Food always tastes better with a story behind it. Flipping over a menu and reading the history of a restaurant's owners, their family, and the building makes the food seem more relatable. More real. Certainly more interesting.
However, some restaurants are more interesting than others.
Really old restaurants
Union Oyster House - Boston, MA
Settled among the cobblestone in Boston’s historic downtown, just a mile or so from Paul Revere’s home and where he famously rode to warn the British were coming, Boston’s Union Oyster House is the oldest continuously-run restaurant and oyster bar in the United States.
A booth upstairs sits permanently vacant with one white rose. It was President John F. Kennedy’s favorite booth, and he frequently dined there alone. The famous circular oyster bar has only eight stools, but they have been graced by presidents, actors, actresses, and singers. Other notable facts include the introduction of toothpicks when Charles Foster imported them from South Africa.
Stiftskeller St. Peter - Salzburg, Austria
Possibly the oldest restaurant in the world and definitely the oldest in Europe, Stiftskeller was founded in 803 and is located inside St. Peter’s Abbey. Famed patrons include Emperor Charlemagne, Christopher Columbus, Johann Georg Faust, and Mozart.
Ralph’s - Philadelphia, PA
A favorite of Frank Sinatra, Ralph’s is the oldest Italian restaurant in the country continuously owned by the same family. Traditional recipes have been passed down for almost 120 years, and they have no problem telling you, “Cash only.”
From the screen
Bubba Gump Shrimp
This is the only operational restaurant in America born from an Oscar-winning film. With 40 locations worldwide, Viacom partnered with Rusty Pelican Restaurants to bring the movie’s centerpiece eatery from the screen to the plate.
Cheers - Boston, MA
Where everybody knows your name, Cheers made its screen debut in 1982. The show ran for 11 years, ranking alongside The Cosby Show and Family Ties in popularity. The bar shown in the TV show is actually a film set, but the exterior shots are all the real deal. There is a replica of the bar on the 2nd floor where fans can get a drink and buy a shirt.
Muriel’s - New Orleans, LA
Not a surprise, New Orleans boasts several haunted restaurants. Among them you will find Muriel’s, where there is one standing reservation every night. A table is set on the 2nd floor for the restaurant’s previous owner, who committed suicide in 1814. Bread and wine are set out every evening to appease the ghost who throws glasses from behind the bar.
Beardslee Castle - Little Falls, NY
Yep, that’s a castle—a faux castle with slamming doors, broken glasses, and moving objects. Featured on Ghost Hunters, some historians say Native Americans were killed on the property in the 1700s. Adding them to the bride who died the night before her wedding and the owner who killed himself in the ladies’ room, there are plenty of reasons to believe the castle kitchens didn’t catch fire by accident in 1989.
Pacific Dining Car - Los Angeles, CA
Accidental predecessor of the food truck, this rail car was designed as a restaurant. Its home was an empty parking lot for two years, and as real estate prices climbed, it moved a few blocks where it has been parked for 90 years. Open 24 hours a day, rare for a fine dining establishment, the owners learned the art of aging beef, and now this rail car is a gem among steakhouses.
Food is a long-standing tradition among families, cultures, and nations. Many remarkable restaurants have risen from those traditions. Have you eaten at one that didn’t make our list? Let us know in the comments!