The average lifespan of an independent restaurant in America is said to be somewhere between three and five years. Some last a lot longer than that, but longevity isn’t the same thing as eternal life.
Unfortunately, many venerable eating places, in this country and abroad, have given up the ghost in recent years, and especially during the pandemic. For instance, these are the saddest restaurant closings of 2020.
That said, there are also restaurants — as well as bars, taverns, cafés, and the like — that claim histories dating back centuries. The oldest such establishment in the U.S. is probably the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, opened in 1673. That’s practically yesterday compared to certain places in Europe and Asia — some of which date back to the 12th or 13th centuries and even earlier. (Fascinated by antiquity? These are the 50 oldest things in the world.)
The tricky thing about identifying these venues as being among “the oldest” is defining terms. Does age refer to the building itself? To the point at which it started serving food and/or drink? Is continuity of ownership an issue? What about premises that have moved over the years or that were converted to other purposes, only returning to their original function in recent memory?
24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of 40 bars, cafés, and restaurants in the U.S., Asia, Europe, and the Middle East that have a fair claim to being among the world’s oldest. The selection is based on lists published on a wide range of travel, food, news, and lifestyle websites, including Travel & Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, Far and Wide, Time Out, Delish, Insider, The Daily Beast, and Robb Report. Information was verified on the establishments’ sites and from other sources where possible.
One restaurant — Sobrino de Botín in Madrid — has been operating as an eating place in the same location continuously since its beginnings almost 300 years ago. The others? Their history may be murkier, but while they may have opened and closed or changed identities over the centuries, all have a clear connection to their ancient pasts — even St. Peter Stiftskulinarium in Salzburg, Austria, an abbey inn turned restaurant that may date back as far as 803 A.D., where Christopher Columbus may once have dined.