Restaurants aren't just epicenters of cuisine and good eats -- they can also be a nod to the history and culture of a place and community. And one region of the country that knows this truth particularly well is New England. New England's colonial history, which spans six states, is rich and deeply embedded into the landscape and its restaurants. A drive-by cruise through an old town in Massachusetts or Vermont will reveal restaurants that have been around for longer than the United States has been a country. If you dig a little deeper, you'll also find restaurants frequented by political figures, writers, and inventors or those places that are beloved by the community because they are emblematic of a deep sense of pride and identity.
By definition, a "historic restaurant" is not just a restaurant that has been around for many, many years or is relegated to serving Yankee pot roast (although you'll find this to be one of the most iconic New England foods). It's an eatery with a strong cultural identity and ties to a particular place. If you have the chance to visit New England, here are the restaurants you should check out.
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Ye Olde Tavern (Manchester, Vermont)
Nestled into the heart of the Shires is Ye Olde Tavern. The tavern was built in 1790 (as evident by the antique adornments of the dining room) and features some of the best fare the town of Manchester has to offer. Ye Olde Tavern, which was formally an inn catering to the Green Mountain Boys, has been a centerpiece of the town for many years.
Its "Colonial candlelit dinner" experience features an array of entrees, including traditional Yankee pot roast, New England style scrod, venison, and calves' liver. You'll also find some more modern options on its menu, like almond and brown sugar-encrusted Brie and a Vermont hot fudge sundae made with Moose Tracks ice cream.
Union Street Oyster House (Boston, Massachusettes)
Step back in time at the Union Street Oyster House in Boston. It's located on the Freedom Trail near Faneuil Hall, where it has served Boston residents since before the Revolutionary War. Prior to becoming one of Boston's most historic restaurants, the building served as a dry goods store because of its proximity to the harbor and merchants coming off the boats from England.
This spot has been touted as "America's Oldest Restaurant" after its official opening in 1826 and still has many of its classic recipes on the menu. Its famous Oyster House Clam Chowder, freshly shucked oysters, and boiled Boston scrod are on its menu. All of its entrees are served with house-made cornbread and a side of Boston history.
The Grafton Inn (Grafton, Vermont)
When the image of a "quintessential Vermont inn" pops into your head, you should be thinking about the Grafton Inn. And it's not just the luxurious accommodations; we still think about the gnocchi dish we ate there when we were twelve. The modern menu at the inn, which has been open since 1801, features an array of seasonally rotating menu options, including pub fare at the Phelps Barn and cozy dining at the 1801 Tavern. We recommend the pumpkin risotto or the braised lamb shank, both adorned with local Grafton cheese. After your stay, venture into the heart of the Green Mountains for outdoor tourism opportunities galore.
Frank Pepe's Pizzeria Napoletana (New Haven, Connecticut)
We can't talk about authentic New England fare without mentioning Frank Pepe's pizza — one of the best pizza places in the country. Its first location is located on historic Wooster Street in New Haven, but the empire has since expanded to locales around the country. The Elm City restaurant opened its doors almost a century ago and has been serving up thin-crust, coal-fired pies ever since. The eatery is best known for its original tomato pie — sans mozzarella — and its white clam pie made with fresh herbs, cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil.
The Dorset Inn (Dorset, Vermont)
The Dorset Inn, and its sister restaurant, the Barrows House, are notable restaurants in Bennington County. At the Dorset Inn, which opened to guests in 1796, guests are welcomed each morning with a terrific breakfast of made in-house sausages and pancakes, while its upscale dinner menu features locally sourced ingredients and classic Vermont flavors. The fare accommodates carnivores and veggie-forward guests alike with favorites like seared and roasted duck breast, curry red lentil stew stuffed acorn squash, grilled filet mignon, and roasted turkey croquettes. The ambiance of the inn is quaint, quiet, and reflective of the culture of Southern Vermont.
