10 Oldest Restaurants in Boston

Boston has many historic sites which includes some of its oldest restaurants. The majority of these restaurants were established in the 19th century when restaurants first became popular.

The list includes a variety of different types of restaurants, from French to Italian to German as well as pizza shops and restaurants that serve traditional New England cuisine.

The following is a list of the oldest restaurants in Boston:

Union Oyster House Restaurant: 1826

Address: 41 Union Street, Boston, Massachusetts
Website: www.unionoysterhouse.com

The Union Oyster House Restaurant is the oldest restaurant in Boston and the oldest continuously operating restaurant in America. The restaurant serves traditional New England cuisine and seafood.

Established in 1826 by Hawes Atwood, the restaurant was originally known as Atwood’s Oyster House. From 1842 to 1860, it was known as Atwood & Hawes and from the late 1800s to 1916 it was known as Atwood & Bacon.

Union Oyster House, Boston, Mass, circa 1898
Union Oyster House, Boston, Mass, circa 1898

In 1913, the Atwood family sold the restaurant to the Fitzgerald family who renamed it the Union Oyster House in 1916. The Fitzgerald family later sold the restaurant in 1927.

The restaurant was expanded in 1933 when a second floor dining room was added. Around 1940, the restaurant was sold to the Greaves brothers from Nova Scotia who added three new dining rooms on the second floor and installed a new kitchen and bakery.

The Greaves brother sold the restaurant to Joseph Milano in 1970, whose family continues to run the restaurant today.

The building the restaurant is housed in was built in 1742, making it one of the 10 oldest buildings in Boston, and it was designated a national historical landmark in 2003.

Durgin Park: 1827

Established in 1827, Durgin Park was a historic restaurant that permanently closed in 2019 after a 192-year-run. The restaurant served traditional New England cuisine.

Located in Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Durgin Park was the second oldest restaurant in Boston and the fifth oldest in America.

The restaurant was established when John Durgin, Eldridge Park and John G. Chandler bought an existing restaurant in the food hall at Peter Faneuil’s marketplace, Faneuil Hall, in 1827 and ran it together as business partners.

The trio continued to work together until 1877 when Durgin and Park died and Chandler renamed the restaurant after them. Chandler’s family continued to own the restaurant until 1945 when it was sold to James Hallett.

In 1972, Hallett sold it to the Kelley family who then sold it to its last owner, the Ark Restaurant Group, in 2007. The group dealt with nearly a decade of decline profits before deciding to close the restaurant in 2019.

Parker’s Restaurant: 1855

Address: 60 School Street, Boston, Mass
Website: www.omnihotels.com/hotels/boston-parker-house/dining/parkers-restaurant

Parker’s Restaurant was established in 1855 by Harvey D. Parker in the Parker House Hotel.

Knowing how important hospitality is in the hotel business, Parker hired gourmet French chef Sanzian to serve as his head chef.

As a result, Sanzian’s diverse menu of turtle soup, oysters, goose and ham in champagne sauce was a huge hit and the restaurant received rave reviews in the local press.

In 1856, Sanzian invented the Boston cream pie that the hotel is famous for.

The Parker House, Boston, Mass, circa 1900
The Parker House, Boston, Mass, circa 1900

In the 1870s, the famous Parker House rolls were invented in the restaurant when its disgruntled German baker, a man named Ward, had an altercation with a guest and reportedly threw a batch of half finished rolls in the oven which created a folded roll that was soft and fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside.

After Parker died in 1884, the hotel and restaurant passed down to Parker’s various business partners and then later changed owners many times after the hotel fell on hard times during the Great Depression.

The restaurant has also had a number of famous employees over the years. From 1912 to 1913, Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Communist revolutionary leader, worked as a cook’s helper in the basement pastry kitchen and in the 1940s, Malcolm X worked as a bus boy in the restaurant.

In 1968, the hotel and restaurant were purchased by Dunfry Hotels who bought the rights to the Omni International Hotels in 1980 and the hotel was renamed the Omni Parker House Hotel in 1996. The company still owns and operates that hotel and restaurant today.

Jacob Wirth: 1868

Established in 1868 by a German immigrant named Jacob Wirth, Jacob Wirth was a historic restaurant that permanently closed in 2018. The restaurant served traditional German cuisine.

In 1902, Wirth passed away and left the restaurant his son, Jacob Wirth Jr, who kept the restaurant alive throughout many hardships, such as two waves of anti-German sentiment during WWI and WWII, prohibition and the Great Depression. Jacob Wirth Jr ran the restaurant until he died in 1965.

The Wirth family continued to run the restaurant until they sold it to the Fitzgerald family in 1975. The family ran the restaurant until around 2018 when the owner, Kevin Fitzgerald, was forced to put it up for sale as a stipulation of his divorce.

The building that restaurant was located in is a Greek Revival-style building that was constructed in 1844 and was added to the National Register of Historic Locations in 1980 and designated a Boston Landmark in 1977.

In 2010, AJ Simboli Real Estate purchased the building that the restaurant is located in and vowed to preserve its history.

In June of 2018, the restaurant was still up for sale when a fire broke out in the building and the ensuing damage forced Fitzgerald to permanently close the restaurant.

Marliave: 1885

Address: 10 Bosworth Street, Boston, Mass
Website: www.marliave.com

Marliave was established on Bosworth Street in 1885 by Henry Marliave, a French immigrant from Paris.

