Dining Out – History – P1


Dining as we know it

This post is an attempt to create a timeline of dining. This will be split into two parts – this, right here, and this.

6th century B.C

Record of a public dining place in Ancient Egypt which shows a limited menu — only one dish was served, consisting of cereal, wildfowl, and onion.

8th to 12th century B.C

Thermopolia in Rome and Ancient Greece were one of the first forms of dining out establishments. A cook-shop where hot items were sold and you could buy ready-to-eat.

11th century

Kaifeng in China under Song Dynasty-in the form of tea-houses and taverns. These taverns and inns were spread across cultures.

12th century

Cooking houses sprang up in London, Paris, and elsewhere in Europe, where cooked food could be purchased but with no seating. Medieval travellers dined at inns, taverns, hostelries, and monasteries

13th century

Inns, Taverns and Cabarets in France

Inns — bread, cheese, bacon, roasts, usually served at a common table. Take-outs.

Tavern — Dine-ins. Charged by the pot.

Cabarets- Taverns plus. Food served at tables with tablecloths. Served drinks. Charged by the dish. Few cabarets with musicians, too.

Taverns and Cabarets — Roast or grilled meats

End of 16th century

The first cafe was established in then Constantinople in 1550. It was a coffeehouse, hence the word café.

In France,

Guild of cook-caterers called as traiteurs, given legal status. Personalised catering of sophisticated food to wealthy households.

17th Century

Prior to the American Revolution, places selling food, beverages, and a place to sleep were called ordinaries, taverns, or inns.


Samuel Coles opened an establishment in Boston that was named Coles Ordinary. It was a tavern — the first tavern of record in the American colonies.


The coffeehouse, which appeared in Oxford in 1650 and seven years later in London, was a forerunner of the restaurant today.

Coffeehouses were also popular in Colonial America.

Boston had many of them, as did Virginia and New York. Both the words café, meaning a small restaurant and bar, and cafeteria come from the single word café, French for coffee


First Café in Paris

Cafés — Menu limited, often to coffee, tea, chocolate, liqueurs, ice creams, and pastries.

End of 17th century

Inns and traiteurs bring dining to a central place, also termed as a hotel. Where one paid a set price to sit at a large table with other guests and eat a fixed meal.

Coffee houses, pubs and various forms of establishments start in between mid of 16th century to end of 17th century.

18th Century

In the eighteenth century, with the exception of inns which were primarily for travellers, food away from home could be purchased in places where alcoholic beverages were sold.

Such places were equipped to serve simple, inexpensive dishes either cooked on the premises or ordered from a nearby inn or food shop.

Tavern-restaurants existed in much of Europe including France and Germany with its winestuben that served delicatessen, sauerkraut, and cheese.

In Spain bodegas served tapas.

Greek taverns served various foods with olive oil.

Restaurants in Europe

Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution begins in Britain and spreads throughout Europe and North America. Production multiplies, population multiplies. Rail and Steamships emerge from its fires.

Food production, too, sees a jump as a part of industrialisation.

Modern Restaurant


Opened by a Parisian named Boulanger. Boulanger’s establishment on rue des Poulies, near the Louvre, served mostly bouillons restaurants — that is, “restorative broths.” (challenged)

Yes, the restaurant was a thing to eat before it became a place to eat at. However, Boulanger is considered more as a proprietor than having invented the first modern restaurant.


Boulanger’s kitchen only served soup. By law at the time, only hotels could serve “food”.

In 1767, he challenged the traiteurs’ monopoly and created a soup that consisted of sheep’s feet in a white sauce.

The traiteurs guild filed a lawsuit against Boulanger, and the case went before the French Parliament. Boulanger won the suit and soon opened his restaurant, Le Champ d’Oiseau

Chefs also took the title “traiteurs-restaurateurs”. Restaurateurs is derived from the French verb restaurer, meaning “to restore”


The United States gains independence from Britain in 1776. Britain and the US become central to the Industrial revolution.


In 1782, the Grand Tavern de Londres, a true restaurant, opened on the Rue de Richelieu; three years later, Aux Trois Freres Provencaux opened near the Palais-Royal.


Beginning of the year — The first luxury restaurant in Paris, the Taverne Anglaise, at the Palais-Royal. Mahogany tables, linen tablecloths, chandeliers, well dressed and trained waiters, elaborate wine list and extensive menu.

June 1786

Restaureteurs were officially allowed to run service till late at night and receive clients. More ambitious cooks joined the party.

The Grand Cafe De Paris
Grand Cafe De Paris

1789 — The French Revolution

The French Revolution literally caused a lot of heads to roll —suddenly a lot of chefs to the former nobility had no work.

Some stayed in France to open restaurants and some went to other parts of Europe.

Many crossed the Atlantic to America, especially to New Orleans.


The term restaurant came to the United States in 1794 via a French refugee from the guillotine, Jean-Baptiste Gilbert Paypalt. Paypalt set up what must have been the first French restaurant in this country, Julien’s Restaurator, in Boston.

By 1800

Collection of luxury restaurants by former cooks of nobles.

The restaurant, as we know it today, is said to have been a byproduct of the French Revolution.

19th Century

Early 1800’s

Restaurateurs became accepted as a word to define all traiteurs and restaurateurs. Restaurant as the establishment.


Lots of restaurants in France. The first restaurant guide, called Almanach des Gourmandes launched.


Delmonico’s, located in New York City, is thought to be the first restaurant in America. Delmonico’s opened its doors in 1827.

Delmonico’s pioneered the idea of printing a menu in both French and English.

Restaurants bearing the Delmonico name once stood for what was best in the American French restaurant.


Bistrot and Brasseries — Smaller restaurants with moderately priced alcohol and food.

Hierarchy of places started to operate as per the economic strat of it’s patrons.

The second half of 19th Century

Railways start being recognised as major connectors and spread through Britain. The United States and western Europe emulate success.

Population explodes. Income gets generated. Rise of businesses around restaurants and cafes, evolving out of its French origins.

Majority of menus are still in French which was considered upper class.

Lunch an urban invention starts becoming important and restaurants and businesses start catering to it.

20th Century

Old worlds and new worlds connect on a large scale like never before. Steamships connect beyond boundaries set by geographical mass.

Food production and presentation become industrialized. Mass migration brings forth a fusion of food and culture at a never before, recorded scale.

American Dream begins. Restaurant in the modern form spread to as far as transport and ambition can reach and evolve into various formats.

Food starts getting democratized and accessible and not just plush fine dining in the form of various types of Restaurants.

1940’s — World War 2

World War II was the watershed period that made eating away from home a habit to be enjoyed by millions of people and thought of as a necessity by other millions. Since World War II, a number of social and economic trends have favoured the restaurant business.

The most important has been the rise in family income, the principal source of which has been the working woman.

Chefs start appearing on Food programming from the ’40s with James Beard.


The 1950s saw the emergence of a new phenomenon — “fast food.” Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s rise.

1960’s and 70’s

The 1960s and 1970s saw the introduction of new establishments like Taco Bell, Steak and Ale, T.G.I. Friday’s (now Friday’s) Houston’s, Red Lobster, and others.

Television booms at the 1960’s with cable networks and colour televisions.

Julia Child and food shows start becoming important in mainstay programmes.

Information and travel — change food, the way it is.

Article references

Thermopolia — Kaifeng — Restaurants — Cabarets — Edible Geography — History of Travel — Origins of first resturant challenged — Restaurateur — History of Television — James Beard — Julia Child — French Revolution — Marriam Webster


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