I have always been a huge fan of old-school restaurants that have a feeling and look. I know that when I go to these places, they know what they are doing.

They have not been around by circumstance, they have and continue to work hard in providing good food, good service and comfortable surroundings that allow you to enjoy a great dining experience.

We are so fortunate that although we have outstanding restaurants here in New Jersey, we are nestled between two significant metropolitans in New York City and Philadelphia.

For me I am only an hour and 10 minutes from my home to New York City. I take advantage of that proximity by going to New York to see special music performances and to enjoy an excellent restaurant.

Fork & Plate came out with their list of the top oldest restaurants in New York City. I noticed that I have been to some of the restaurants on the list and wanted to share my favorites with you.

Fraunces Tavern

One of the oldest operating restaurants and bars in the country, Fraunces opened in 1762 and still maintains their different bar rooms intertwined into the building like a fantasy maze.

The different bars have selected menus, and the food is good and the bartenders and servers are well informed and seasoned. The décor of the Fraunces Tavern is the best, the dark wood and bookshelves lend to helping you transform back in time.

Do not go there to talk seriously because you’ll be distracted by the scenery.

Keens Steakhouse

When I go to Keen’s I do not want to leave. I want to stay and enjoy the atmosphere which by looking at the surroundings takes you back to an old-school bar and restaurant. The experience creates a transformation back in time.

Keens opened in 1885 and still serves an exceptionally good steak, in fact one of my favorites. Check out the pipes that are on display in the bar area that are from the most famous people from every aspect of life. Pipes from General MacArthur, Babe Ruth, Herbert Hoover, and Enrico Caruso are just a few of the pipes on display.

The bar is comfortable, and the bartenders know how to serve a great cocktail. You will enjoy the food, drink and atmosphere, Keens should be on your list to enjoy.


Rao’s has been in operation since 1896. Rao’s specializing in homemade Southern Italian cooking is incredibly good. I have been to Rao’s twice and both experiences were very memorable.

Trying to get a reservation is impossible. It is a busy restaurant that thrives on a famous clientele. Their success has allowed them to open other locations and a multi-million-dollar Rao’s sauce concession that was recently sold to soup giant Campbell’s.

The atmosphere in the New York restaurant is eye-catching but small and tight. The food is still outstanding.

Peter Luger

Peter Lugers is the epitome of an old-school steakhouse. They serve incredibly good steaks the way they have for years. In 1887 Carl Luger opened his Carl Luger Café and Billiards.

It soon caught on in the mostly German neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn and it transformed into the steakhouse. Over the years the restaurant has had struggles that they have overcome, and the restaurant continues to thrive today.

Their beef is specially aged and served sizzling on a plate. When ordering a steak, it is for how many. They have the classic sides to enjoy.

Save room for dessert.

Katz’s Delicatessen

Katz’s opened in 1888 and has become an institution. During the holidays driving by you can see the patrons lined up outside the door waiting for a cherished table.

I enjoy Katz’s, I love their corned beef and the pastrami is so enjoyable. The portions are sizable, and the sides are good too.

What I don’t like about the restaurant is that it’s become an institution, almost a factory in providing catering, merchandise, and other services to satisfy the many tourists that have come to know Katz’s as the Mecca of all delis, making it possible for a guy in Omaha to enjoy a pastrami sandwich for big money.

Enjoy these restaurants, absorb the great atmosphere, have a great meal, and take it all in.

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The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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