hence the name; it’s where you’ll find the state’s oldest bar and restaurant, recently named (for the first time) The Fox Tavern. You can spend the night here, too.

 

NEW JERSEY

The Cranbury Inn Cranbury

1750

A welcome reminder that New Jersey food culture goes way further back than red sauce joints and all-night diners, even if its early history does tend to slink in the shadows more than in some other nearby states, this modest Revolutionary War-era tavern remains a stalwart on the main drag of an attractive village that time and two highways (both the Turnpike and US 130) have passed by. While you can sit down to a full dinner of the usual this-part-of-the-world suspects—surf and turf, veal osso bucco, what have you—and you should, make sure to kick things off with a drink in the Colonial Bar, occupying the original timber frame tavern, originally a stagecoach stop.

 

NEW MEXICO

El Farol Santa Fe

1835

From humble beginnings as a bar along a dusty Canyon Road, long (so long!) before the strip became known for its collection of high-priced art galleries, what was once just La Cantina over time evolved to become El Farol, known both for tapas and some very talented flamenco dancers, calling back to the capital city’s salad days, when everything as far as you could see (and far beyond) was dubbed New Spain. If you haven’t been in recent years, you might be surprised—an ownership change a couple of years back led to a sensitive update of the space, highlighting the restaurant’s collection of vintage murals.

 

NEW YORK

The ’76 House Tappan

1755

The assumption that New York City’s Fraunces Tavern is the state’s oldest dining and drinking establishment is made rather frequently; historians and the folks in this impossibly cute Rockland County village say otherwise. Back when there was an actual George Washington instead of a George Washington Bridge, shortly before the Fraunces became the hottest thing in Manhattan nightlife, this modest hostelry was a hive of activity; early on in life, it was the place of confinement for Benedict Arnold’s British co-conspirator John Andre, hanged in Tappan in 1780. (For years, the tavern was nicknamed Andre’s Prison, and to this day, some are convinced the place is haunted.) Today, the ’76 likes to call itself the oldest dining room in America, and while it certainly has had its ups and downs and stops and starts over the years, there’s no denying the vibe—this is the rare sort of place where in the 21st century you think to yourself, yes, perhaps I will have the Yankee pot roast.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

The Tavern in Old Salem Winston-Salem

1784

Like Colonial Williamsburg, except with a smaller marketing budget, Old Salem—just a few blocks south of modern-day downtown Winston-Salem—is home to a treasure trove of Colonial architecture, calling back to the area’s earliest days as an 18th century Moravian settlement. At the heart of it all stands this handsome tavern, restored during the middle of the last century, but every bit a time capsule; pop in for a dinner of wild boar shank or rainbow trout. There may be restaurants in the state that can claim longer continuous bouts of operation, but here’s the one for those really looking to connect with North Carolina’s distant past.

 

NORTH DAKOTA

Peacock Alley American Grill & Bar Bismarck

1933

The old Patterson Hotel isn’t the Patterson Hotel anymore, but throughout its history, what was once the state capital’s tallest building (seven stories!) has proved that you can’t keep a good boozer down—the hotel famously operated a speakeasy during Prohibition, and is said to have been quite the lure for local politicians, before, during and after. The return of legal liquor brought the restaurant you see in the now-residential building’s lobby today, serving three meals a day, many of them high-quality steak dinners, and (of course) plenty of drinks.

OHIO

The Golden Lamb Lebanon

1803

Lord Stanley, John Quincy Adams, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain—it’s more like who hasn’t stopped at this handsome 19th century brick tavern not all that far from Cincinnati, a legendary spot that goes all the way back to the time when Ohio was just sorting out statehood. Owned by the Portman family for a very long time, that’s Portman as in Senator Rob Portman, the hotel and restaurant (the Black Horse Tavern) remain popular to this day. You start with the sauerkraut balls—pork, beef, kraut and spices breaded and fried, just go with it—and move on to the famous tavern fried chicken dinners, served with all the trimmings.

 

OKLAHOMA

Cattlemens Steakhouse Oklahoma City

1910

Steak for breakfast, steak for lunch, steak anytime—from a hefty T-bone to calf’s brains, this fabled classic in historic Stockyard City serves the local specialty (meat) from early morning, until late at night. Opened by a notorious bootlegger said to have lost the place in a dice game back in the 1940s, Cattlemen’s thrives today as one of Oklahoma City’s top restaurants, said at one point to be serving more than 10,000 customers every week.

