Wining and Dining


 When was the last time you enjoyed a tasty meal at a restaurant?  Throughout most of history prepared meals have been served at inns for travelers.  But the first real restaurant appeared in France in 1765.  The proprietor served soups which he called restaurants, a word meaning restoratives.  The name stuck.  By the early 1800s fancy dining places were all the rage in Europe.  It took a little longer for the trend to spread to America.  The first great American restaurant was the legendary Delmonico’s. 

 Delmonico’s Restaurant was one of the first continuously run restaurants in the United States anddelmonicos-door-1 is considered to be one of the first American fine dining establishments.  It opened in  New York City 1827, originally in a rented pastry shop at 23 William Street. It was first listed as a restaurant in 1830. Unlike the inns that existed at the time, a restaurant like Delmonico’s would permit patrons to order from a menu(a la carte), rather than requiring its patrons to eat fixed meals. Later, Delmonico’s was also the first in the United States to use a separate wine list.  The restaurant was opened by the brothers John and Peter Delmonico, from Ticino, Switzerland.  In 1831, they were joined by their nephew, Lorenzo Delmonico, who eventually became responsible for the restaurant’s wine list and menu. In 1862, the restaurant hired Charles Ranhofer, considered one of the greatest chefs of his day.

Beginning in the 1850s, the restaurant hosted the annual gathering of the New England Society of New York, which featured many important speakers of the day. In 1860, Delmonico’s provided the supper at the Grand Ball welcoming the Prince of Wales. Supper was set out in a specially constructed room; the menu was French, and the pièces montées (decorative figures on the tables) represented Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and the Great Eastern ship. The New York Times reported, “We may frankly say that we have never seen a public supper served in a more inapproachable fashion, with greater discretion, or upon a more luxurious scale.” 

Famous patrons included Jenny Lind (who, it was said, ate there after every show), Theodore delmonicos-dinnerRoosevelt “Diamond Jim” Brady, Lillian Russell (usually in the company of Diamond Jim) Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, JP Morgan,Walter Scott, Nicholas Tesla, Edward VII (then the Prince of Wales), and Napoleon III of France. 

The restaurant was so successful that it expanded to four New York locations and eventually to other major cities.  A scene from my April Harlequin Historical, HIS SUBSTITUTE BRIDE, takes place in the San Francisco Delmonico’s.  That restaurant initially survived the disastrous 1906 earthquake and fire, but during the military occupation that followed, some celebrating soldiers, feasting on leftover food and wine, accidentally set the place on fire and burned it down. 

Eventually the restaurants fell on hard times.  In 1923 Delmonico’s closed its doors for good and lost the exclusive rights to its name.  No restaurant named Delmonico’s today is connected to the original.  Some of the dishes first served at Delmonico’s are still famous today.  Baked Alaska, Lobster Newberg, Delmonico Potatoes and possibly Chicken a la King were invented at Delmonico’s restaurant, but it was most famous for Delmonico Steak. 

substitute-bride-coverThese days we have an endless variety of restaurants to choose from.  What’s your favorite kind of restaurant food?  Ethnic?  Gourmet?  Down home?  Burgers and fries?  Do you have a favorite restaurant?  A favorite meal? 






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34 thoughts on “Wining and Dining”

  1. Hello Elizabeth,

    Where I live it is mainly just fast food restaurants. We do have a good Chinese restaurant. That is about as ethnic as it gets here in rural Kentucky. My favorite meal would have to be steak, baked potato, and a salad. Have a great day. I’m going to get something to eat. LOL

  2. I live in the South, baby! We KNOW how to cook. LOL! On top of that, I’m fortunate enough to live close enough to Louisiana to get the benefit of all that Cajun cooking. Gumbo, etouffe, yum!

    My favorite place to eat is a small restaurant in Lake Charles called Steamboat Bill’s. It’s not fine and fancy like Delmonicos, but they serve up some of the best seafood you’ll ever set your tastebuds to!

  3. Good old American is my favorite. Bailey’s, connected to the Country Inn, is my favorite place in Norfolk, Ne. where I live. For the best hot beef sandwich in the world a little cafe on hwy 77 in Lyons, Ne. It can’t be beat. For my birthday, I splurged and had a Filet Mignon at Tony’s Steak house on hwy 275 just east of Norfolk.