The restaurant was actually first established at a different location, near what is now the Ritz-Carlton, sometime around 1872 but that location was damaged in a fire and Marliave relocated to Bosworth Street in 1885.

During prohibition, the restaurant operated as a speakeasy and was subject to frequent raids. It later evolved to become an Italian restaurant.

Due to its close proximity to Downtown Crossing, Marliave quickly became a popular stop for shoppers after a long afternoon of shopping.

The restaurant was briefly shuttered in 2006 when tax collectors seized the restaurant because its former owner owed back taxes. The following year, it was purchased by its current owner, Scott Herritt, and reopened as a French restaurant again.

Amrheins: 1890

Address: 80 West Broadway, Boston, Mass
Website: www.amrheinsboston.com

Established in 1890, Amrheins is the oldest restaurant in the South End.

This historic restaurant serves traditional New England cuisine and is home to the country’s oldest hand carved bar as well as the first draft beer pump ever installed in Boston.

The building that the restaurant is housed in was purchased by new owners in 2019 and is currently under threat of demolition due to plans to widen the sidewalk, according to the Boston Preservation Alliance website.

Santarpio’s Pizza: 1903

Address: 111 Chelsea St, Boston, Mass
Website: www.santarpiospizza.com

Established as a bakery in 1903, Santarpio’s pizza is a popular pizzeria in East Boston. Francisco Santarpio first opened the shop as a bakery in 1903. When prohibition ended in the late 1920s, the bakery became a bar that served lunchtime food such as spaghetti and meatballs as well as pizza.

The pizzeria eventually passed down from Francisco to his son Joseph and then to Joseph’s son Frank in the 1960s. It is still owned by the Santarpio family today and has become so popular it has opened a second location in Peabody.

Jeveli’s Restaurant: 1924

Address: 387 Chelsea Street, Boston, Mass
Website: jeveli.com

Established in 1924, Jeveli’s is Boston’s oldest Italian restaurant. The restaurant was established by Pasquale Jeveli in 1924 and passed down to his son, Armand, in 1943. When Armand died in 1957, his son Ted took over the business.

Ted Jeveli expanded the restaurant, building additions and adding more seating areas. In 1987, Ted retired and his son Eric took over the restaurant and continues to run it today.

James Hook and Co: 1925

Address: 440 Atlantic Ave, Boston, Mass
Website: jameshooklobster.com

Established in 1925, James Hook and Co is a seafood restaurant and wholesale seafood company established by the Hook family on the Fort Point Channel.

The restaurant began as a wholesale seafood business when the Hook brothers began selling their catch of lobsters from Maine and Canada to the various restaurants in Boston.

The family continued to sell their catch wholesale and eventually opened their seafood restaurant on site in Boston where they could serve seafood to the public.

The restaurant is currently owned by Eddie, Al, and Jimmy Hook and granddaughter Nancy Doto.

The business has continued despite many tragedies and setbacks such as the current owner’s father dying in a tragic accident on the site in 1959 and the building the restaurant is housed in being completely destroyed in a seven-alarm fire in 2008.

Regina Pizzeria: 1926

Address: 11 1/2 Thacher Street, Boston, Mass
Website: www.pizzeriaregina.com

Established in 1926, Regina Pizzeria is a pizzeria established by Luigi D’Auria in the North End of Boston and is Boston’s oldest continuously operating pizzeria. The pizzeria has since become a regional chain in New England.

When Luigi D’Auria died the restaurant passed down to his grandson, also named Luigi D’Auria. In 1956, Luigi D’Auria sold the restaurant to the Polcari family who continue to run it today.

If you are interested in visiting more historic establishments in Boston, check out this list of oldest bars in Boston.

Sources:
Lynds, John. “Jeveli’s Will Close for the Winter.” East Boston Times – Free Press, 10 Nov. 2020, eastietimes.com/2020/11/10/jevelis-will-close-for-the-winter/
Sauer, Patrick. “When Disaster Strikes.” INC.com, 13 August. 2008, inc.com/articles/2008/08/lobster.html
Cain, Jacqueline. “Iconic theater district beer hall Jacob Wirth is for sale,.” Boston Magazine, 17 Jan. 2018, bostonmagazine.com/restaurants/2018/01/17/jacob-wirth-restaurant-for-sale/
Jacob Wirth Buildings Study Report, Boston Landmarks Commission, 1977, cityofboston.gov/images_documents/Jacob%20Wirth%20Buildings%20Study%20Report_tcm3-20201.pdf
Kuschner, Erin. “Durgin-Park, a Faneuil Hall stalwart, closes after nearly 200 years.” 4 Jan. 2019, Boston.com, boston.com/food/restaurants/2019/01/04/durgin-park-a-faneuil-hall-stalwart-closes-after-almost-200-years
Treamain, Julie. Forbes Magazine, 10 Jan. 2019, forbes.com/sites/julietremaine/2019/01/10/after-192-years-bostons-iconic-durgin-park-restaurant-serves-its-last-meal/?sh=35ed72123a4b
“Amrheins.” Boston Preservation Alliance, bostonpreservation.org/advocacy-project/amrheins
Goodison, Donna. “Making Marliave Marvelous Again.” Boston Herald, 17 Nov. 2018, bostonherald.com/2008/05/16/making-marliave-marvelous/
“Union Oyster House.” Union Oyster House, unionoysterhouse.com/pages/history.html
“Union Oyster House.” NPS,gov, nps.gov/nr/travel/maritime/oys.htm

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

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