America’s first restaurant

It’s always risky to declare that anything is a first. In some ways Julien’s Restorator, newly opened in July of 1793, may have been similar to the taverns that had been in business in Boston for ages. Almost any kind of eating place at this time would have taken in boarders who not only regularly ate their meals on the premises but slept there as well. What set Julien’s apart was that he modeled his restorator on the restaurants of Paris. Like them, he emphasized the healthful attributes of his dishes (intended to restore health — thus “restorator” and the French “restaurant”), presented diners with a written menu from which they could choose, and charged them only for what they ordered rather than following the prevailing custom of providing a buffet-type meal at a set price. The newspaper advertisement of which this is a part states that he will furnish soups, broths, pastry, beef, bacon, poultry, wines, and cordials. He later added oysters, green turtle soup, and coffee.

Julien’s full name was Jean Gilbert Julien and he had previously worked as a private cook. At the bottom of the advertisement he states he was “Late Steward to the Honorable Monsieur Letombe, Consul of the French Republic.” He was successful at the Leverett’s Lane site and soon moved up to a substantial house on Milk Street where he remained in business until his untimely death in 1805, whereupon his widow Hannah ran the restaurant for ten years and then sold it to another Frenchman.

© Jan Whitaker, 2008

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