From old public houses to taverns to old-school Italian establishments, Pennsylvania is home to many restaurants that are well over 100 years old.
Pennsylvania is home to many of the country’s oldest restaurants still in operation. Understandably, many of these historic establishments are in the eastern part of Pennsylvania since it was settled by colonists first.
Many of them started as guest inns, where in the 1700s and 1800s, food was almost always served.
Here’s a handful of some of the oldest.
King George II Inn
A meal at King George II Inn, named for the king of both Great Britain and Ireland from 1727 to 1760, comes complete with over 340 years of history. Founded in 1681, it’s the oldest continuously operating inn in the United States. Once a public house—where legend has it George Washington once stayed—it’s now a dining establishment only, with spectacular views of the Delaware River from its riverfront location in Bristol, Bucks County. The menu is decidedly American with soups, salads, appetizers like chicken wings and cheesesteak egg rolls, burgers and sandwiches, and entreés of steak, pork, and seafood with a few vegetarian and gluten-free options.
In 1727, John Wells opened the Ferry Inn along the Delaware River in what is now New Hope, Bucks County. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington and Aaron Burr stayed here, and the inn acted as a field hospital for wounded soldiers. Completely renovated in the past decade, the Logan Inn is now a luxury hotel, albeit one with a reputation of being haunted by several ghosts. The inn’s restaurant, Ferry + Main, has an open kitchen with an upscale menu and a popular weekend brunch. Guests can enjoy small plates and drinks on the patio, three-course meals in the dining room, or drinks at one of the inn’s three bars.
Ralph’s Italian Restaurant
The oldest Italian restaurant in the country, Ralph’s Italian Restaurant opened in 1900 and has been serving iguests ever since. Ralph’s is located just beyond the Italian Market (the one Rocky regularly jogged through) in South Philadelphia. The storied eatery changed locations in its early years and is run today by the fourth and fifth generations of the Dispigno/Rubino family. Ralph’s serves old-school Italian-American fare in generous portions. The gravy (tomato sauce) is so good you can buy a jar to take home, the wine list is extensive with plenty of Italian red, and the atmosphere is casual and friendly.
Dobbin House Tavern
The Dobbin House Tavern, located in Gettysburg, was built in 1776 by Reverend Alexander Dobbin as his family home. In the mid-1880s, the house served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Today, the tavern retains its colonial vibe with native stone walls, seven fireplaces, restored woodwork, replica furniture, and servers in colonial garb. The tavern features six dining rooms where guests choose from a colonial and continental menu and dine by candlelight, along with a bedroom where the meals are served in bed.
For over 200 years, Duffy’s Tavern has catered to Boalsburg’s townspeople and the many travelers who pass through given its close proximity to Penn State’s main campus in Centre County. Built in 1819 by Colonel James Johnston and his wife Hannah, Duffy’s had several proprietors before it was damaged by a fire in 1934. Meticulously restored by Roanna Hill Winsor for its reopening in 1938, its current owners operate the historic tavern as a fine dining establishment with a gastro pub-inspired menu and a casual vibe.
Lancaster County’s oldest tavern, Shank’s Tavern was built in 1814 by retired riverboat captain James Stackhouse. Shortly before the end of Prohibition, John and Kathryn Shank bought the tavern, located in Marietta. Now run by their grandson Bob Shank, it has a friendly atmosphere where guests are treated like family. There’s a constantly rotating selection of craft beer on the bar’s eight taps, and the menu includes homemade soups, sandwiches, salads, and flatbread pizzas with vegetarian, gluten-free, and low-carb options. The Friday night special is always freshly-made jumbo lump crab cakes.
Mansion House 1757
Fairfield’s Mansion House 1757 is a boutique inn and a farm-to-table fine dining establishment with a historic tavern thrown into the mix. The restaurant serves a rotating brunch menu on Sundays and a blend of fine dining and tavern fare with a focus on local ingredients five nights a week. The property dates back to 1757 and is one of the few US inns that has been in continuous operation since the 1700s. In the 1830s, Mansion House was part of the Underground Railroad. Throughout its history, the inn has had many names, including the Squire Mill Tavern and Fairfield Inn. Its latest owners, George and Cindy Keeney, purchased the Adams County business in 2020, and brought back the inn’s original name.