Light & Verity

History on the menu

Paul Freedman’s ten restaurants that changed America.

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Yale history professor Paul Freedman spends most of his professional time immersed in medieval Europe, but his latest book is a delicious diversion: Ten Restaurants that Changed America (Liveright) tells the history of dining out in the US through the stories of these emblematic establishments.

New York (1830–1923)
“The first real restaurant in the United States.”

New Orleans (1840–present)
“A Creole variation of French-inflected cuisine.”

New York and other cities (1906–1980s)
“Catered to ladies who wanted to dine alone or with other women.”

Howard Johnson’s,
chain (1929–present)
“Pioneering use of franchising and adaptation to the American highway.”

Mamma Leone’s,
New York (1906–1994)
“Pioneered the Italian restaurant for non-Italians.”

The Mandarin,
San Francisco (1961–2006)
“Significantly transformed American appreciation of Chinese food.”

New York
“African American cuisine
. . . marketed to a Northern clientele as ‘soul food.’”

Le Pavillon,
New York (1939–1971)
“Redefin[ed] haute cuisine in America as something indisputably French.”

The Four Seasons,
New York (1959–2016)
“A New York landmark and institution, easily meriting that overused word ‘iconic.’”

Chez Panisse,
Berkeley, CA (1971–present)
“Created a new and influential form of American high-end dining.”

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