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Oldest Restaurants in the New York City Area

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Le Veau d'Or - 1937.

Although Robert Treboux is no longer seated at the head of the bar each night, Truman Capote's favorite restaurant, where Oleg Cassini met Grace Kelly, is still offering table-side carvings of Rack of Lamb in the ground floor of his townhouse, which hasn't changed since 1937.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970204712904578092832738072850

http://www.nysun.com/food-drink/le-time-capsule/44331/

http://ny.eater.com/archives/2009/01/who_goes_there_le_veau_dor.php

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPrp4hum1EM

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Papaya King - 1932

Now that Gray's Papaya is gone, Papaya King is nearly the last fruit juice and hot dog place left.  Cheap but good dogs, and papaya juice of course.  Probably the cheapest meal left in NYC.

Closed for six days in March of 2007 due to publicity about vermin in the building.

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Papaya King - 1932

Now that Gray's Papaya is gone, Papaya King is nearly the last fruit juice and hot dog place left.  Cheap but good dogs, and papaya juice of course.  Probably the cheapest meal left in NYC.

Closed for six days in March of 2007 due to publicity about vermin in the building.

Thanks John.

But the original, Upper-West Side location of Gray's Papaya lives on, and since it was founded in 1973, it, too, makes the Oldest Restaurants list (scroll up to the top post).

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Thanks John.

But the original, Upper-West Side location of Gray's Papaya lives on, and since it was founded in 1973, it, too, makes the Oldest Restaurants list (scroll up to the top post).

Yes. I have been reading the rssFeeds and now understand that it was only the Greenwich Village location of Gray's Papaya that closed, and merely for the most prosaic of New York reasons, a rent hike.  The flagship location on the upper West Side, as you point out, remains open.  Which is a good thing; I remember many a good paper cup of papaya juice at that place.  I hurried back here to redo my original post, and include Gray's, and found you had the information.

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Here is a blogpost from Hannah Goldfield of the New Yorker, commenting on the Gray's Papaya closing.  I found my way to it thanks to the rssFeed.  In it there is the following quote, which has been picked up by others too:

".....the experience of eating is about much more than how good things taste. In New York, at Gray's Papaya or any culinary institution, it's about remembering what came before you, and remembering why you're here."

Great thought.  I think it pretty well sums up why it's worthwhile, even important, to keep track of the old restaurants, as we have been doing here on DR.

I crossed paths with Goldfield once -- she did the exhaustive fact checking on Calvin Trillin's original article about Peter Chang, and I spent a lot of time on the phone with her answering her questions about everything that was to be published in the article about which I had direct knowledge.  I'm happy to see she apparently is moving up a bit at that publication.  Based on that experience I must say I was impressed with how thoroughly the New Yorker checks facts for its articles.  

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Several weeks ago I spotted a couple of articles that promised to uncover a few more candidates for inclusion in our old New York restaurant list, so I decided to follow up.  One was an article in the NYT where they asked readers to comment on their favorite old places.  Another was an article by Robert Sietsema in which he named numerous old restaurants he deems worthy of protection from increasing real estate prices and rents.  There are also several blogs, and an on-going series of articles in Eater. 

Little did I realize what I had bitten off.  Starting with the above, and with lots of link-following on Google, yields a cornucopia of historic restaurants in New York that were not yet on our list.  Many of them are famous, but nobody had posted them yet.  Three are on the James Beard "America's Classics" list (Mario's, 2nd Ave. Deli, and Totonno's).  Many are neighborhood places, but to me no less worthy of being noted.  I more-or-less arbitrarily decided to stop at 50 years ago.

I'm sure we've more than just scratched the surface, but I'm equally sure there are many more.  Nonetheless I'm pretty certain there is no more comprehensive such list anywhere than in this thread, which is particularly interesting since it appears in a DC-centric web site.  Thank you Don for starting this.

Here is the list of additions, arranged by age.  I have tried to post at least two links for each in case anyone is interested in following up.

Killmeyers Old Bavarian Inn: 1855 (approx.) [i'm using 1859 per this article - DR]

http://www.killmeyers.com/about-killmeyers/

"Killmeyer's Old Bavaria Inn" on nymag.com

  Traditional German in Staten Island.  Beer garden.  Great portions of Bavarian food, oompah bands, and dozens of beers.

Landmark Tavern:  1868

http://www.thelandmarktavern.com/

http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/landmark-tavern/

  Originally a Hudson River dockworkers' place in Hell's Kitchen; now updated as a gastropub.

Brooklyn Inn:  1875 (approx.)

http://nymag.com/listings/bar/brooklyn_inn00/

  Elaborate carved wood everywhere, including the immense, 140 year old German hand-carved bar.

Sunny's Bar:  1890 

http://www.sunnysredhook.com/

http://nymag.com/listings/bar/sunnys/

  A beloved Red Hook institution.  Originally a dockworkers bar.  Severely damaged by Sandy, but now restored.  Among Time Out's 50 best NY bars.

Old Town Bar:  1892

http://www.oldtownbar.com/visit.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Town_Bar_and_Restaurant

  Nearly everything is original; the marble and mahogany bar is 55 feet long.  Huge old-style urinals.  The dumbwaiters are New York's oldest active restaurant conveyers. Used as setting for several movies and TV shows -- Madonna strutted the length of the bar in her "Bad Girl" video.

Ferrara Bakery and Cafe:  1892

http://www.ferraracafe.com/about/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrara_Bakery_and_Cafe

  Claims to be America's oldest espresso bar.  Still in the founder's family.  Enrico Caruso was a frequent visitor, and many in opera have followed since.  Located in the heart of Little Italy.

Veniero's Paticceria and Caffe:  1894

http://venierospastry.com/about.html

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totonno's

http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/totonno-pizzeria-napolitano/

  Coal oven pizza in Coney Island.  A pizza classic.  Stays open until the dough runs out.  Serves by the whole pie only.  On the James Beard "America's Classics" list.

Lexington Candy Shop:  1925

http://www.lexingtoncandyshop.net/content/lexington-candy-shops-history

http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/lexington-candy-shop/

  Upper East Side luncheonette.  Often described as entering a time warp.  A real soda fountain; Cokes made on-the-spot with syrup and a squirt of seltzer.  

Sardi's:  1927

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manganaro's

  Manganaro's was actually two restaurants established by the same family, the original Manganaro's Grosseria (1893) and Manganaro's Hero Boy which was a spin-off next door.  The original Grosseria may have invented, and certainly figured prominently in developing and introducing, the hero sandwich.  They then invented the 6-foot hero (1955) which was so successful that Hero Boy was established next door to focus on it.  Tony Bourdain featured Grosseria on No Reservations.  It closed in 2012.  Hero Boy is still in operation, but due to a change in the ownership of its building its future is unclear.  Stay tuned.

Forlini's:  1956

http://ny.eater.com/archives/2009/08/this_is_the_latest_edition.php

  Basic Italian.  Located just across the street from the Manhattan Criminal Courts Building which provides most of its business.  Not great, but good enough for a judge's lunch, not to mention the jury and the lawyers.

Gem Spa:  1957 (but direct roots back to the 1920's)

http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/2012/02/gem-spa-not-closed.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gem_Spa

      (Previously posted but not yet entered into the summary at the top of the thread)

  

  The quintessential egg cream place in the East Village.  Claims to have invented that NY treat.  Theirs is certainly one of the best and favorites.  Known as a newsstand that carried all the underground publications, it became a hangout for the A-list beatniks (Ginsberg, Kerouac) and later the hippies/radicals each in their respective eras. 

Tony's di Napoli:  1959

http://www.tonysnyc.com/

http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/tonys_di_napoli02/

  In Times Square and the Upper East Side.  Southern Italian served family style, i.e. on large platters with enough for 2 or 3 or more.  Everybody seems to like it.

