Quick Look: In an industry in which 70 percent fail within 10 years, Rick Browne explores the stalwarts, 100 restaurants, inns, taverns and public houses that have survived a century or longer. He offers a culinary history through America’s oldest dining rooms and their dishes, including one of Coeur d’Alene’s favorite burger joints.
What’s inside: Browne, who traveled more than 46,000 miles while researching the book, includes restaurants in 44 states and the District of Columbia. The oldest – White Horse Tavern in Newport, R.I. – opened in 1673; the youngest – Pleasant Point Inn, in Lovell, Maine – started in 1911. The part-recipe, part-history book features black-and-white vintage photographs juxtaposed with colorful, modern-day images of entrées. It also discusses the origins of each establishment – from famous guests and chefs to signatures dishes – and reminds readers how much older the East Coast is compared to the West Coast. Browne offers short reviews of menu items he sampled – from the $2.50 Smoked Pork Sandwich at Jones’ B-B-Q Diner, established in 1910 in Marianna, Ark., to the $99 Orca Platter at Old Ebbit Grill, established in 1856 in Washington, D.C. With eight seats, Jones’ B-B-Q Diner is the smallest eatery included in the cook. The largest – Columbia, established in 1905 in Tampa, Fla. – holds 1,700.
Recipes include Honey-Pecan Fried Chicken from The Pirates’ House, established in 1753 in Savannah, Ga., and Fresh Strawberry Pie from Hays House in Council Grove, Kan., established in 1847 by Seth Hays, great-grandson of Daniel Boone and cousin of Kit Carson. There’s Corned Beef and Cabbage from what the book calls Paul Revere’s favorite watering hole – The Warren Tavern, established in 1780 in Charlestown, Mass. – and Lobster Casserole from Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, established 1716 in Sudbury, Mass., and the inspiration for “Tales of a Wayside Inn” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
However, most restaurants won’t give out the secrets of their signature dishes. Cole’s and Philippe the Original, two legendary downtown Los Angeles eateries, are keeping the recipes for their famous French dips to themselves. Both started in 1908, and both claim to be the originator of the sandwich. For this book, each provides a recipe for a side dish. (Cole’s offers its Potato Bacon Salad, while Philippe’s offers its Pickled Beets.) Antoine’s, established 1840 in New Orleans and famous for originating Oysters Rockefeller, gives its recipe for Fried Trout with Crawfish Tails in a White Wine Sauce. Likewise, Hudson’s Hamburgers in Coeur d’Alene, won’t share its burger recipe. The book includes Flo’s Huckleberry Cobbler, a recipe provided by a longtime customer.
The cobbler isn’t on the menu. Hudson’s diners can order single or double hamburgers, or single or double cheeseburgers. There are no sides. And, as far as condiments go, there’s ketchup, mustard or Huddy’s special spicy ketchup.
“The Huddy is crisp and nicely browned on the outside and very juicy on the inside, the spicy ketchup adding mouth-tingling warmth, the cheese melting into the meat,” Browne writes in his book. “It is a very good burger. In fact, it’s so good that next time I’m going to get the double.”
What’s Not: There are no restaurants from Eastern Washington in the book. While there are some ethnic restaurants – Fior d’Italia, established in 1886 in San Francisco, and Maneki, established in 1904 in Seattle – most offer distinctly American fare, including regional specialties, like Creole, Cajun and Old West, country-style comfort food.
Established in 1907, Hudsons’s is the only Idaho eatery in the new cookbook. Longtime customer Flo Harris often brings her cobbler to the restaurant to share with other diners.
Here’s her recipe:
Flo’s Huckleberry Cobbler
From “A Century of Restaurants” by Rick Browne, Andrews McMeel Publishing.
2 to 3 cups fresh or thawed huckleberries
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons margarine or butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch for fresh berries, 2 1/2 tablespoons for thawed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
Whipped cream or ice cream for serving.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the huckleberries and lemon juice. Stir to blend. Pour into the prepared pan.
In a medium bowl, combine batter ingredients. Stir with a whisk to blend. Pour over berries.
For the topping: In a small bowl, mix sugar, cornstarch and salt. Sprinkle mixture over the batter. Pour the boiling water over the cobbler. Bake for one hour. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings