It’s no secret that New York is home to plenty of bars and restaurants, and that more than a few have played a role in history. In the spirit of Presidents Day weekend, CBSNewYork is taking a look at the city’s historically significant restaurants worth a visit this holiday. By Siobhan Wallace.
In 1671, Fraunces Tavern was originally to be the home of New York City’s first native-born mayor, Stephenus van Cortlandt, but he gave the site to his son-in-law. By 1762, Samuel Fraunces converted it into the tavern, Queen’s Head, and it became a popular meeting spot for the Sons of Liberty. The building changed hands twice during the American Revolution and was the place where Gen. George Washington bid farewell to his officers in the Continental Army. The building even held governmental departments when New York City was the nation’s capital. Though its facade has changed in the past 200 years, you can still get a pint at the restaurant after checking out the attached museum.
Prior to 1838, no one in America had ever eaten off a menu. That year, Delmonico’s set itself apart by offering one to its patrons filled with popular dishes and delicacies of the time like turtle soup, Lyon sausage, fried cream, and rice soufflé. In the years since the restaurant hosted a Grand Ball for Edward VII (then Prince of Wales), and has been patronized by Mark Twain, Napoleon III of France, and our own 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt.
Though it may never have been openly patronized by a president, Bridge Cafe is considered “the oldest serving tavern in New York” having been open continuously since 1794. It is one of only two buildings that survives from Colonial British New York. During a period in the mid-19th century, it even also operated as a brothel where you risked getting your ear bitten off by the owner if you misbehaved. In modern times though, it is home to some delicious soft shell crabs and lobster rolls.
Amazing as it may seem, changing a menu seasonally to reflect the local produce available wasn’t introduced until Four Seasons opened in 1959. It was also the first restaurant in New York to offer American wine. The restaurant was esteemed enough to host President John F. Kennedy’s 45th birthday dinner in 1962 which included crabmeat baked in sea shell, and beef glazed in Madeira wine.
Blue Hill continues the legacy of seasonal dining, right down to have their own farms to source from in Westchester and Massachusetts, but that’s only one reason why it’s famous. In late May 2009, President Obama and the First Lady caused quite a stir when they decided to have date night at the Washington Square eatery. According to local legend, they weren’t disturbed by the other diners until after the desert course.