Legendary Eateries

1,908
274
Joined Oct 28, 1999
I can think of few other places in the US that have been as decisive to American food as Delmonico's. It was a massive restaurant, with enormous and hugley respected food and chefs to prepare it. Are there others from the past that have been instrumental in the evolution of food as we know it today? Specifically, what are some of the landmark, historic places from Europe and Canada? There has to be some major influence on restaurants from our neighbor to the north!
 
2,550
13
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Actually, it was from Restaurant Drouant and its sister restaurant, the nearby Café de Paris, that a group of restaurant workers would embark to open the restaurant at the French Pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair (later called Le Pavillon). The fair was held within sight of the Manhattan skyline, on a piece of land that Life magazine, even as it tried to promote the fair, could only describe as "a desolate, swampy, stinking expanse called Flushing Meadow." The French Pavilion was meant to communicate something finer, a certain idea of France-and in a very Parisian way, it did!

(Excerpt from The Last Days of Haute Cuisine, by Patric Kuh)
 

pete

Moderator
Staff member
4,509
998
Joined Oct 7, 2001
In the context of American cuisine, one can't discuss highly influential restaurants without discussing Chez Panisse and the Four Seasons. Though they are very young in comparision to most of the great influential restaurants, their role in helping to create modern American cuisine can not be downplayed. Chez Panisse and Alice Waters almost single-handedly started the revolution in local, hand-crafted food products. While the Four Seasons proved to Americans that fine dining could include something other than French Haute Cuisine.

But Jim, I must agree with you. Delmonico's has got to be one of the most influential restaurants every to grace American soil. Diamond Jim Brady's dinners there are stuff legends are made of.
 
1,908
274
Joined Oct 28, 1999
I am glad you brought up Diamond Jim!! I just finished Diamond Jim in the Gilded Era, all about his infamous eating and spending. Wonderful read if you are in to turn-of-the century history/railroad barrons/old food. And for you Chicago members, there is lengthy discussion about early 1900s food in the windy city. I wasn't sure if I should post about Legendary eateries or Legendary Eaters! He certainly takes the cake:rolleyes:
 
3,853
12
Joined May 26, 2001
The book that Kimmie excerpted talks about Chez Panisse and Four Seasons as well. Quite an interesting history of how those places came to be (you might be surprised!).

As a side comment, what passes for Delmonico's these days is shameful (if it is even still open). Not because the opulence is gone; for that, good riddance -- who could eat like that any more? But because it trades on the name without any idea of the significance of that name in history.

Which publication (Nation's Restaurant News, perhaps?) is it that lists the longest-operational restaurants in the country? It would be quite interesting to look at some of them now compared to when they opened, and see what changes have been wrought. Because it is quite possible that some of them were quite revolutionary at their start. Now, they may just be comfortable continuations -- Berghoff in Chicago comes to mind. What is the life-cycle of innovation to classic (or to has-been) for a restaurant, anyway?
 
3,853
12
Joined May 26, 2001
So much of it depends on what the original concept was, and how tenable it remains. I mean, some places nowadays are meant just to shock and make the eater look at food in a different way (the English chef at Papillon, formerly of Atlas, comes to mind) -- but how long does it take until the public says, BASTA! But then restaurants like Savoy, which I consider to be the NYC parallel to Chez Panisse, can go on as long as the chef/owner wants to, because they uphold the eternal veritiy of "Good, flavorful ingredients will make good, flavorful food if handled with respect." I wonder if there really is anything new and lasting that can be done with REAL food. Maybe the real innovation nowadays is with the Taco Bells and the P.F. Changs, which bring what used to be "exotic" cuisines to the mass market. Sure, we sigh deeply because the renditions are not "pure," but think how much more varied the average person's diet is now than it EVER was, because of these places. Remember that in "olden days" people ate bread and meat (if they raised it or could afford it) and drank ale, and that was about it.
 
1,389
13
Joined Jul 24, 2001
I think that Monsieur Legrant, back in 1340 ( the fourties of 14th ce...) didn't have an idea of what he had invented and if he could just see what this tiny soup of his became... he would faint :)

Let me take things from start.

Our friend Monsieur Legrand , owned as many others, a small pansion at the outskirts of modern Paris.

He offered to his clients accomodation and to their horses food.

