Oldest Restaurants in Chicago

9 Oldest Restaurants in Chicago You Can Still Eat At

Chicago is known for wind, for its crowded streets, the “neighborhood,” and of course the classic deep-dish pizza. All these things can be combined into one attribute – the incredible neighborhood restaurants that still dot the old quarters of Chicago and draw both new and devoted patrons every day.

These restaurants are the institutions of Chicago, the heartbeat of the old town. They’ve been there for 50, some of them over 100, years. For the people of the windy city, these restaurants are part of the landscape of life. Here’s to another 100 years for the 9 oldest restaurants in Chicago.

9. Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern

Location: 737-200
Opened: 1932
Known for: Prime baby back ribs

photo source: Flickr

The Twin Anchors Restaurant & Tavern has remained a classic since it opened in 1932, even though it changed owners in the late 70s. Since it opened, it’s been famous for baked, Chicago-style prime baby back ribs. The décor of the restaurant is nautical themed and has always been that way.

The old speakeasy was turned into a bar, making it one of the oldest of its kind anywhere. The website proudly advertises its regular patronage by Frank Sinatra throughout the 1950s (he famously left $100 tips every time he came!). Other famous patrons include Conan O’Brien and chef Emeril Lagasse.

Did you know?

The building in which the Twin Anchors Restaurant now resides was built all the way back in 1881, making it one of the oldest buildings in the area. A tavern opened here in 1910, acquired by the Schlitz Brewing Company and later fell into the hands of the Walters family and Captain Herb Eldean. They’re the ones who supplied the idea, the ribs, and the nautical flare that define the Twin Anchors to this day.

8. Italian Village

Location: 71 W Monroe St
Opened: 1927
Known for: Authentic cuisine, huge wine list

Italian Villagephoto source: Flickr

This won’t be the last time Little Italy peeks in on our list. This downtown Chicago restaurant has the décor to match its history as a 1927 historical Italian villa in the heart of the windy city. They’re known for classic Italian fare such as their meat sauce, cannelloni, Bolognese, sausage, ravioli, and more.

The oldest Italian restaurant in the downtown Chicago area has also had its share of celebrity patrons, including Pavarotti, Barbra Streisand, Placido Domingo, and Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, the one and only Frank Sinatra.

Did you know?

We mentioned that the Italian Village has a huge wine list but we didn’t say how huge. This place has become famous for its incredible selection, which includes 1,100 classic wines spread out over 35,000 bottles in total.

7. Orange Garden Restaurant

Location: 1942 W Irving Park Rd
Opened: 1926
Known for: Cantonese cuisine

Orange Garden Restaurantphoto source: Flickr

The Orange Garden Restaurant is the oldest Chinese restaurant in Chicago, opening its doors back in 1926. It has become famous for traditional Cantonese cooking, old-fashioned décor, and huge portions.

Predating the People’s of Republic of China by decades, the Orange Garden Restaurant’s food is rooted in the classics. Favorites include Peking duck, Nanking pork, Mongolian beef, and of course, as many egg rolls as you can eat.

Did you know?

In addition to being Chicago’s oldest Chinese restaurant, Orange Garden also has the distinction of having the oldest working neon sign in the city.

6. Lou Mitchell’s

Location: 565 W Jackson Blvd
Opened: 1923
Known for: Celebrity patrons

photo source: Flickr

Since 1923, Lou Mitchell’s has been a famous neighborhood hotspot for visiting celebrities, journalists, politicians, and sports figures. The restaurant sports a variety of fare, including skillet breakfasts, homemade savory and sweet pies, game meat, fresh oysters, and more.

The smell of baked bread drifting down W Jackson Blvd is due to this nearly 100-year-old Chicago institution, as known for its pay-by-the-slice pies as for its celebrity guests.

Did you know?

Six of the seven previous presidents have eaten at Lou Mitchell’s, including Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Obama, and both Bushes.

5. Green Door Tavern

Location: 678 North Orleans St
Opened: 1921
Known for: The Drifter

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Green Door Tavern is arguably Chicago’s oldest drinking establishment, with a building that goes all the way back to 1872. The restaurant and bar that currently resides there, however, opened in 1921. It’s named for the green door that became its most famous attribute during Prohibition, when it served as a signal for people to come here and find what they were craving most.

“The Drifter,” as the restaurant’s basement speakeasy is called, has been preserved out of time and makes for an interesting night in the shadow, smoke, and shade that Italian gangsters might have seen in the 20s.

