In "Under the Spell of Old Restaurants," Sadie Stein muses on the special magic of classic culinary establishments with white tablecloths and old-fashioned menus. Here, she shares 10 personal favorites. What are your most treasured old restaurants around the world? We invite you to share your thoughts by posting in the comments section or tweeting us at @tmagazine, and we'll share the best responses in a future post.
New Orleans Founded in 1905
The Crescent City has no shortage of gracious gastronomical institutions, but Galatoire's stands out for maintaining standards without getting mired in the past. It's not just the customers who've been eating the same Creole food for generations; many of the servers are legacies, too. Until 1999, Galatoire's was famous for enforcing its no-reservations policy so democratically that even senators had to wait patiently in line for their turtle soup. Back when he was a regular, Tennessee Williams presumably did, too.
Paris used to have numerous workers' canteens like this one, but the vast, sepia-toned Chartier is the last of these bouillionaires. No-nonsense waiters slap down well-priced versions of French classics with no ceremony, and evince nothing but scorn for vegetarians. You may find yourself seated next to a table of aristocrats, tourists or prostitutes.
The dainty ladies' luncheons, gently-spiked "Russian coffee" and lofty Sunshine Cake at this tea salon may feel quaintly old-fashioned today, but the longtime owner George Watts was a noted progressive, an early proponent of equal-opportunity employment and an active participant in local civil rights issues. A Milwaukee institution, the business is now run by a fifth-generation Watts.
From left: courtesy of '21' Club; courtesy of Corus Hotels.From left: the "21″ Club in New York City; the Gay Hussar in London.
The "21″ Club
New York City Founded in 1930
The legendary speakeasy allows women these days, but its clubby interior is virtually unchanged, they still whip up their legendary chicken hash (one of the all-time great comfort foods), and the secret Prohibition-era wine room remains very much in existence.
A Soho stronghold of goulash and lefty politicos (not to mention T.S. Eliot) for generations, this traditional Hungarian restaurant is now on the endangered species list: in October of this year, it was announced that the restaurant was for sale, prompting a desperate Change.org petition.
Although this venerable intimate bistro has long been a fashion week favorite - and is full of regulars - there is nothing forbidding or pretentious about the classic food or the warm interior. Edmund White writes about getting the oeufs mayonnaise almost every time he visited.
27 Quai Voltaire, 33-1-42-61-17-49
Quebec City, Canada Founded in 1956
Canadian prime ministers make a habit of eating at this midcentury bastion of classic gastronomy, where flambéing never went out of style. Seriously, you could get a four-course flambéed meal here.
From left: courtesy of the Pine Club; Navid Baraty, courtesy of Tadich Grill.From left: Datyon, Ohio's Pine Club in 1947; Tadich Grill's neon sign lights the sidewalk in San Francisco.
The Pine Club
Dayton, Ohio Founded in 1947
This is the kind of classic supper club that used to dot the Midwest: thick napery, thicker steaks, cold drinks and potatoes offered at least four ways. The menu is virtually unchanged from the day it opened.
The oldest continuously running restaurant in San Francisco, the bustling Tadich offers a magical brand of vibrant timelessness: Thursday will always be corned-beef-and-cabbage day, and the waiters remain white-jacketed and efficient. All seafood is locally sourced, and nothing overfished is offered. Festive without being stuffy, it offers a taste of the San Francisco of yore while embracing the present day.
This dimly lit Hollywood Boulevard haunt used to be a favorite watering hole of the screenwriting set: veteran waiters will tell you about the booths where Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Faulkner used to drink during their studio stints. It's a bit less star-studded than it once was, but they still shake a damn fine martini.