One of the most common places to meet with friends and family in the United States is at a restaurant. Couples on their first date will be seen frequently on Friday and Saturday nights, family members celebrating birthdays or other happy milestones can be heard laughing across the room, and the weary traveler can always sit down in a booth at a restaurant and be served a warm, home cooked meal if they choose. It’s hard to imagine our lives without restaurants, even if you’re the type who loves to cook, because after a while, everyone wants to be served something delicious sometimes. It wasn’t always easy to find a restaurant in this country, but like most of our early forays into new technologies, the idea came from the French.
During the 18th century, restaurants in France became the preferred establishment of the high class, with the name restaurant coming from the idea that the food was “restoring” their health. Before then only inns and taverns would serve food, and mostly it was a plate of whatever they had, like it or not. Restaurants changed all that, and now patrons could choose what they wanted to eat and pay only for that dish, instead of any other dishes that were available on a buffet of sorts. By 1827 the first restaurant in America was opened in New York City by the Delmonico brothers, and it quickly became a fine dining establishment that many tried to copy. Their success came from Americans who wanted to be a part of all of the new fashions coming from France, so they dubbed their dining hall a “restaurant francais”. Restaurants began popping up everywhere after that, as entrepreneurs tried to cash in on the newest trend.
As folks travelled extensively throughout the country during the 19th century, more and more restaurants opened up at train stops and areas where people were beginning to settle in large numbers. Restaurants were becoming a regular part of any town or city, and patrons could find a mix of upper class and more casual dining experiences. By the 1950s fast food restaurants made their way on the scene, which again capitalized on the needs of travelers. While a drive-thru restaurant was still a fairly foreign concept, many people still visited fast food restaurants for their quick service and quality foods. The 1980s brought new dining experiences to families, where they could take every member and everyone could find something good to eat, for a fair price. Many of these restaurants offered special kids menus, with dishes ranging from cheaper sandwiches and salads, to more expensive steaks. These days patrons with any diet can find a restaurant that fits their needs, and their budget. Establishments serving foods from all over the world are readily accessible, so experiencing another culture is simple, and exciting. Restaurants now are under more pressure to serve higher quality foods, with an emphasis on healthy or organic dishes.
Though we may have taken the idea from the French, Americans have made restaurants all their own, and what started as a high class trend, has quickly transformed into a commonplace establishment where everyone is welcome.