Dining » Vol. 36

Delve into A Century of Restaurants

Award-winning author and Barbecue America TV personality, Rick Browne, was dining at a restaurant in Portland, Ore., when he learned it was more than 100 years old. Intrigued, he began to research if there were other restaurants throughout the country this old and learned there are, in fact, about 250. So, Browne hung up his tongs and spent the next three years of his life traveling the U.S., profiling 100 centenarian restaurants, inns, taverns and public houses he selected as being the most historic, most interesting and most successful.

The result is Browne’s new cookbook, A Century of Restaurants: Stories and Recipes from 100 of America’s Most Historic and Successful Restaurants (Andrews McMeel Publishing, October 2013, $40). The book is filled with coveted recipes, restaurant historical profiles, interesting facts, great photography, and tidbits of information on some of our country’s longest-standing restaurants, some 200 and 300 years old.


From the oldest restaurant in the U.S. (White Horse Tavern in Newport, R.I., which began serving hungry folks “Stewed Pompion” and “Roast Beef-Stake” in 1673) to the youngest centenarian (the Pleasant Point Inn, a famed resort in Lovell, Maine, which began its long run in 1911), each restaurant played a major part in shaping U.S. culinary culture. These restaurants represent the best of family traditions, have provided jobs for millions of people, entertained and fed millions more, and in many ways, define what we call American hospitality.

Throughout his 46,066-mile journey into America’s oldest restaurants, Browne talked to the owners, the chefs and cooks, the waiters and busboys, the old customers who return year after year and the folks who have just walked in the door for the first time, all the while looking for the secrets to their longevity, the magic that has kept people coming into their dining rooms for ten decades or more.

The restaurants include:

  • The bar in Sydney, Nebraska, where Ernest Hemmingway edited A Farewell to Arms while sitting on a stool sipping martinis.
  • The New Jersey inn that inspired a Rogers & Hart song covered by Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Ella Fitzgerald and many other singers in the mid-1950s.
  • A rustic tavern in Arkansas where a local blacksmith created an unusual knife and presented it to a pioneer who was passing through. Later, the knife became as famous as the man who received it.
  • The restaurant in Denver that was visited by a tribal war party of 30 Blackfeet Indians in 1938 in full war paint and battle dress, who rode up on horseback and with great ceremony delivered a historic gift to the owner.
  • Restaurants where Billy the Kid washed dishes, Ho Chi Minh baked bread and cakes, the King of France taught ballroom dancing, Japan’s 66th prime minister worked while attending college, a tavern where a traitor was hanged on a hill right behind the place, and the tavern where Ben Franklin slept under 100 hams.
  • The rural publick house where all the books in the library have been cut in half.
  • The tavern where Buffalo Bill paid for drinks and grub with a $1,000 dollar bill ~ shocking the owner and the whole town.
  • The hotel bar where Teddy Roosevelt recruited and signed up many of his Rough Riders.

Rick Browne is a TV cooking show host, photojournalist, cookbook author, newspaper restaurant critic and food writer who has traveled the world on assignment for consumer travel and airline magazines, as well as food publications, newspapers and Internet websites, as host of two cooking shows on television, and for the 15 cookbooks he has authored. He is the creator, host and executive producer of public television’s popular Barbecue America series. He was also the host of the Outdoor Channel cooking and travel show, Ready, Aim…Grill.

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