 

OREGON

Huber’s Portland

1879

Long before Portland’s culinary scene became a thing that people around the world knew about, there was handsome Huber’s, where waiters would roll up to your table and construct elaborate Spanish coffees, made with triple sec and rum (set ablaze, naturally, because drama) and whipped cream and enough Kahlua to put whoever invented Kahlua’s kids through college. Resting comfortably—underneath iconic stained glass skylights—in the same spot for more than a century now, Huber’s began as a tavern, and only became known for its food when Chinese immigrant Jim Louie took the reigns of the place in 1912, shortly after it moved to the downtown corner where you’ll find it today. Then, as now, it’s the turkey dinners that are the calling card.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

McGillin’s Olde Ale House Philadelphia

1860

Before there was a City Hall or a Wanamaker’s Department Store, and a lot of other things that have come and gone in Center City Philadelphia throughout the years, there was the Bell in Hand Alehouse, owned by the McGillin family, there on skinny little Drury Street. Over time, the tavern grew and evolved and became McGillin’s, remaining in the hands of just two families throughout its history. You come for brats, for crab cakes, shepherd’s pie, the meatloaf, or a filet mignon sandwich; Lancaster County legend Stoudt’s Brewery handles production of the three house beers—McGillin’s is said to serve more Stoudt’s beer than any other bar in the state, and if you’ve ever been here on a typical end-of-the-week evening, you certainly wouldn’t dispute this statistic.

 

RHODE ISLAND

White Horse Tavern Newport

1673

While there is the question of what exactly the restaurant that calls itself America’s Oldest Tavern was serving its guests since 1673—as you’d expect from something of this vintage, the White Horse, which has only been the White Horse since 1730, but who’s splitting hairs, has had many functions over time. Rhode Island’s state legislative body once met here, the place was run by a pirate, at one point, it housed troops during the Revolutionary War, and it even had a rather low period, at one point, where it functioned as a relatively unremarkable boarding house, leading to a near-scrape with the wrecking ball in the mid 20th century. Newport being Newport, the local preservation society rallied, and today, while perhaps not centuries old, the on-site restaurant, where you can eat things like Beef Wellington, and house made charcuterie, and of course plenty of local clams and calamari, in a series of magnficently moody, Colonial-vibes rooms.

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

Villa Tronco Columbia

1940

Restaurant origin stories don’t come more charming than this Italian institution in the state capital, with Sadie Tronco serving spaghetti and meatballs out of her family’s fruit store to homesick Italian-American soldiers stationed at Camp Jackson during World War II. During those earliest days, it’s said that Sadie had to give her pizza away, just to get the locals to try the stuff. These days, it’s hard to find someone in Columbia who hasn’t at least heard of Villa Tronco, still family-owned, and still going strong in its charming, original home. Veal piccata, the house chicken soup and the special house Italian dressing all make a strong case for a local legend.

 

SOUTH DAKOTA

Legends Steakhouse Deadwood

1903

Snaking its way through a scenic gulch in the Black Hills, the entire city of Deadwood is an immersion in Wild West times, a town that boomed and busted its way from a late 1800s gold rush into the modern era. At the heart of it all, the Franklin Hotel, host to everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to Babe Ruth to John Wayne, has had its share of ups and downs—at one point, it was closed down and converted to apartments—but you’d never know to look at it now. Stop by for slow-roasted, bone-in prime rib, or a dry-aged South Dakota buffalo ribeye—everything’s aged for a minimum of 21 days, and prices are quite reasonable.

 

TENNESSEE

Varallo’s Restaurant Nashville

1907

Nowadays, it’s a safe bet most people aren’t visiting Nashville for the chili, but no local restaurant has managed to hang around quite so long as this Church Street institution, even if it is no longer on Church Street—a location on Fourth Street is the sole surviving outlet of what used to be a slightly larger operation. (At least it’s still family-owned.) The chili—not Cincinnati-style, not Southwest-style, but rather in a world of its own, and you can get spaghetti and a tamale with it—is certainly a staple here, but plenty of locals come in for the fried catfish, the meat and two veg combos, simple Italian-American fare and hearty breakfasts. The space as you see it here may only have been in existence since the 1990s, but somehow feels much older.

 

TEXAS

The Stagecoach Inn Salado

1861

By the time this vital link to Texas history—once a stagecoach stop on the Chisholm Trail—shuttered for renovation in 2015, it was barely feeling itself anymore, having fallen far from its heady early days, when it played host to everyone from Sam Houston to Jesse James; thank goodness one of the state’s most handsome old inns—perhaps now more appealing than ever—is back. While old-timers have balked at some of the upgrades (at the hands of big city types from nearby Austin), the restaurant’s menu has brought back some of the more popular dishes from its mid-century heyday, from a tomato aspic starter to the strawberry kiss—ice cream on a bed of meringue, bathed in strawberry sauce—for dessert.

