There are great restaurants and then there are iconic restaurants. The latter do more than just serve up delicious food, they dare to be different and give permission for others to follow their lead.
In his new book, Ten Restaurants That Changed America, author and historian Paul Freedman takes readers on a journey through the culinary melting pot that is American dining, exploring the most influential restaurants, that each, in its own way, played a part in changing American culture, society, industry and even politics as we know it.
From chronicling the rise of America’s obsession with Chinese food through San Francisco’s legendary The Mandarin, to outlining how Sylvia’s, a small Harlem eatery, pioneered the concept of American soul food, Freedman uses each restaurant to tell a bigger story of race and class, immigration and assimilation.
He also gives us a history lesson in restaurant franchising through Howard Johnson’s — which paved the way for fast food giants like McDonald’s and Burger King — and explores how the wealthiest 19th century New Yorkers went from entertaining at home to eating Parisian-inspired cuisine at Delmonico’s.
There’s even a restaurant that Freedman believes helped first launch the local, seasonal mindset that dominates in so many kitchens today.
“The most important and entertaining book on the subject of food that I’ve read in years,” said Molly O'Neill, author of One Big Table. “Paul Freedman paints a portrait of a culture whose cuisine is only beginning to emerge.”
Read more about the influential restaurants that made Paul Freedman’s list.