Waco Diner (Eastport, Maine)
Maine's oldest diner can be found in Eastport. The Waco Diner is situated on a quaint spot with timeless views of the harbor and local flavors infused into its offerings. But it's not just the scenery that makes this restaurant a destination for locals and tourists alike. Their blueberry pie has been called the best in the state, while customers have applauded its fried clams and seafood since the eatery opened in 1924. Enjoy a Bloody Mary and fish and chips and see what this historic restaurant has to offer -- which we think is nothing short of a true taste of Maine.
Louis Lunch (New Haven, Connecticut)
Although folks often think of New Haven as the city of pizza and Yale, it has another hidden historical connection. Louis Lunch opened its doors in 1895 and was the birthplace of the American hamburger sandwich. The shop has been passed down through four generations and has served New Haven's most historic burger since 1898. Its menu is relatively simple compared to other historic restaurants, with few offerings besides its classic burger and sides like house-made potato salad. All of its burgers come cooked on a cast-iron grill with cheese, tomato, and onion on white bread. No substitutions — and absolutely no ketchup.
Roger Sherman Inn (New Caanan, Connecticut)
If you find yourself on the western side of Connecticut, take a cruise up the scenic Meritt Parkway and stop at the Roger Sherman Inn in New Canaan. This upscale inn's menu is complete with an array of elegant, five-star fare, including Old Bay blackened salmon with corn, jalapeno, and leek succotash and a rack of lamb served with Ratatouille and whipped potatoes. If you arrive early enough, you may be able to catch a plate of eggs Benedict or its famous crème brûlée French toast. The food is divine and the inn itself is full of classic Connecticut charm.
The White Horse Tavern (Newport, Rhode Island)
America's oldest tavern can be found in the maritime town of Newport, Rhode Island. The original restaurant may have opened in 1673, but the team at the tavern is serving up modern, exciting favorites loved by tourists and the Newport community. Diners can enjoy seafood caught from Narragansett Bay or heirloom vegetables grown at nearby New England farms. Its popular entrees include the beef Wellington, served with a foie gras mousse, whipped potatoes, and greens, or the pan-seared scallops. You'll also want to go for its caviar service if you plan on splurging on your meal or sample some of the options from the raw bar.
The Omni Parker House (Boston, Massachusetts)
The Omni Parker House is known as the longest continually operating hotel in the country, but it's arguably more famous for inventing the Boston cream pie and the Parker House roll. Historical figures, including Waldo Ralph Emerson and Charles Dickens, have enjoyed the fare at this iconic Boston establishment, while individuals like Malcolm X, Ho Chi Minh, and Emeril Lagasse were once employed there. Diners can enjoy a bite of history with Boston scrod, chowder, and other upscale New England classics. If you don't live in the Boston area, you can also order the Boston cream pie to be shipped to you.
Jameson Tavern (Freeport, Maine)
The Jameson Tavern is touted as "the birthplace of Maine" because of its interesting history. The structure was built in 1779 as a home and turned into a tavern in 1801. Shortly after, the Commissioners met in the Inn to sign the papers that granted the state its independence from Massachusetts, thus giving the tavern and the town the distinguished title.
Diners can enjoy hearty New England fare at the restaurant, including mussels, fried calamari, crabcakes, and burgers, along with its rustic ambiance, beers on tap, and classic New England tavern experience within the walls of the historic red building.
The Palace Diner (Biddeford, Maine)
The Palace Diner is one of two remaining Pollard cars in the United States. The car was initially built in 1927 in Lowell, Massachusetts, but made its way to Biddeford, where it's served diner fare to customers far and wide over the years. Its humble menu features diner favorites like buttermilk pancakes, French toast, brown butter banana bread, caramelized grapefruit, cheeseburgers, and fried chicken sandwiches, along with a rotating selection of beers. The ambiance of this diner, including its food and welcoming staff, is just begging to get posted on Instagram and enjoyed by travelers and locals alike.
