New York’s first restaurant—and celebrity chef

When Delmonico’s restaurant opened on William Street in 1837, New Yorkers had never experienced anything like it: a fine dining establishment that let customers order from an extensive menu. The prevailing custom at the time at taverns and inns was for patrons to eat whatever the cook decided to whip up that day. Delmonico’s also pioneered the separate wine list and ladies dining area.

DelmonicosranhoferAfter relocating several times in lower Manhattan, the restaurant moved to 14th Street and Fifth Avenue. Here, the new head chef, French-born Charles Ranhofer, solidified his rep as one of the best chefs in the country. He invented many still-popular dishes, like lobster Newberg and baked Alaska. 

 He also popularized the avocado (then known as the “alligator pear”) and named dishes after A-listers of the day, like Veal Pie a la Dickens and Sarah potatoes, for actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Ranhofer collected all of his recipes and published them in his 1894 cookbook, The Epicurean, which ran one thousand pages. No doubt he would be a Food Network star if he were running a kitchen today.


Delmonico’s lasted until 1923, a casualty of Prohibition. But a quarter century before that, the restaurant hosted a dinner for Mark Twain, at left.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “New York’s first restaurant—and celebrity chef”

  1. A downtown restaurant with pillars from Pompeii | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Delmonico’s pays tribute to earlier incarnations by featuring dishes supposedly invented by the restaurant like Delmonico steak, eggs Benedict, and baked […]

  2. A stunning Christmas feast served to guests at a posh Gilded Age hotel | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] variety seems to have been important. French dishes were certainly popular, likely thanks to the influence of Delmonico’s, which by 1905 had moved up to 44th Street and was still a leading option in a city where dining […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: