11 Oldest Steakhouses In The U.S. Still Going Strong

Americans love their steakhouses. In part this is because beef is a favorite meal in the United States. Americans buy more beef at grocery stores than they do any other meal. They also seek top-quality beef prepared at restaurants, predominantly in steakhouses across the country.

Yes, Americans have a long-running love affair with steak. Ever since the Spanish introduced cattle to the continent in the 16th century, beef has been highly sought-after by all types of people. Where did this love of steakhouses come from? How did the steakhouse become such an American institution?

Origins Of The Steakhouse

The steakhouse began as chophouses which started to appear in London in the 1690s. These were restaurants where individual portions of meat or chops were served to patrons. Originally, these chophouses catered only to men and their purpose was to serve a meal that was hot and quick to local workers.

The Chophouse In America

The steakhouse, as known in the United States, has a two pronged origin. Chophouses of London made their way to New York to serve the same type of clientele that they did in London: working class men. Additionally, modern steakhouses in the U.S. were also influenced by traditional bars and inns.

The Beefsteak Banquet

In addition to the chophouse, the beefsteak banquet was another type of early steakhouse. While beefsteak banquets had meat in common with the chophouse, that’s where the similarities ended. Chophouses were typically dark and dusty and catered to the working class. Beefsteak banquets, by contrast, catered to the upper class. Beefsteak banquets weren’t restaurants but were banquets held by the elite of New York to celebrate and show off one’s success.

The Birth Of The Modern Steakhouse

The modern steakhouse came into being in the mid 19th century. It combined the permanent location of the chophouse with the higher-quality cuts and better atmosphere of the beefsteak banquet. Plus, they began to serve women and families instead of men only.

Steakhouses Today

Steakhouses, as we know them today, have been around since the mid-1800s. While there are thousands of steakhouses across the United States, it’s a restaurant concept unique to this country. Even in the U.K., where the chophouse was founded, the traditional steakhouse isn’t nearly as commonplace.

Oldest Steakhouses In The U.S.

If you want a taste of old-school decadence, these are some of the oldest steakhouses in the United States that are still going strong today.

Old Homestead Steakhouse (1868)

New York City, New York

The Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York City has been operating for more than 150 years, making it the oldest continuously operating steakhouse in the U.S.

When a German family established the Old Homestead Steakhouse 150 years ago, it was known as Tidewater Trading Post. In the 1940s, Harry Sherry purchased the restaurant after working his way up from dishwasher.

Sherry passed the restaurant on to his grandsons, Greg and Marc Sherry. The two have worked to keep a focus on the traditions of the restaurant.

It says on the restaurant’s website, “Why change something that has worked for 150 years?”

Even so, the restaurant says it became the first to introduce Kobe and Wagyu beef from Japan after the brothers worked with Japanese farmers to have their facilities comply with American health code standards.

Peruse the menu at the Old Homestead and you’ll find classic steakhouse starters like oysters Rockefeller, Caesar salad, and crab cakes. There are some contemporary appetizers such as the yellowfin tuna sashimi and rock shrimp tempura. The steaks and chops are sourced from only the best suppliers. You can choose from prime dry-aged beef or Japanese Wagyu A5+ steaks. The sides are just as tempting with offerings like buttermilk onion rings, truffle mac n’ cheese, and asparagus with hollandaise.

Old Homestead Steakhouse (1868)
56 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011, USA

Image from Official Website

Keens Steakhouse (1885)

New York City, New York

Keens Steakhouse is famous for its thousands of tobacco pipes. These pipes came from the restaurant’s Pipe Club where patrons would have pipes stored at the steakhouse that they could enjoy while dining. Keens was originally a gathering place for theater groups, in particular the Lambs Club, but over the years expanded its clientele and included personalities like Babe Ruth, JP Morgan, President Teddy Roosevelt, and General Douglas MacArthur.

The dish that put Keens on the map for carnivores is the mutton chop. This famed mutton chop is butter-soft, and the enormous cuts of beef are enviable, with primed porterhouse and king’s cut both winning with depth of flavor and liberal size portions. The sides are classic steakhouse, especially the creamed spinach.

Keens Steakhouse (1885)

Image from Official Website

Peter Luger Steakhouse (1887)

Brooklyn, New York

Originally opened in 1887 as “Carl Luger’s Cafe, Billiards and Bowling Alley,” this steakhouse quickly became a neighborhood favorite. Peter Luger owned the restaurant while his nephew, Carl, operated the kitchen. The Williamsburg Bridge opened in 1903 and the restaurant then was frequented by Manhattan businessmen crossing the East River.

The cafe later evolved into a restaurant focusing primarily on steaks with sides like creamed spinach and the house special, German fried potatoes. The exceptional food once earned the restaurant a Michelin star. While they have lost that star, they still receive praise in the Michelin guide.

The restaurant only offers USDA prime beef with ample marbling. The meat is then dry-aged, butchered, and trimmed in-house before being broiled to perfection.

Peter Luger Steakhouse (1887)
178 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211, United States

Image from Official Website

The Buckhorn Exchange (1893)

Denver, Colorado

Step inside The Buckhorn Exchange and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve entered a hunter’s showroom. The walls are lined with taxidermy (more than 500 pairs of eyes stare down at you) including mountain sheep, buffalo and more. There is also a 125-piece gun collection.

It was founded in 1893 by Henry Zeity, who rode with “Buffalo Bill” Cody and was friends with Chief Sitting Bull. Over the years it has attracted everyone from cattle ranchers to railroad workers to presidents and movie stars.

While many customers come to gape, there are plenty of regulars for whom The Buckhorn Exchange is simply a good place to eat.

Much of the dinner menu is devoted to Old West cuisine such as Rocky Mountain oysters (heads up they’re not oysters), fried alligator tail, and rattlesnake marinated in lime red chili. However, the steak is impressive. The T-bone is extra thick and super juicy. New York strip loins are available in sizes that feed from two to six people. For those not wanting steak, opt for quail, cornish hen, or salmon.

The Buckhorn Exchange (1893)
1000 Osage St, Denver, CO 80204

St. Elmo Steakhouse (1902)

Indianapolis, Indiana

Locals will tell you that St Elmos is a can’t miss spot when visiting Indiana. More than a few celebrities have dined at the restaurant, including Lady Gaga, John Travolta, and Jon Bon Jovi.

Its website proclaims “Famous since 1902,” and it truly is. In 2012, this legendary steakhouse was named a James Beard Award winner in the category of America’s Classics.

The strikingly carved wood trim, tin ceiling, low-tied servers, and walls covered with photos of famous diners throughout the decades hint at its history.

Expertly done filets, prime rib, ribeye, and porterhouse attest to its continued draw. An impressive wine cellar boasts nearly 12,000 bottles. If you aren’t interested in wine, try the signature: Elmo Cola (Maker’s Mark bourbon infused with Luxardo cherries from Italy with an ice-cold bottle of cola on the side).

St. Elmo Steakhouse (1902)
127 S. Illinois St.
Indianapolis, IN. 46225

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse (1910)

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse has a colorful history that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. It opened in 1910 to feed hungry cowboys and ranchers who were in Stockyard City to sell their herds. It was one of the only spots that stayed open late, so it attracted a big drinking crowd. That didn’t change during Prohibition, as the steakhouse served homemade libations.

In 1945, owner Hank Fey was facing hard luck during a dice game and he wagered the restaurant. Gene Wild, a local rancher, wagered his life savings. Wild rolled what he needed to win, and the 33 band was placed throughout the restaurant as a show of Wild’s good fortune.

Cattlemen’s sources only corn-fed USDA Prime and Choice beef cuts including strip sirloin, filet mignon, and porterhouse. Each steak is broiled over charcoal flames and served in its natural jus. All entrees come with a salad, rolls, and your choice of fries, baked potato, or steamed vegetables.