Old Yarmouth Inn (Yarmouth, Massachusetts)
The Old Yarmouth Inn opened on Cape Cod in 1696 and features an impressive wine list and Modern American cuisine. Its dining room gives off a very classic historic tavern appeal, with some elegant and upscale notes that are nothing short of the style of the Cape.
Diners can sip on a Cape Cod mule made with cranberry juice or local draft beers while enjoying dishes like stuffed Quahogs, lobster pappardelle, or honey-dijon marinated steak tips. We also love that the Old Yarmouth Inn offers a complete selection of alcohol-free and low-alcohol options for guests to enjoy while experiencing all Cape Cod has to offer.
Old Ferry Landing (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)
Although the restaurant portion of the Old Ferry Landing has only been open since 1975, the actual ferry landing was constructed in the 1800s as a bridge between New Hampshire and neighboring Maine. The history of the building is evident through its original wooden beams and character. Its eatery has been passed down through three generations and features regional seafood dishes like lobster rolls, lobster BLTs, broiled or stuffed haddock, and grilled swordfish. In short, the Old Ferry Landing is a Portsmouth institution and a testament to the rich history of the seafaring community.
Red Arrow Diner (Manchester, New Hampshire)
The Red Arrow Diner is a must-stop for many political figures moving through the state during primary season, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ben Carson, and Donald Trump. But big-name politicians aren't the only folks you'll find at this nostalgic American diner. It also offers classic comfort to the tune of crabcakes benedict, homemade chicken parmesan, a poutine bar, and a side of bacon served in a mug. It's the spot where the coffee and conversations are always flowing regardless of your political affiliation -- and you can rest assured that you'll never leave hungry.
Old Canteen (Providence, Rhode Island)
Joe Marzilli's Old Canteen opened its doors in 1956, making it the oldest family-owned Italian restaurant in the state. The restaurant in the Historic Federal Hill section of Providence offers classic Italian cuisine in an intimate dining setting. Guests can choose from seafood like stuffed squid, lobster fra diavolo, and shrimp scampi or opt for a fresh pasta dish like manicotti or lasagna. Don't forget to try a dessert, like their homemade ricotta cheese pie or spumoni for dessert. It's some of the best authentic Italian that Historical Federal Hill has to offer and needs to be your next stop when you visit the city.
The Charlestown Rathskeller (Charlestown, Rhode Island)
If you love live music, the Charlestown Rathskeller is for you. This spot opened as a speakeasy in 1933 and has since evolved to include a dining room and tavern, outdoor patio, and indoor and outdoor bars. Guests can enjoy cover bands across many music genres with bocce courts, cornhole, and tasty libations. The food menu features classic tavern favorites like fish and chips, steak frites, and broiled ribeye. Finish your meal with a molten brownie sundae and enjoy all of the wonderful food that Charlestown's hidden gem has to offer, with a killer music scene to boot.
The Library Restaurant (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)
You probably don't think of a steakhouse when you see a library. Although the Library Restaurant has the noble lion pillars of an esteemed house of books, it was actually a converted mansion that functioned as a hotel for many years. Guest dine alongside bookshelves and ornate wooden carvings while enjoying the Granite State's best fare. Seven presidents have dined at the restaurant since it opened in 1887, including George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. Its menu features an a la carte style of USDA Prime steaks, soups, salads, and an extensive wine list featuring some of the finest bottles in New England.
Captain Daniel Packer Inne (Mystic, Connecticut)
The Daniel Packer Inne is a must-stop in the cozy Hallmark Channel town of Mystic. This inn was built on the Mystic River nearly 250 years ago and has remained an important part of the region's culinary identity. Its menu features its most well-known dishes, including its homemade clam chowder and French onion soup and popular tavern favorites like roasted cod, burgers, and steak. We recommend trying some of their more modern fare like ancho chili braised short ribs, wild boar gnocchi, and sirloin blackjack. There's no wrong choice at DPI.
