Isn’t it amazing that of all the eras of human history into which we might have been born, we scored the one where we get to dine at restaurants? For millions of years, if you were hungry, you had to fend for yourself. The modern restaurant has only been around for the blink of an eye, evolutionarily speaking, but we’ve certainly made the most that time.
In many ways, restaurants are the convergence of ancient rituals (gathering around food) and modern technology (refrigeration, transportation, mass production). Opening a restaurant is one of the most notoriously difficult ventures one can undertake. But keeping a restaurant open? That’s a whole separate equation.
What follows are eight restaurants that have defied the odds and stayed open across the decades and centuries. These historic establishments point to the ways in which America has grown and changed since they first opened—and they paint a picture of who was allowed to shape our dining scene versus who wasn’t. Here’s a list of some impressively old restaurants that have helped define American cuisine and culture.