    If you are ever in the area try any of the above.

  4. Well, I didn’t get into my generally oval shape by being all that picky.

    I LOVE Mexican food.
    Last night I ate the best hamburger in the known universe at Goldbergs in Omaha. A bacon Cheeseburger. If you can get there do it, but HAVE THE HAMBURGER. Do not be lured away by the steaks and other fancy stuff.
    I tasted like it came off a grill.
    Anyway, yummy.
    I had a chance to go to a Wolfgang Puck restaurant. Free time and there it was. But I chickened out, afraid of what it would have cost. Now I regret I didn’t at least go in and look at the menu. I could have had a six dollar cup of coffee and left. But nooooooooooooooooooo
    Delmonico’s huh? It sounds so classy.
    It’s funny to think of someone ‘inventing’ the restaurant. It seems like a place to eat out would have always existed. But everyone ate at home I suppose. Even the wealthy with their own cooks and kitchen staff ate at home.

  5. Back, after a walk and grocery shopping. Omigosh, just reading your comments is making my mouth water.

    Roberta, a good steak and mashed potato is always a great standby. But the quality of the steak makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?

    And I love Chinese, too, Abi. Could eat it all day.

    Elizabeth L, that southern cooking sounds HEAVENLY! I love Cajun dishes but there’s no good restaurant here in SLC, and I can’t seem to cook them right.

    Thanks for the recommendation, Sue. The hot beef sandwich sounds delicious. Now I just need to get to Norfolk.

    If you ever get to Salt Lake City, Mary, you gotta try Red Iguana. Tacky little place in a rough part of town, run by three generations of a Mexican family–best Mexican food in the country! It’s always packed.

  6. Here’s a tidbit I didn’t include in the blog. Some of the Delmonico’s at least, were what was known in the day as “French” restaurants, and not because they served French food. The main floor was a regular restaurant in a big room. The second floor had smaller rooms designed for private parties. And the third floor had very small, very private rooms for…ah, how can I put this delicately? Picture the scene from the movie “Funny Girl” where she sings, “…Isn’t this the height of nonchalance, furnishing a bed in restaurants?” I think that was supposed to be in Delmonico’s.

  7. Ooh lala, I loved that Funny Girl scene…

    Great post, Elizabeth. My far and away favorite food is Mexican. But if you’ve got Costco’s around, their $1.50 hot dog is a pretty delish and cheap lunch LOL.

    Not that I’m cheap but I’ve gotten to where I’ll have a glass of wine at home first because it kills me to spend $8 or $9 for a restaurant glass of it. Thanks to much for the origin of the term restaurant!


  8. Hi Elizabeth! Lots of great info in your blog today. I totally enjoyed reading about Delmonico’s but was surprised that it didn’t survive. I thought the Delmonico’s we hear about today, was one of the originals. Too bad. It was a groundbreaking restaurant.

    We have an Italian place called Maria’s here, that makes the best eggplant parmesean and calzones. It’s a favorite in the community and we had our Easter Brunch there this year. But I do love Mexican, Chinese and good old American food.

  9. Thanks, Tanya (and now I have that song going through my head). We have a Costco here but I don’t have a membership. Maybe I should get one just for the hot dogs.

    And I know what you mean about saving $$. I live 2 blocks from a Starbucks but I make my own soy lattes.
    Really looking forward to having you as a filly!

  10. I was surprised to learn that Delmonico’s didn’t survive, too, Charlene. From what I read, the original owners passed away and their heirs fell to fighting among themselves and ran the business into the ground. Too bad. There are lots of versions of the recipes these days, too.

    That Italian food sounds yummy!!!

  11. Hello Elizabeth! My favorite thing to make for dinner is reservations, so I really like restaurants. My favorite here at the lake is a water-side fine dining restaurant called The Duck. Yummy!

    I’ve eaten at the Delmonico’s Steakhouse in Vegas, now run by Emeril Lagasse. What an great experience!

