Union Oyster House
Pubs along the Blackstone Block in Boston are where the Sons of Liberty would gather to drink, debate and plan the Revolution. On the same block, travelers will find a landmark, both culinary and historic: the Union Oyster House, one of the nation’s oldest restaurants.
The Union Oyster House is a Boston fixture; the restaurant is housed in a pre-Revolution-era building that housed Capen’s silk and dry goods store more than 80 years before it became a restaurant. Today, diners can sit in the exact same place where the wives of John Quincy Adams and John Hancock often sat in their stalls sewing.
The Union Oyster House started serving food in 1826 and, since then, has had only three owners. The wood booths and horseshoe-shaped oyster bar are still in their original locations.
The restaurant has several private dining and function rooms that can accommodate groups of 20 to 250 people. For meals, Webster’s Den can seat 125, the Freedom Trail Room can seat 50, and the Union Bar can accommodate 250.
The Union Oyster House often welcomes tour groups, both motorcoach and cruise ship groups, said Julia Clark, with the restaurant. The Union will put parties of 40 to 50 people in regular dining areas but will reserve private dining or function rooms for larger groups. Visitors may be lucky enough to be seated in John F. Kennedy’s favorite booth, which the restaurant dedicated in memory of the former president.
Groups, especially those that come in regularly, have set menus but can also arrange to order from the regular menu. Oysters and lobster are popular, Clark said, but groups often opt for the New England broiled scrod.
New Orleans’ long history and diverse cultures have helped make it legendary for its cuisine, and Antoine’s restaurant is legendary among legends.
In 1840, Antoine Alciatore established his restaurant that is still owned by his relatives 178 years and five generations later. When the restaurant outgrew its original location, he and his wife moved Antoine’s to St. Louis Street in 1868, the same location where it dishes up French Creole fare today.
Their son Jules invented Oysters Rockefeller in the same kitchen in 1899, and the recipe remains a closely guarded secret to this day. For the popular appetizer, oysters are topped with a mix of finely chopped greens and extravagant amounts of butter and are then baked in their shells. It got the Rockefeller name because the sauce is so rich that it had to be named after the richest man of the era.
The French Quarter building that houses Antoine’s allows the restaurant to have 14 lavishly decorated dining rooms upstairs and downstairs. Each room has its own personality, giving groups a wide range of options. Patrons dine beneath original chandeliers in the Main Room, and during Prohibition, guests entered the Mystery Room through a door in the ladies’ restroom.
Antoine’s various private rooms can accommodate 14 to 300 guests, and the restaurant has a total seating capacity of more than 700. The two largest dining rooms are the first-floor Large Annex, which can seat 170 for meals, and the second-story Japanese Room, which can seat 200.
Three of Antoine’s private rooms are named after Carnival krewes — Rex, Proteus and 12th Night Revelers — so they’re fittingly decorated with Mardi Gras memorabilia. The Hermes Bar is available only for private parties with a restaurant buyout.