A Yale historian's new book details the dining history of America.

By Danica Lo
Updated May 24, 2017
Credit: © Museum of the City of New York/Byron Collection/Getty Images

Anyone looking for a bucket list of American restaurants to visit before end times should consider taking a look at Yale historian Paul Freedman's newest book: Ten Restaurants That Changed America. Since the beginning (think: the first Thanksgiving), food has been inextricably woven into the fabric of our country's culture—and how Americans have chosen to spend their hard-earned money on dining experiences throughout recent history surely says a great deal about who we are as a people.

Freedman's book covers plenty of ground—from immigrant experiences including the rise of Chinese-American food in San Francisco, New York City's Italian-American stalwarts, French haute cuisine in this country, and the all-American Howard Johnson's chain. Here are his picks for ten most game-changing dining experiences in the U.S.A.

1. Delmonico's

Opened in 1837 in New York City, Delmonico's is touted as the "first fine dining restaurant" in the country. The steakhouse is still open today, serving prime cut beef and all-American classics—like baked Alaska and Eggs Benedict.

2. Antoine's

First opened in New Orleans in 1840, Antoine's today houses 14 dining rooms and can host more than 700 guests at a time. The world-renowned French-Creole restaurant is still owned and operated by the fifth generation of its founder's family, Antoine Alciatore.

3. Schrafft's

What started as a candy store in 1898 became a chain of restaurants throughout New York and in Boston best known for its dining room atmosphere and woman-centric management staff. At the brand's peak, it had 50 locations—the last Schrafft's, in Boston, closed in the 1980s.

4. Howard Johnson's

The once-ubiquitous chain of diner-esque restaurants was started in 1925 outside of Boston. Today, only one remains in Lake George, New York.

5. Mamma Leone's

One of the most famous Theater District Italian restaurants in New York City opened in 1906 and closed in 1994.

6. The Mandarin

Opened in San Francisco in 1961 by Cecilia Chiang, The Mandarin was credited with being a Chinese food pioneer in this country. Chiang was the subject of the 2014 Wayne Wang documentary Soul of a Banquet.

7. Silvia's

One of the most famous soul food restaurants in the United States, Silvia's opened its doors in Harlem in 1962. In is half-century history, Silvia has been visited by several presidents—including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—as well as countless celebrities and heads of state.

8. Le Pavillon

Open from 1939 to 1971 in New York City, across the street from the legendary St. Regis, Le Pavillon was the brainchild of Henri Soule and chef Pierre Franey, both war refugees from France, and was, in its time, the paragon of French cuisine in this country.

9. The Four Seasons

Opened in 1959 and recently shuttered in preparation for relocation, the two public dining rooms designed by Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe defined the New York power lunch for decades.

10. Chez Panisse

Alice Waters's flagship restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., opened in 1971 as a neighborhood bistro serving a seasonal fixed dinner menu of sustainable, organically-sourced ingredients.

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