In business for no less than a century, these dining venues are where history meets the culinary world, and a really good story unfolds over recipes perfected two hundred years ago alongside a glass of Kentucky Bourbon.
- Red Fox Inn and Tavern (1728)—Middleburg, Virginia The Red Fox Inn and Tavern survived both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, in the latter serving as a hospital and headquarters for the Confederate ArmySurviving both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the Red Fox Inn and Tavern in historic Middleburg, Virginia, has hosted presidents, dignitaries, and soldiers from home and across the pond. Originally known as Chinn’s Ordinary, the inn served as a hospital and headquarters for the Confederate army.
The four-story building houses six guests rooms on the third and fourth floors, with event space on the second floor above the tavern. The Red Fox Inn and Tavern specializes in Southern cuisine with deep Virginia roots, like their signature crab cakes, Virginia peanut soup, or the Southern bourbon pecan pie.
- Old Talbott Tavern (1779)—Bardstown, KentuckyThe Talbott Tavern is also the world’s oldest bourbon bar, with connections to at least two whiskey-making familiesThe Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky, once welcomed a young Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Boone, and an exiled French king. And rumor has it the bullet holes in some of the paintings came from the shots of the wild and reckless Jesse James. But perhaps the biggest story of Old Talbott Tavern can be found at the bar. Old Talbott’s is the world’s oldest bourbon bar; it’s a bit well-known in the whiskey world. The Talbott family was close to the master distillers behind Maker’s Mark, and the family sold the tavern to T.D. Beam, brother to Jim Beam, in 1916. The tavern was also owned by the family of Tom Moore of Tom Moore Distillery.
- Huston Tavern (1834)—Arrow Rock, Missouri What started out as a home for the family of Joseph Huston became a stop for weary travelers to stop to rest and refuel. The tavern is now part of the Arrow Rock State Historic Site. (Photo courtesy of Missouri State Parks)Originally built as a family home by Joseph Huston, Sr., the two-story Arrow Rock, Missouri, home quickly became a stop for travelers, due in part to good ol’ Southern hospitality.
Huston was a recent settler himself from Virginia. So as immigrants and other settlers were moving westward, Huston began to offer food and lodging to those needing a rest. Before long the family was cooking up food at the tavern for travelers and locals alike. Serving up Southern food for more than 180 years, the J. Huston Tavern is now a part of the Arrow Rock State Historic Site.
- Antoine’s Restaurant (1840)—New Orleans, LouisianaThe oldest family-run business in Louisiana, Antoine’s was opened by French immigrant Antoine Alciatore in 1840It’s been more than 175 years since a young French immigrant named Antoine Alciatore opened Antoine’s in New Orleans, Louisiana. Although Alciatore returned to France in 1874, his family has carried on the tradition ever since, making Antoine’s the country’s oldest family-run restaurant.
Another claim to culinary fame comes from Alciatore’s son, Jules. After training abroad and learning French cuisine in Paris, Strassburg, and Marseilles, Jules also served as chef over the Pickwick Club before taking over Antoine’s from his mother. It was here that he created a New Orleans favorite, the Oysters Rockefeller. Generations later, Alciatore’s family is still dishing up favorites at this French Quarter icon, and remaining as secret as ever over Jules’ original recipe.
- Old Angler’s Inn (1860)—Potomac, Maryland Opened at a popular spot for nature lovers on the Potomac River, the Old Angler’s Inn opened roughly a year before the Civil War broke outOpening roughly a year before the Civil War tore the nation in two, the Old Angler’s Inn in Potomac, Maryland, was a prime location for those coming and going from the capital to rest their heads and eat a warm meal. Its location along the Potomac also made it a prime location for nature lovers, including Theodore Roosevelt, who visited the Old Angler’s Inn on a hunting and fishing trip.
Since 1957 the inn has been in the Reges family after John Reges purchased it for his wife, Olympia. Over the past few years, and under the ownership of Olympia’s sons, there has been a re-vamping of the Inn, including an update to the interior and hiring a chef that’s drawing in customers for more than just a taste of the history.
- Scholz Garten (1866)—Austin, TexasGerman immigrant August Scholz (pictured) opened Scholz Garten in 1866. The biergarten served as a gathering place for the German community in Austin.Following his service to the Confederacy during the Civil War, German immigrant August Scholz returned to Austin, Texas, to start the business he had dreamed of when he bought the property in 1862. The restaurant and bar served more than the traditional German fare of bratwurst and sauerkraut—it also served the strong German community in Austin as a center of their cultural and social life.
Scholz Garten sold to the Lemp Brewery Company in 1893, two years after Scholz’s death. Fifteen years later it sold to a German singing club that still owns the property, although it now leases the restaurant’s management. Despite that, the biergarten’s history and success have become ingrained in Texas history, honored by the 1966 Texas Legislature “as a gathering place for Texans of discernment, taste, culture, erudition, epitomizing the finest tradition of magnificent German heritage in our State.” Oh, and they’re also known for being the best place in Austin to grab a cold German brew.
- Weidmann’s (1870)—Meridian, MississippiOpened by a Swiss immigrant and former steam ship chef, Weidmann’s has come a long way from its original four stools and a counter at the Union Hotel.Nowhere else will you sit down to a table of complimentary crackers and peanut butter, but at this Meridian, Mississippi, establishment the experience just isn’t the same without the customary crock of peanut butter. The tradition goes back to World War II when butter was in short supply. A guest suggested peanut butter would be a nice addition to the crackers in place of the butter.
Weidmann’s has come a long way since first opening in 1870. Felix Weidmann, a Swiss immigrant and former steam ship chef, opened his restaurant with a counter and four stools at the Union Hotel. In 1923 Weidmann’s grandson moved it to its present location and the 24-hour restaurant had a steady stream of local regulars. Although the restaurant has changed hands multiple times since the Weidmann family’s ownership, it still maintains the family feel and the crock of peanut butter on every table.
SEE MORE PHOTOS OF “THE HISTORIC RESTAURANTS OF THE SOUTH”