  12. Hi, Tracy, and welcome to you. Your comment about making reservations is a keeper–I may use that one myself.

    And even if the Delmonico’s Steakhouse isn’t the original Delmonico’s, anything run by Emeril would have to be fabulous!
    Looking forward to your face on the filly fence!

  13. When I go out for dinner and are in the mood for a good steak or prime rib or Ribs, I go to a place called ” Cagney’s”.

    I always hoped that one day I would get to the famous Delmonico’s. But I am sure Emeril does a fine job in cooking up a good steack!!

    And Elizabeth I have just started your book “On the Wings of Love” today. So far I am really enjoying it. !!!

  14. Thanks for your comment, Kathleen. Right now, with lunchtime coming up and nothing but leftovers in the fridge, that steak sounds pretty good.
    Hope you continue to enjoy ON THE WINGS OF LOVE. It’s one of my favorite books, and that beautiful cover is up for an award on a website.

  15. Our experience at Delmonico’s was fabulous–tuxedo’s, starched white tablecloths, a great wine list and the food was divine. I love being treated like “the Rich and Famous”. lol

  16. Hi Elizabeth! What a yummy post . . . pun intended! There’s a place in Southern California called Rattlers that has an incredible Chopped BBQ salad with Tri-Tip. I’d eat it every day if I could.

    For fancy places, I don’t have a favorite, mostly because I don’t get out much! My husband took me to The Palms in Wash DC when I sold my first book. I had lobster and loved every bite. It was also fun seeing pictures of all the political types on the walls. Since then I’ve celebrated with Dairy Queen. That’s more my style. I like In-and-Out Burger, too!

    One more thought . . . There’s nothing like enjoying a good meal at a restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Love those romantic sunsets.

  17. All of the above(always wanted to say that)plus!

    Agree with the Costco’s for the hot dog (I add the
    sauerkraut), Two Amigos for Mexican food, Little
    Bitty Burger Barn for burgers, Gabby’s for BBQ,
    ribs, and steak. These are all in NW Houston.
    There are a jillion other great restaurants in this city!

    Pat Cochran

  18. Gotta try those Costco hot dogs! With two readers praising them they must be really good. And I’d try the sauerkraut, too, Pat.

    Houston’s a great town. Had a wonderful time there years ago.

  19. Loved this post, Elizabeth!!! Thanks for sharing 😀

    My favorite “special treat” restaurant is the Aquanox in Las Vegas—OMG inredible food at OMG outrageous prices—but it really is THAT GOOD *lol* For an average eat out place it’s Mexican shrimp: Camerones a’Diabla, jumbo shrimp sauteed with mushrooms and the super-spicy habenero peppers—my total favorite 🙂 You can’t overeat when your lips are catching on fire 😉

  20. You are so brave, Stacey! I’ve never worked up the courage to try habaneros. But that shrimp dish sounds heavenly–or maybe not heavenly since the name of the dish means devil shrimp.

  21. Food – doesn’t matter what kind as long as it is good. I love trying new things. I try ethnic foods whenever I can. Some times we find the best food in little out of the way places. We try to go by personal recommendations rather than adds if we can. There have been too many times when following an add that looked good lead to a poor meal. One thing we have discovered is the price of the meal doesn’t always have much to do with the quality.
    At home we have 2 places we always end up. One is a chinese buffet and the other a mexican restaurant. Always have good meals there. If we really want to splurge, we go to Asheville, NC and have dinner at the Grove Park Inn, expensive but worth it.

  22. I bet they are, Stacey! 🙂

    You have the right idea, Patricia. I’ve tried expensive places that were bad and cheap places that were great. I like your idea of going by personal recommendations. You can’t go too far wrong there. Thanks for visiting today.

  23. Excellent comment, Evangeline. I hadn’t thought of prohibition as a cause, but it certainly makes sense that it would be.
    According to my research, the Delmonico’s of today isn’t connected to the original. I will check out the link and see what it say.
    Thanks so much.

  24. Ok, I checked it out. Very interesting (that’s probably where my photo of the door came from).
    I’m pretty sure the original family lost the business and the rights to the name in 1923. But someone else could have taken it over or revived it. They could then claim to be the original. But all I know is what I read.
    Thanks so much for your knowledge and your very insightful comment.

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