Featured Column

C. Paul Luongo's Published Columns

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

America's Oldest Restaurant


340 Faneuil Hall Marketplace
Boston, MA 02109

Lunch: 11:30-2:30 pm
Dinner: 2:30-10 pm
Open 7 Days
All Credit Cards Accepted
Reservations Accepted
Telephone: (617)227-2038
Seana Kelley, General Manager

By C. Paul Luongo

In 1827 John Durgin and Eldridge Park food merchants in Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston decided to open a restaurant for the merchants who came to buy produce and meat in the stalls.

Today the place remains the same with the red-checkered tablecloths on the second floor, ceiling fans (now with air-conditioning) and the wait staff friendlier than in years past when rudeness was the accepted norm.

In 1972, the Kelley family purchased the restaurant to provide Yankee fare prepared fresh daily. Only three families have owned it since the Civil War. Ark Restaurants in New York is now the owner.

Authentic Yankee dishes like Potted Beef with Onions ($7.95), hand-patted fish cakes ($8.95), broiled scrod ($14.95 to $19.95) oyster stew ($15.95) and creamy chowder ($4.95) are still served with blocks of corn bread. Short-ribs ($9.95), a long-time stalwart, served with vegetable, potatoes and corn bread, are only served at lunch because there is usually none left over for dinner.

Real strawberry shortcake made with home-made biscuits ($5.95), and whipped cream, Indian pudding ($5.95), and coffee jello made with real coffee grinds ($3.95), (just like the pilgrim’s made), are still popular desert items.

It’s also one of the few places in Boston to offer Yankee pot roast ($10.95) lunch and ($13.95) dinner, formerly offered at popular Boston cafeterias such as Hayes and Bickford’s and the Waldorf.

The dining area (25 tables for 250 diners) is situated high above the sidewalk up a long flight of stairs. There’s a bar and smaller dining room on the ground level with outside tables.
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Cooked entrees are elevatored down via dumbwaiter from the third floor kitchen to the waiters’ station in the second-floor dining room.

Seating is communal style with diners joining others at various tables. Singles are usually directed to a table called Clam Chowder because of the painting above it.

All potatoes are inspected for imperfections before they are mashed and the carrots are peeled by hand. Corned beef is corned on premises and apples are peeled one by one in a hand-cranked gadget, and then made into applesauce. Gravy for turkey dinner comes from a roux that is whisked constantly until thick and mahogany brown. Everyone is trained the Durgin-Park way, no culinary school graduates here!

Today’s menu includes Poor Man’s Roast Beef ($10.95), Prime Rib of Beef (Yankee cut), 20 oz ($28.95), Roast Loin of Pork ($16.95), Lobsters range from ($29.95 to $55.95, 2 ¼ lb), pastas are ($14.95 to $16.95), New England Clam Bake is $48.95.

There is a DURGIN-PARK COOKBOOK ($19.95) available along with other DURGIN-PARK souvenirs.

My companions and I dined at DURGIN-PARK recently and here is our report.

We began our meal with appetizers of fried clams ($21.95) and Steamers ($19.95). The fried clams were delectable with a mix of small and large clams (my favorite) and the steamed clams came in a bowl with several dozen bivalves and the appropriate drawn butter with dipping broth.

Susan started with a cup of clam chowder ($4.95) -- recognized just that day as “Boston’s Favorite Stain” in a Tide Detergent contest. Creamy with the real stuff and very smooth, it was better swallowed than spilled on a blouse! Her entrée: two thick cut pork chops on the bone ($17.95), grilled well and plenty to go home. Staying true to the comfort food theme for the evening, sides were mashed potatoes – with just the right number of lumps and carrots steamed with butter and parsley.

Katherine had the Fresh Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes ($24.95) which came with a side of mashed potatoes and corn. The crab meat was fresh and delicious, and tasted great with their side of tartar sauce.

Unfortunately the Durgin Cut (32 oz) Roast Prime Rib of Beef ($39.95) end cut was not available so I had to settle for the Yankee Cut (16 oz) ($28.95) boneless and while bountiful it is not as tasty as one with the bone. Nonetheless, we came home with ample beef for the rest of the month. It is served with a baked potato and squash.

And while we call sampled the desserts including fresh homemade strawberry shortcake ($6.25) Boston Cream Pie ($6.25) Baked Indian Pudding ($5.95) and Coffee Jello ($3.95), my favorite is the jello made fresh with DURGIN-PARK coffee and whipped cream, the Pilgrim’s favorite and currently popular with Japanese tourists.

C. Paul Luongo is the President of C. Paul Luongo Company,
Public Relations & Marketing, Boston


Anonymous said...

You might want to proof read what you write, especially that last paragraph. Also I think the Union Oyster House is the oldest resturant in Boston.

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