Famous Oyster Bar:  1959  (Closed Jan 26, 2014)

http://ny.eater.com/archives/2014/01/the_oyster_bar.php

  Famed for its kitschy nautical-themed decor.  Another casualty of real estate price hikes.

Losner's Deli:  1960

http://ny.eater.com/archives/2012/11/loesers_who_goes_there.php

http://www.backinthebronx.com/story71.php

  One of two remaining Kosher deli's in the Bronx (Liebman's (1953) being the other).

Chez Napoleon:  1960

http://www.cheznapoleon.com/index2.html

http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/chez-napoleon/

  Another time-warp French restaurant, where octogenarian Grand-mere' Marguerite is said to literally still do the cooking, which authentically matches that found in a 60's bistro just about anywhere in France. 

  

Pastrami Queen:  1961

http://www.nytimes.com/restaurants/1002207992015/pastrami-queen/details.html

  Started out in Kew Gardens Queens as Pastrami King, where it was a hangout for Queens politicians and courthouse folks; after the courts moved away and took much of the business, it had a sex change operation and moved to the East Side of Manhattan in 1998.  Still serving very good pastrami.

Sylvia's:  1962

http://sylviasrestaurant.com/

Le Périgord:  1964

<a data-ipb="nomediaparse" data-cke-saved-href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia" s_restaurant_of_harlem"="">http://www.leperigord.com/about-le-perigord/

http://www.nytimes.com/restaurants/1002207988938/le-perigord/details.html

  One of the few remaining old school haut-cuisine French warhorses, in mid-town.  Captains in tuxes.  Menu from the era when it opened.  Custom and ritual, of the sort appreciated by the gray-haired clientele.  The place to go when you want to experience quenelles of pike in lobster sauce and floating island, while you still can.

 

The Donut Pub:  1964

http://www.donutpub.com/

http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/donut-pub/

  Donuts from a pre-Dunkin era on 14th St.  Famed for its "wall of donuts," including just about every variety you can imagine.

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Well, having been to about 2/3rds of the list over the years, I guess my only reaction is to say that, if anyone wants to know anything about any of them, let me know.  Otherwise, yep, they're all old.  

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Killmeyers Old Bavarian Inn: 1855 (approx.)

http://www.killmeyers.com/about-killmeyers/

http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/killmeyers-old-bavaria-inn/

  Traditional German in Staten Island.  Beer garden.  Great portions of Bavarian food, oompah bands, and dozens of beers.

John, thank you for working on this wonderful list (which I'll work into out Oldest Restaurants list).

I've been writing back-and-forth with Killmeyer's, and here is our conversation:

-----
 

Me: Hi! This is Don Rockwell, owner of donrockwell.com, and I curate a list of "Oldest Restaurant In New York City." I'm confused about how long you've been serving food/beverage for ... your FB page says 1907, but apparently you bought a mahogany bar in 1890, and Killmeyer bought the place in 1855. Do you know the answer, or could you help me take an educated guess? Thank you! Don Rockwell, www.donrockwell.com, www.dcdining.com ... the list is here, btw. http://www.donrockwell.com/index.php?/topic/22586-oldest-restaurants-in-the-new-york-city-area/

Them: Thank you. I just saw this note. Sorry for any delay. The answer to your question is this: Killmeyer's was founded in 1859 by Nicolas Killmeyer. It was a saloon, barber shop, etc., which catered to the needs of the workers when this was a factory town known as Kreischerville. The next generation, sons Albert and Theodore, expanded the business in the late 1880's. They built the extension to the building that houses the bar and the dining room (and the upstairs hotel space). The tin ceiling and walls are all authentic from that period. In 1890 they commissioned the Mahogany bar. The website is incorrect. Where 1907 comes from is probably from an old 1907 postcard image of the site on display in our side room. It obviously needs to be changed. Thank you. Ken

Me: Ken, thank you! Do you know what year they began serving food or beverages, one or the other?

Them: 1996, the bar opened after renovations. 1997 the kitchen opened.

Me: thank you!