Cattlemen’s Steakhouse (1910)
1309 S. Agnew,
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73108

Pacific Dining Car (1921)

Los Angeles, California (Temporarily Closed)

There aren’t many places in Los Angeles where you can eat both a steak and an egg benedict at 3am, but Pacific Dining Car is one of them. This restaurant looks like a train dining car and has been open since 1921. (Mac West used to be a regular.) It serves food 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The booth filled room has the same dim lighting at any time of day, but you should be here for the 10pm to 6am late-night menu when the famous “baseball steak” (which looks sort of like a baseball and had a starring role in Training Day) is less than half the price. It might not be the best piece of meat you can get in L.A. but it’s good enough, and the whole place makes you feel like you’re on the set of a 30s gangster movie.

Pacific Dining Car (1921)
1310 W 6th St,
Los Angeles, CA, United States

Gallaghers Steakhouse (1927)

New York City, New York

If you’re looking for a classic New York City steakhouse experience, Gallaghers is a good bet. The restaurant began life as a speakeasy in the Roaring Twenties, and later became a steakhouse when prohibition ended. The restaurant was revamped in 2014, but still retains much of its old-school charm (think leather booths, a horseshoe-shaped bar, and lots of dark wood). You can’t miss the glass-fronted meat locker at the front of the restaurant that displays thick cuts of meat, labeled and waiting with ready-to-eat dates.

You’ll find all your favorite steakhouse dishes on the menu at Gallaghers. The USDA prime steaks come in a variety of cuts and can be served with sides like hash browns, sauteed mushrooms, and asparagus. Save room for a slice of decadent New York cheesecake.

Gallaghers Steakhouse (1927)
228 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019

Charlie’s Steakhouse (1932)

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans’ oldest steakhouse is Charlie’s, an institution that has been serving steaks since 1932. As the website says, “There’s nothing fancy at Charlie’s, just great steak, a cold drink, and a good time. You don’t ask for a menu at Charlie’s unless it’s your first time, and that’s when everybody laughs at you… Just tell your waiter which steak you want and how you would like it cooked. Oh, and when it arrives, hold your napkin up in front of you so the spattering butter doesn’t ruin your shirt.”

You can order cuts like the ribeye, T-Bone, and New York Strip and sides like potatoes au gratin or a classic wedge salad. Say yes to the onion rings.

Charlie’s Steakhouse (1932)
4510 Dryades St
New Orleans, LA 70115

Image from Official Website

Jess and Jim’s (1938)

Kansas City, Missouri

For more than 85 years, Jess & Jim’s has been satisfying hungry diners with hearty steaks, burgers, and seafood. The restaurant has been operated by the same family since 1938 and they pride themselves on quality and value.

The dinner menu has beef options like the 20-ounce T-bone and the mammoth 30-ounce porterhouse. For those who want to try their Prime aged beef, but can’t make the trip to their Kansas City restaurant, they can ship their raw steaks anywhere in the country.

Jess and Jim’s (1938)
517 E 135th St,
Kansas City, MO 64145, United States

Gene & Georgetti (1941)

Chicago, Illinois

Gene Michelotti came to the U.S. from Italy at the age of 15. He spoke very little English but worked a number of jobs, including bar tending, where he met his future business partner, Alfredo “Georgetti” Federigher, who was a chef at the time.

The pair founded Gene & Georgetti 1941, making the restaurant the oldest steakhouse in Chicago. Upon Michelotti’s death in 1989, his daughter and son-in-law purchased the restaurant wanting to keep it in the family.

Numerous celebrities have dined at the steakhouse including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Russell Crowe, and Will Fernell.

The restaurant serves classic Italian dishes along with their famous steaks. These include Tuscan-style pastas, eggplant parmigiana, and Fiorentina style steaks.

All the steaks are USDA Prime beef, most of which have been wet-aged for at least 21 days. The Fiorentina steaks are dry aged and include the tomahawk and T-bone.

Gene & Georgetti (1941)

Final Thoughts

Trends come and go, but a great steak (and even better service) will never go out of style.

Restaurant fads arrive almost daily these days. Ramen and Asian fusion are in, restaurant kiosks proliferate, and tablet eateries, executed without servers, are spiking. But there’s one trusty standby that never seems to fade: the classic steakhouse.

If you’re on Hilton Head or in nearby Bluffton, join us at Wise Guys for the best steak complemented by our many New American offerings.

Similar Posts