Chris Granger
Co-proprietors and first cousins Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan run their iconic family restaurant with a spirit of shared respect and trust among themselves and the family members who help lead Commander’s Palace.

The Top 100 Independent Restaurants—The 1600s and 1700s

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The FSR annual Top 100 report salutes restaurants that are legends and landmarks, and—in some instances—measuring success across centuries.

By Amanda Baltazar, Alex Dixon, Nicole Duncan, Connie Gentry, Danny Klein July 2017 Research

Imagine owning a restaurant that’s older than our Independence Day celebration. Impossible for most of us to grasp, but restaurants that have stood the test of time are lessons in excellence and entertainment. This collection of Top 100 Independents pays tribute to some of the industry’s oldest and most esteemed operations, including more than half of which have operated for 100 years or more. History always comes with its share of skeletons in the pantry, ghosts returning to haunt, and colorful stories—so to some extent there are restaurants among the group that are thriving on their own reputations.

READ MORE:

Check out the Top 100 Independent Restaurants from the 1800s.

Check out the Top 100 Independent Restaurants from the 1900s.

The younger “oldies,” those that are 35 to 50 years old, are equally interesting because they’ve managed to succeed across decades without the benefit of historical precedence. Many of these independents have transitioned across multiple generations as well as through shifts in ownership and catastrophic events. Following the profile on Commander’s Palace, our Top 100 is presented from oldest to youngest, including some of the highest-grossing restaurants in the industry and others with modest, but sustained, performance.

Footnote: All sales reflect the annual revenue of the restaurant. The average check is per person and for food only, unless otherwise noted. Estimated figures are indicated as E.

1600s and 1700s

Independents With Colonial Heritage

White Horse Tavern
Don't leave the White Horse Tavern without ordering Lobster Mac and Cheese.

White Horse Tavern

Newport, Rhode Island

Year Opened: 1673

Owner: Jeff Farrar

Cuisine: Modern American

Sales: $1.5 to $2.5 million

Average check: $20 to $40 lunch, $50 to $100 dinner

Essential items: Beef Wellington and Lobster Mac and Cheese

In 1702, notorious pirate William Mayes Jr. returned to Newport with his bounty, succeeding his father as innkeeper of White Horse, where he was granted a license to sell “all sorts of strong drink.”

BILL PHELPS PHOTOGRAPHY
The Red Fox has been owned and operated by three generations of the Reuter family.

Red Fox Inn and Tavern

Middleburg, Virginia

Year opened: 1728

Owner: The Reuter Family

Cuisine: American

Average check: $31 to $60

Essential item: Virginia Peanut Soup

Known as the nation’s “horse and hunt capital,” Middleburg, Virginia, has attracted visitors from all over the country for centuries. Even before the town was established in 1787, it was the site of The Red Fox Inn and Tavern, which opened in 1728 under the name Chinn’s Ordinary. Set in a stone building in the heart of Middleburg, The Red Fox has been owned and operated by three generations of the Reuter family. Throughout its history, notable politicians and celebrities have dined here, including John F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, and Tom Cruise.

During the Civil War, The Red Fox was used by the Confederacy, and the pine bar was even used as an operating table for wounded soldiers who were cared for in the tavern rooms.

On a lighter side, the restaurant also displays 19th and 20th century paintings and sculptures thanks to Red Fox Fine Art, an initiative established by owner Turner Reuter in 1979.

A menu staple throughout its history has been the Virginia Peanut Soup, and other dishes include the popular signature crab cakes served with goat cheese grits, spinach, and cauliflower gratin with a lemon caper cream sauce. The beverage list highlights local wines, beer, and cider.

Durgin-Park

Boston

Year opened: 1742

Owner: Ark Restaurants

Cuisine: Classic New England

Average check: $41 E

In addition to its main dining room, the restaurant now invites guests into its Hideout, a beer garden.

Union Oyster House

Boston

Year opened: 1742

Owners: Joseph A. Milano Jr. and Mary Ann Milano Picardi

Cuisine: Seafood

Average check: $43 E

This restaurant claims to be the one where the toothpick was first used in the U.S.

REYNOLDS TAVERN
Reynolds Tavern has served many purposes over the decades, from life as a bank and library to the dining icon it is today.

Reynolds Tavern

Annapolis, Maryland

Year opened: 1747 / 1984

Owners: Wes and Marilyn Burge

Cuisine: Colonial-influenced Southern cuisine

Essential item: Afternoon tea

Reynolds Tavern has undergone numerous iterations, including uses as a bank and library. However, in 1984 it resumed its stature as a tavern. In 2000 it changed hands again and has since maintained operations reflective of its 1700s heritage, including a walk-in fireplace and tearooms on the first floor.

Dan’l Webster

Sandwich, Massachusetts

Year opened: 1750 / 1915

Owner: Catania Hospitality Group

Cuisine: American, New England

Average check: $25 E

Originally opened in 1750 as the Fessenden Tavern, it was named the Dan’l Webster in 1915 because Boston lawyer Daniel Webster had a table reserved at the tavern from 1815 to 1851.

The Pirates’ House

Savannah, Georgia

Year opened: 1753

Owner: Turner Food & Spirits

Cuisine: American Comfort Foods and Seafood

The Herb House, which adjoins the main building, is said to be the oldest building in the state of Georgia. Built by the founder and governor of the colony of Georgia, James Oglethorpe, the small structure is rumored to be haunted.

Fraunces Tavern

New York City

Year opened: 1762

Owners: The Porterhouse Brewing Company, Eddie Travers, and Dervila Bowler-Travers

Cuisine: American

Average check: $52 E

The Tallmadge Room, an oak-paneled dining hall with Old World furnishings, is a highlight of the tavern, which claims to be the oldest bar/restaurant in New York City and the oldest remaining structure in Manhattan.

Gadsby’s Tavern

Alexandria, Virginia

Year opened: 1770

Owner: The Historic Gadsby’s Tavern LLC

Cuisine: American steakhouse

Average check: $42 E

Visitors have included presidents starting with our forefathers: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and James Monroe.

GRISWOLD INN
Griswold Inn's Sunday Hunt breakfast has been an Essex tradition since 1814.

Griswold Inn

Essex, Connecticut

Year opened: 1776

Owner: Joan Paul

Cuisine: American

Sales: $4.6 million E

Average check: $45 to $55

The Sunday Hunt breakfast, a long-standing buffet-style tradition that began at The Griswold in 1814 when the British commandeered the Inn during a raid on Essex, still continues today. Many employees have been at Griswold for more than 15 years, and some as long as 40 years.

The Hancock Inn/Fox Tavern

Hancock, New Hampshire

Year opened: 1789

Owners: Jarvis and Marcia Coffin

Cuisine: Contemporary American

Sales: $500,000

Average check: $100

The Shaker Cranberry Pot Roast has remained a popular menu item for more than 200 years, even during the heat of summer.

LES JORGENSEN / DORSET INN
Dorset Inn features a Classic American menu and history that dates back pre-1800.

Dorset Inn

Dorset, Vermont

Year opened: 1796

Owners: Steven and Lauren Bryant

Cuisine: Classic American

Average check: $16 to $35

For the first 100 years, the chef relied on the inn’s backyard chickens, cows, and vegetable garden for provisions. The Dorset Grist Mill, established in 1876, provided grains for baking and granola for patrons.