-----

So, as remarkable as it might sound Killmeyer's, while historic, wouldn't make out list since it didn't start serving food or drink until 1996.

Now, Ken may indeed be wrong, in which case I hope someone will tell me, but he sounds like he knows what he's doing, and was very helpful!

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John, thank you for working on this wonderful list (which I'll work into out Oldest Restaurants list).

I've been writing back-and-forth with Killmeyer's, and here is our conversation:

-----
 

Me: Hi! This is Don Rockwell, owner of donrockwell.com, and I curate a list of "Oldest Restaurant In New York City." I'm confused about how long you've been serving food/beverage for ... your FB page says 1907, but apparently you bought a mahogany bar in 1890, and Killmeyer bought the place in 1855. Do you know the answer, or could you help me take an educated guess? Thank you! Don Rockwell, www.donrockwell.com, www.dcdining.com ... the list is here, btw. http://www.donrockwell.com/index.php?/topic/22586-oldest-restaurants-in-the-new-york-city-area/

Them: Thank you. I just saw this note. Sorry for any delay. The answer to your question is this: Killmeyer's was founded in 1859 by Nicolas Killmeyer. It was a saloon, barber shop, etc., which catered to the needs of the workers when this was a factory town known as Kreischerville. The next generation, sons Albert and Theodore, expanded the business in the late 1880's. They built the extension to the building that houses the bar and the dining room (and the upstairs hotel space). The tin ceiling and walls are all authentic from that period. In 1890 they commissioned the Mahogany bar. The website is incorrect. Where 1907 comes from is probably from an old 1907 postcard image of the site on display in our side room. It obviously needs to be changed. Thank you. Ken

Me: Ken, thank you! Do you know what year they began serving food or beverages, one or the other?

Them: 1996, the bar opened after renovations. 1997 the kitchen opened.

Me: thank you!

-----

So, as remarkable as it might sound Killmeyer's, while historic, wouldn't make out list since it didn't start serving food or drink until 1996.

Now, Ken may indeed be wrong, in which case I hope someone will tell me, but he sounds like he knows what he's doing, and was very helpful!

But wait!  They themselves say that the place was among other things a saloon (i.e. a bar) in 1859.  Also, it seems strange that an *extension* to the "bar and dining room" would have been built in 1890 if food and drink were not already being served, or that the mahogany bar was commissioned in 1890 if the place weren't serving drinks at that time; at the very least they surely were serving drinks from that date, which is 120+ years ago.

I suspect the dates they gave you (in the 1990's) probably refer to the beginnings of the current management/ownership and the renovations they did at that time, not the beginnings of the business.  To me, this illustrates the difficulty of getting trustworthy historic information when the institutional memory has been lost and the folks you're talking with don't have real information but only guesses, and even perhaps  misunderstand the question being asked.

Killmeyer's true history is clearly a tough nut to crack, but even based solely on your exchange there's little doubt in my mind the place was there serving food and drink long before 1996.

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But wait!  They themselves say that the place was among other things a saloon (i.e. a bar) in 1859.  Also, it seems strange that an *extension* to the "bar and dining room" would have been built in 1890 if food and drink were not already being served, or that the mahogany bar was commissioned in 1890 if the place weren't serving drinks at that time; at the very least they surely were serving drinks from that date, which is 120+ years ago.

I suspect the dates they gave you (in the 1990's) probably refer to the beginnings of the current management/ownership and the renovations they did at that time, not the beginnings of the business.  To me, this illustrates the difficulty of getting trustworthy historic information when the institutional memory has been lost and the folks you're talking with don't have real information but only guesses, and even perhaps  misunderstand the question being asked.

Killmeyer's true history is clearly a tough nut to crack, but even based solely on your exchange there's little doubt in my mind the place was there serving food and drink long before 1996.

John, I heard back from Ken: It does look like they had been serving food/drink in the past - as a roadhouse - and were closed during 1994. The question of origin still remains a mystery.

"No. When I bought the building in late 1994 it had been closed for about a year. The family that owned the building had run it as a honky tonk roadhouse very successfully for years. It did have a small kitchen and served food. When I bought the building the plan was to create a restaurant and upgrade the building."