Did you know?

After the great Chicago Fire of 1871 claimed over 17,500 buildings, city ordinances were changed when it came to building with wood. However, the Green Door Tavern, being made from wood a year later, is one of the oldest buildings of its kind in the city.

4. Pompei

Location: 1532 W Taylor St
Opened: 1909
Known for: Italian desserts

Pompeiphoto source: Pompeiusa

Pompei, like many neighborhood restaurants, is an Italian eatery known for fresh pizza, daily baked bread, and amazing Italian desserts. They’ve moved twice over the years throughout Chicago’s Little Italy and have three separate locations.

However, the fourth generation Davinos that run the oldest location, founded in 1909, still put out the same great Italian fare in the unassuming yet classic decor that residents are used to. It’s near the University of Illinois’s Chicago campus so students frequently drop in for a bite.

Did you know?

The restaurant isn’t named after the mountain in Italy, but actually after the local church called Our Lady of Pompei, which the original restaurant location was near.

3. The Walnut Room

Location: 111 N State St
Opened: 1907
Known for: Being inside Macy’s

The Walnut Roomphoto source: Flickr

The Walnut Room is an eclectic, slightly more upscale dining room known for being the first restaurant ever opened in a department store. The Walnut Room is now a Macy’s institution. Eating there is like sightseeing in the 1800s, since the wood paneling, high ceilings, marble fountains, and other décor have remained trapped in time.

It serves a dinner buffet as well as many menu options that include roasted chicken, fried cod, seafood cocktails, roast beef, hummus, and even a famous chicken pot pie.

Did you know?

Due to the centricity of the Macy’s shopping experience to the hustle and bustle of Christmas, The Walnut Room is known as a Christmas institution in Chicago, not just a great eatery. For decades, people included the restaurant in their holiday traditions. After finding the perfect gifts, they’d walk on up and sit with the gorgeous Macy’s tree and eat at The Walnut Room.

2. The Berghoff Restaurant

Location: 17 W Adams St
Opened: 1898
Known for: German food and beer

The Berghoff Restaurantphoto source: Flickr

The Berghoff Restaurant was opened in 1898 by a family man named Herman Berghoff. It’s stayed in his family since then, serving signature German lager in steins and offering up authentic cuisine from his homeland.

After a brief closure in 2006, the restaurant reopened with three distinct sections, including a bar, restaurant, and café.

The traditional food hides a history of conflict. Originally, Berghoff wanted to showcase his homebrewed lager but couldn’t obtain a liquor license. The restaurant became known for food during Prohibition, where Berghoff became an expert in “near beer,” which are beer-like malt drinks that contain almost no alcohol. He offered near beer and a free sandwich, which is how the restaurant became famous for food.

Did you know?

You’ve probably seen the Berghoff without realizing it! This is the restaurant that the mob bosses are eating in when Lieutenant Gordon comes to arrest them in The Dark Knight.

1. Daley’s Restaurant

Location: 6257 S Cottage Grove Ave
Opened: 1892
Known for: 24-hour breakfast

photo source: Yelp

The oldest restaurant in Chicago is Daley’s Restaurant. This old family-run city staple had been at the same location on 63rd street since it opened in 1892. In 2019, it relocated across the street to a modern location, but is still run by the same family and still serves the same classic food.

John Daley, an Irish immigrant, opened the diner in the late-1800s, though it later changed hands to the Zars, who still own it today. Daley’s is famous for 24-hour breakfast, including hash browns, Belgium waffles, peach slices, raisin toast, and more. The other food on the menu is a smorgasbord of classic American staples, including fried chicken wings, burgers, salmon patties, and in-house peach cobbler.

Did you know?

Until very recently, the oldest restaurant in Chicago was Schaller’s Pump. This classic tavern-style bar and restaurant has been serving its “fine food,” self-professed on the sign, since 1881. However, after 136 years of operation, Schaller’s closed in 2017 after the owned died. Despite being a South Side institution and local favorite among baseball fans as the bar in the old neighborhood, Schaller’s just fell behind the times, leaving Daley’s to claim the crown.

The Takeaway

The oldest Chicago restaurants have been feeding their regular patrons and celebrity guests for decades, some over a century. Though many have moved or changed hands from their original digs down in the old neighborhood, they remain institutions that define the windy city for its regulars and tourists. They are the beating heart of Chicago, from the oldest Italian classics to the Christmas-time glamor of the department store high-life.



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