One day he had the idea to introduce to his place a soup that would help the travellers ...restore from their travel :) It was a kind of stock made of calves.

According to travellers' reports, the purpose of this soup was, of course a restaurer and the result was very ... Restaurant ( In French) !!!!

A new business was launched :)

I have thought many times about the restaurants that have changed culinary history and I have tried to put on effect my theories on my small country where it could be much easier to observe and of course its popullation is more "homogeneous ".

I think that the most difficult part is to set creteria for chosing a restaurant.
I mean everybody talks about Maxims in Paris. Was it a good restaurant or it was just because Maxims is present in European Litterature is enjoying such fame?

Think about Harry's Bar in Venice... Would we be talking about it if Hemingaw hadn't be part of his legent? I wonder why people claim that this restaurant has changed the History of restaurants in Italy...

A Restaurant is a business and I think that you change the History of your business when you take financial risks as Mr. Legrand took his own risks by including a soup in his hospitality.

From that point of view I think that in Greece the businessman that changed the History was someone who hasn't only hired the best available chef but he changed the history when he was the first to use the finest porcelain used ever ( in Greece) in a restaurant and when her has hired a sommelier. :)

Judjing by the financial risk Mr. Vardis has took, yes, I think that he has changed the History of the profession in Greece 20 years ago :)

I think that this must be the creterium :)
 

pete

Moderator
Staff member
4,509
998
Joined Oct 7, 2001
Funny you should bring up the Berghoff restaurant. I have often wondered why that place is so successful. The food there is alright, and very Americanized. But, according to family members (I work for one of them), the Berghoff was never considered to be a very innovative restaurant. They were always more interested in pleasing the masses as opposed to blazing new trails. They have learned how to pander, and appease the most people, making a very successful restaurant, from a business standpoint, if not a culinary standpoint.

As an interesting side note, not only is the Berghoff Chicago's oldest, continuingly operating restaurant, they recieved the first liquor license after prohibition and continue to hold license #1.
 
732
10
Joined Dec 12, 2000
well I don't know how far spread the White Spot is, but it's a mainstay here in BC. It was started in 1928, by Natt Bailey, who was selling burgers at a stand outside a ball park in Vancouver, which is now known as Natt Bailey Stadium. anyway his burgers were really popular so he advanced up to having his own building, thus starting the White Spot, also known as the Triple - O. They also have really good chicken dinners as well.
 
7,375
69
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Trader Vics.....
Antoines in New Orleans.
I wholeheartedly agree....good food starts out with great ingrediants and you don't screw them up....thank you farmers.
 
846
11
Joined Nov 29, 2001
Important: Any waxing nostalgic refers to PRE-renovation...

...When Vincent's was like a cafeteria. There was an old guy with about 3 teeth at the counter, named Junior. Junior knew what customers wanted and was known to make a fuss about new ladies who were first time diners. (Blush.)

Fried Calamari, Fried Scungilli, and that legendary sauce. I always had medium-hot because the hot-hot was just too hot for me and I didn't taste it, just felt it. Extra sauce eaters (like me) ordered it "soupy." We used biscotti to sop up the sauce - biscotti made with pepper, not the sweet cookies better known today.

A large group of us had convened to have lunch and my brother joined us. He looked at the menu and said, "$6.95 for shrimp balls? For that money, I want the whole shrimp." The table broke out into huge laughs.

Fast forward a few years...talk about a place that lost its charm. Vincent's went shee-shee froo-froo and the personality went right out of it. I knew I'd never be back when I saw a particularly disturbing entry on the menu: Extra sauce $1.
 
9
10
Joined Apr 26, 2002
I'm from NY..pretty new on this site but saw this post & thought I'd mention Patricia Murphy's...from what I can recall, it was a pretty well know place...I even saw a mention of it in another cookbook at one time...don't know if it was a chain but there was one on central ave in yonkers...thanks for listening!:confused:
 
3,853
12
Joined May 26, 2001
Squirrelee: you raise an interesting point: legendary places that still survive or have been "revived" versus places that are legendary because they're gone. Patricia Murphy's (and Larraine Murphy's, too) are very fondly remembered -- the popovers, the watermelon pickle -- but I wonder how they'd be viewed today? And then there's Lundy's -- revived a few years ago by new owners. Are the biscuits as good now as people thought they were originally?
 

Latest posts

Top Bottom