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John, I heard back from Ken: It does look like they had been serving food/drink in the past - as a roadhouse - and were closed during 1994. The question of origin still remains a mystery.

Yes it is hard to in down precisely, but no doubt it belongs in the list.  Here is a link to a Staten Island Advance story from last Fall that seems to have the history laid out fairly well.  About 2/3's of the way down it refers to the place having been "in service" for more than 150 years.

Meanwhile, it looks like Tavern on the Green is set to come back to life -- click

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Occasionally I spot an article that mentions a place that qualifies be added to this list.  Here is one that just came up:  Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  Open for over 62 years, which would put it around 1953.  According to the photos on their website they appear to specialize in fairly elaborate donut types.  

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Occasionally I spot an article that mentions a place that qualifies be added to this list.  Here is one that just came up:  Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  Open for over 62 years, which would put it around 1953.  According to the photos on their website they appear to specialize in fairly elaborate donut types.  

Thank you, sir - when the owners bought it, the previous owner had it "for over 40 years," so there appears to be uncertainty about the exact date it opened (I suspect this is in some Hall Of Records somewhere, but that nobody will take the time to locate the exact information). So, mainly because of the caption on this Facebook post, I'll use 1953 until that's shown to be incorrect.

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I failed to notice until recently that one of the oldest in NY, Sevilla from 1941 (it is noted in my long post #31 from March 10, 2014) was recently honored by being included in the 2015 James Beard American Classics list.  Thought it was worth a mention.  Others on our list so honored by JBF in past years include Barney Greengrass, Peter Luger, Mario's, and Totonno's Pizzeria.

There is another JBAC winner in NY that closed in 2012, Prime Burger, which was established in 1938.  It should be added to our list in that it was still in operation when DR started in 2005 (as per the qualification criteria in post #1). As of this moment its zombie web site is still up, here.  The owners have opened a new place in Hastings-on-Hudson but it's unclear to me whether that qualifies as an extension.

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Killmeyers Old Bavarian Inn: 1855 (approx.)

Landmark Tavern:  1868

Brooklyn Inn:  1875 (approx.)

Sunny's Bar:  1890

Old Town Bar:  1892

Ferrara Bakery and Cafe:  1892

Veniero's Paticceria and Caffe:  1894

Lexington Candy Shop:  1925

Sardi's:  1927

Forlini's:  1956

Gem Spa:  1957 (but direct roots back to the 1920's)

Tony's di Napoli:  1959

Famous Oyster Bar:  1959  (Closed Jan 26, 2014)

Losner's Deli:  1960

Chez Napoleon:  1960

Pastrami Queen:  1961

Sylvia's:  1962

Le Perigord:  1964

The Donut Pub:  1964

John, how confident are you in these dates? It's been almost two years, and I've forgotten where I was - do I need to fact-check them? (It's certainly no trouble to click on each website and check, and it's incredibly helpful that you included them.) You'll be able to check my progress by seeing that I've hyperlinked the names with the websites as I've included them.

If anyone else spots articles such as these, please link to them here - I'm sure this has all been done before, in various forms; now, it's just a matter of compiling the compilations.

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John, how confident are you in these dates? It's been almost two years, and I've forgotten where I was - do I need to fact-check them? (It's certainly no trouble to click on each website and check, and it's incredibly helpful that you included them.) You'll be able to check my progress by seeing that I've hyperlinked the names with the websites as I've included them.

If anyone else spots articles such as these, please link to them here - I'm sure this has all been done before, in various forms; now, it's just a matter of compiling the compilations.

Fairly confident in most cases.  Sometimes it was difficult to find mention of a specific date or there were different dates in different sources, and in some cases I found a date in a source not linked here -- I didn't link everything I found.  Unless one has serious funding it isn't always possible to pin these things down with precision; precise historical records of restaurant openings and closings going back dozens or hundreds of years are not easily available, and one must rely on what one can find on the net.

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