10 great historic restaurants that are destinations in themselves

Historic sites are not limited to battlefields or stately homes. Sometimes they can be as surprising as a sushi bar. A new grant program sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express honors more than two dozen historic and culturally significant small restaurants that have suffered from the pandemic.

“These owners are dedicated to their craft, their community and great food,” says Colleen Taylor, President of American Express Merchant Services for the United States. “Without them, their neighborhoods would be different.

She shares a few favorites, all of which have been in business for at least 25 years, with USA TODAY.

Ben’s Chili Bowl

Washington DC.

When this black-owned restaurant opened on U Street in 1958, Washington was still a segregated city. Over the years, he has nurtured dozens of politicians and activists, from Bono to Barack Obama. There is even a special Ben Archives at George Washington University in the city. Popular offerings include a large spicy hot dog called demi-smoke, a regional specialty. “It’s good comforting local food,” says Taylor.

More information: benschilibowl.com

Maneki

Seattle

One of the oldest sushi restaurants in the country, Maneki has struggled to stay in business, launching a GoFundMe campaign last summer and offering takeout for the first time in its 117-year history. Maneki, the only surviving Japantown restaurant in Seattle, was honored by the James Beard Foundation as an American classic in 2008. “It holds a special place for generations of families,” says Taylor.

More information: manekiseattle.com

Kegel Inn

Milwaukee

Kegel's Inn is one of the few traditional German restaurants in Milwaukee.

In the past, Milwaukee had dozens of German restaurants, operated by immigrant families, but Kegel’s, which opened in 1924, is one of the few remaining. It continues to serve traditional dishes like cutlets, goulash, and sauerbraten in a dining room decorated with leaded stained glass, hand-painted murals, heavy beams, and an original mahogany bar. “It’s still genuinely German,” says Taylor.

More information: kegelsinn.com

Maison Stutts de Bar-BQ

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Almead Hill Stutts, 80, has operated Stutts House of Bar-BQ in Tulsa for decades.

Despite just turning 80, Almead Hill Stutts still works six days a week, smoking ribs, beef, chicken and bologna in a wood-fired pit and serving buttermilk pie from his grandmother. She sees her role as “a servant of the community,” says Taylor. Although there have been four barbecue restaurants in the area, Stutt’s is the last one still open.

More information: facebook.com/Stutts-House-of-Barcony-1684600771761918/

The four ways

Memphis, Tennessee

Located near the legendary Stax Records recording studio, The Four Way in Memphis, Tennessee, has served musicians like Gladys Knight and The Pips, Elvis Presley and Ike and Tina Turner.

This soul food restaurant in South Memphis opened over 70 years ago and remains a local institution. With a location near the legendary recording studio Stax Records, clients have included musicians like Gladys Knight and The Pips, Elvis Presley and Ike and Tina Turner. “It’s just the intersection of great food and community,” says Taylor.

More information: thefourway901.com

Neir’s Tavern

Queens, New York

In business since 1829, Neir’s defines itself as “the most famous bar you’ve never heard of”. It was once part of the Union Course Race Track. “A number of famous people have been there: Mae West, Anthony Bourdain, whatever you want,” Taylor says. He has also appeared in films like “Goodfellas”. Over the past year, he has fed hundreds of local residents and organized antibody and cardiovascular screening events.

More information: neirstavern.com

Daddy D’z BBQ Joynt

Atlanta

Daddy Dz BBQ Joynt serves some of the best barbecues in Atlanta.

This top-rated barbecue restaurant describes itself as the oldest black-owned restaurant in the growing Grant Park neighborhood. The meat is cooked by hand in a walnut and oak pit. “It’s often called the best barbecue in Atlanta,” says Taylor. “There is really great food and a great feeling.”

More information: daddydz.com

Cafe Suehiro

Los Angeles

Two sisters opened Suehiro Café in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles in 1972, making it the oldest restaurant in the neighborhood.

In 1972, two sisters opened a café in Little Tokyo, becoming the first women to own a business in the area. Today it is the oldest restaurant in the area, still offering comforting Japanese cuisine from a bilingual Japanese-English menu. “It’s tough now for women entrepreneurs,” Taylor says, “I imagine it was tough then. “

More information: suehirocafe.com

Dooky Chase Restaurant

New Orleans

Dooky Chase's is considered the premier African-American fine-dining restaurant in the United States.  It is also home to the queen of Creole cuisine, Leah Chase.

Presidents, artists, civil rights leaders and generations of New Orleans residents have all come to Dooky’s, a Creole dining hall that some call the country’s first black-owned gourmet restaurant. “This is the epitome of New Orleans,” says Taylor. Founded by Edgar “Dooky” Chase Sr. and his wife Emily in 1941, it was later taken over by his son’s wife, Leah, who became the queen of Creole cuisine. Although it closed to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, it reopened and retained its reputation as the homeland of Creole cuisine.

More information: dookychaserestaurants.com

Baker’s keyboard lounge

Detroit

Liberace reportedly copied the piano-themed bar design of Baker's Keyboard Lounge for its pool.

This Motor City spot is called the oldest jazz club in the world, and it’s easy to be impressed by some of the names that have performed there, including Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday. and Ella Fitzgerald. Founded in 1934, a neighborhood has grown around the institution, says Taylor. “It offers great music, great food and a historical experience.”

More information: facebook.com/Bakers-Keyboard-Lounge-100894720015368/

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