 

UTAH

The Bluebird Logan

1914

The last few years have not been exactly benevolent toward Utah’s oldest restaurants—from a list of the five oldest compiled by a local newspaper in 2016, three are now closed. And while this Logan legend cannot actually claim to be in operation as you see it today since 1914, no matter what the very attractive vintage sign says out front (the Bluebird moved to its current location in 1923), of the two oldest restaurants remaining in the state (the other, a drug store in Kamas, opened in 1920) this is the one that retains an incredible amount of charm; the counter area in the high-ceilinged first floor dining room is one of the best vintage restaurant settings around—everybody comes for the famous Bluebird Chicken, battered, deep-fried and served in a spicy-sweet sauce; the house rolls are locally revered.

 

VERMONT

The Dorset Inn Dorset

1796

In a state as old as Vermont, one must allow for a bit of uncertainty when it comes to long-ago history, and there tends to be some confusion regarding the lineage of the state’s oldest inns, taverns and restaurants—this charming spot, however, appears to be able to lay claim to being the oldest continuously-operating establishment in the state, having served food to its guests since shortly after the Revolutionary War. Throughout its history, the hotel has been quite proud of its culinary offering, and today is no exception, with New American menus leaning as heavily as possible on regional produce.

 

VIRGINIA

Red Fox Inn & Tavern Middleburg

1728

At the center of one of the country’s most privileged small towns is what claims to be America’s oldest continuously-operating inn, now in business for roughly three hundred years. Middleburg’s status, and its location in Virginia’s this-close-to-actually-being-English, rather exclusive hunt country means the Red Fox has had a seriously impressive roster of visitors, presidents and celebrities galore, many of them no doubt stopping in the tavern or pub, in order to try what has been called some of the best fried chicken in the state. Start with a glass of Virginia wine—they’ve got quite the list.

 

WASHINGTON

Horseshoe Cafe Bellingham

1886

Back in frontier times, before the busy college town of Bellingham was even incorporated, visitors and locals could depend on an all-hours welcome at this still-busy restaurant and lounge, said to be continuously operating since the very beginning. Nobody seemed to blink when it moved across the street in 1958, and to this day, you can drop by late into the night for solid, often quite creative diner fare, or cocktails in the pleasingly retro Ranch Room.

 

WEST VIRGINIA

North End Tavern & Brewery Parkersburg

1899

Expanded, renovated, rebuilt, reimagined—everything that could happen to a neighborhood bar has happened to this Parkersburg institution; there’s very little left about the place, save legend, to tell you that you’re in the state’s oldest bar, which has also been one of West Virginia’s most successful microbreweries, since the 1990s. No matter—this is definitely, very legitimately, a piece of West Virginia history, and no matter what it might look like now—a popular brew pub, with a complete menu—it still has one very important thing in common with its earliest days as a simple, local tap: people really like hanging out here.

WISCONSIN

Red Circle Inn & Bistro Nashotah

1848

Back when Waukesha County’s Lake Country was the preferred summer destination for Milwaukee’s high society, brewer Frederick Pabst set his eye on the old Nashotah Hotel, which had been going strong for fifty years already, thanks to its location along an popular trading route. The Pabst family owned and operated the premises for just a decade or so, but their rebrand stuck, and so did the restaurant; the current owners have been at it for about a quarter century now, and with the region essentially a bedroom community for Milwaukee by now, the Red Circle is more than just a historic curiosity—it’s essential dining (quality steaks, seafood, some minor twists) in the region, offering a more formal dining room and a laid-back bistro experience. Save room for souffle.

 

WYOMING

Miner’s & Stockmen’s Steakhouse Hartville

1862

Back in frontier times, the town of Hartville, roughly one hundred miles north of Cheyenne, was about as wild a town as you might expect to find in the Wyoming Territory, offering a great deal more excitement than you might expect from a settlement of a few hundred frontiersmen and women. Today, there isn’t much left to Wyoming’s oldest surviving incorporated town, save a few dozen holdouts, the local town hall, a post office and this treasured old haunt, both Wyoming’s oldest surviving bar and restaurant. Stop in for steaks—USDA Prime Black Angus, and they’re super proud about this—and wedge salads, and reasonably priced wines by the bottle.

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