The Publick House (Sturbridge, Massachusetts)
The Publick House is what you envision when you think of classic New England inn charm. The inn is centered in the historic town of Sturbridge, so it's no surprise its restaurant and guest accommodations are brimming with New England charm. Guests have the option to dine at Ebenezer's Tavern or the Historic Tap Room. The Tap Room was original with the inn and features a six-foot tall hearth fireplace and authentic dishes like a turkey dinner or old-fashioned Yankee pot roast. The Tavern features classic wing-backed chairs and light bites like crabcakes, shepherd's pie, chicken pot pie, and house-made potato chips.
The Red Inn (Provincetown, Massachusettes)
The Red Inn takes Cape Cod charm to a new level. It was built on the Provincetown Harbor in 1805 and has welcomed esteemed guests like Teddy Roosevelt, as well as tourists seeking a getaway experience. Its dining options are focused on a seasonally rotating menu featuring locally harvested Wellfleet oysters and little neck clams. You'll also get to experience selections from their in-house pastry chef, including bread pudding, creme brulee, and cheesecake. Brunch enthusiasts will also love the options available on Sundays, which include classic French toast or steak and eggs with breakfast cocktails galore.
J. Timothy's (Plainville, Connecticut)
J. Timothy's Tavern was constructed in 1789 and first opened as Cooke's Tavern. From the beginning, the restaurant served as an important social gathering place for the people in the Plainville community. A great-grandson of the original owner opened the tavern as a full-service restaurant in 1934. Since this restaurant was opened, it's housed historic events, like the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network's (ESPN's) first press conference. With its name change in 1988 came a new era of the tavern, a casual one filled with its famous dirt wings, which are double-fried and double-sauced. These wings have put J. Timothy's on the map as one of the best wing spots in the country and prompted it to sell over 12 tons of wings during the Superbowl weekend — all without changing the familiar feel of the spot.
Longfellow's Wayside Inn (Sudbury, Massachussetts)
Longfellow's Wayside Inn dates back to 1707, established as the Howe family home. It eventually became a key part of automobile mogul and inn owner Henry Ford's life, as well as a popular spot for poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. A year after his visit, Longfellow published "Tales of a Wayside Inn," which he wrote after his time at the spot and was the inspiration for the name of the property shortly after.
Diners at Longfellow's Wayside Inn can choose one of the several dining rooms adorned with historical decor and seasonal fireplaces. Their menu features a wide selection of lunch and dinner options, including prime rib, Yankee pot roast, meatloaf, and steak. Folks seeking light pub fare and appetizers can also stop by at the Old Bar during dining hours.
The Trapp Family Lodge (Stowe, Vermont)
If you're seeking a quaint Vermont getaway, look no further than Stowe's Trapp Family Lodge. The von Trapp family, who were the inspiration for "The Sound of Music," settled in Stowe in the 1940s and constructed an alpine lodge based on the Austrian countryside. It has grown to include 96 rooms and 2,600 acres of guest rooms, outdoor adventures, and property for guests to explore.
Guests can eat at the lodge throughout the day, including a delectable buffet-style breakfast and a Brewing Bierhall where guests can sip Trapp Brewing Company lagers and European fare like schnitzel, bratwurst, and spaetzle.
The Colonial Inn (Concord, Massachussetts)
The Colonial Inn is one of those places where it feels like stepping back in time when you cross the threshold. The structure was initially built in 1716 and acted as a storehouse for weapons during the Revolutionary War. The Minutemen met the British on the neighboring North Bridge and kickstarted the first battle of the Revolutionary War -- just steps from what was to become the Colonial Inn.
Diners can enjoy two dining options at the Colonial Inn: Liberty and Merchant's Row. The Liberty Room and adjacent Villiage Forge Tavern feature American cuisine like sandwiches, baked Boston scrod, and Yankee pot roast. The Merchant's Row is a more upscale dining option featuring breakfast, lunch, and dinner options for pass-through travelers and inn guests alike.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.