Restaurants come and go. Only a few stay around to become dining icons, where multiple generations have enjoyed meals. Yes, feeding the public is no easy task. It take stamina to keep a kitchen going in good times and bad. Below are places that have done just that. Many of them you’ll recognize; perhaps you’ve eaten at some. But you maybe unaware of the historic significance of these culinary landmarks. Undoubtedly, I’ve left out some. I trust you’ll forgive and correct my omissions.
Golden Oldies in the St. Louis Area
Crown Candy Kitchen
Crown Candy opened in 1913, making it the oldest operating restaurant in St. Louis and one of the oldest soda fountains in the country. Lines often form outside the St. Louis Avenue location for a chance to indulge in the classic confections, sandwiches and sodas in the atmosphere of a bygone era.
Carl’s Drive In
At the Route 66-style diner, a burger starts out about the size of a golf ball. When flatten it resembles a smear on the grill, its edges becoming filigreed before being flipped. Despite the abuse on the griddle, the flavor remains intact. The place opened in 1951 as Breeden’s Good Food Drive-In, was sold in 1959 and became Carl’s Drive In and changed hands again in 2015.
In The Loop since 1972, Blueberry Hill has always been about music, sports memorabilia, funky collections, and comfort food. What started as a dog and suds place, soon added burgers and live music. Farmed rock n’ roller Chuck Berry has performed there for years.
The old-time diner that opened in 1947 remains a Kirkwood favorite even today. Get there before 2 p.m. because that’s when it closes for the day. Along with the usual breakfast and lunch fare, Spencer’s offers a variety of pies that rotate with the seasons.
Staring in 1931 as a walk-up root beer stand, Goody Goody transitioned to a car hop drive-in and went on to be named one of the country’s Top 50 Diners by MSN. If you’re a breakfast person, you can get your fill here all day long.
After 60 years, the 4th generation of Schneithorst’s carries on the tradition of serving fine Bavarian food in a cozy, Alpine atmosphere across from Frontenac shopping center.
First opened in 1925 by Italian immigrants, Al’s Steakhouse started as a tavern serving sandwiches to dock, factory and railroad workers along the riverfront. The award-winning restaurant holds the distinction of being the city’s oldest, single-family, locally-owned and operated restaurant still in its original location. Address: 1200 N. 1st Street.
Oldest Restaurants and Diners Out State
Gordon’s Stoplight Drive In
Today’s owners pride themselves in making their burgers and chili just like Gordon, the original owner did when he opened the Stoplight in 1948 at the corner of Bailey Road and Truman Boulevard in Crystal City. In keeping with that era, they still take cash only. If you’re really hungry check out the Quadzilla, their four-patty burger.
The Concert Hall and Barrel
Built in 1878, the Concert Hall & Barrel was the center for artistic performances and social life in early Hermann. The first floor housed a fine saloon while the upper floor was the site for plays, lectures, dances and concerts. The Concert Hall & Barrel holds the distinction of being the oldest continually operating tavern west of the Mississippi River.
The 9th Street pool hall has been serving sliders and chili amid rows of pool tables since 1884. When I lived in Columbia in the late 50s, it was still “male only,” but today you find students, families and football fans from around the country. USA Today has repeatedly included the Booche Burger in their listing of the Top Ten Burgers in America.
White Rose Cafe
White Rose Cafe in Union has been around for more than 80 years. The cafe serves breakfast all day and is a frequent location for antique auto shows.
J. Huston Tavern
J. Huston Tavern at Arrow Rock, the oldest operating restaurant in Missouri, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It once provided food and board to immigrants traveling West in the 1800s and is still noted for its great fried chicken. The Main Street tavern also holds the distinction of being the oldest continuously serving restaurant west of the Mississippi River.
The Iron Horse, a small town, hotel restaurant in Blackwater near Columbia promises a “taste of life from days gone by.” The old hotel is a showcase of period furnishings and includes an inviting parlor, dining area, elegant staircase and courtyard gardens.
The Fred Restaurant & Lounge
The Hotel Frederick, built in 1905, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and includes its own restaurant and lounge, known as, “The Fred.” The building, considered the best example of Romanesque Revival architecture in the region, underwent a $4M restoration in 1994. Today its decorated with 19th century antiques and maps giving it a feel of its original elegance.
This south Missouri icon, or home of the “throwed roll,” opened in Sikeston in 1942 and now has locations in Ozark, MO and Foley, AL. Ample amounts of down home cooking are served up at Lambert’s along with an occasional roll tossed to playful customers. No credit cards and no reservations accepted.
In the Kansas City Area
Arthur Bryant’s is the oldest of the BBQ joints in Missouri with history running back to 1908. Since 1958 they’ve been located at 1727 Brooklyn. Bryant’s holds the distinction of having once served its barbecue to President Obama.
Dixon Famous Chili in Independence has been around since 1919, a bit of trivia that’s written three times on their red window awning. Dixon’s is the oldest family-owned restaurant in the Kansas City area and much noted for its all-you-can-eat taco special.
The Majestic is a classic Kansas City steakhouse located in the historic Fitzpatrick Saloon Building. The magnificent bar dates back to 1910 and their jazz club area was once a Twenties-era speakeasy. Location: 931 Broadway Blvd.
Town Topic began as a small downtown diner in 1937 selling burgers for 5 cents each. Today they have 3 locations, all open 24/7.