Here's What You'll Find To Eat At America's Oldest Restaurant

For 350 years, diners have experienced New England's classic fare at White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island. While horses may have long ago been replaced with Ford Mustangs parked in front of the restaurant that was originally built as a home in 1652, guests can still expect to enjoy a fine meal.

It was in 1673, according to the restaurant's website, that the building was converted from a residence to a tavern, and for nearly 200 years, the business was operated by the Nichols family. It wasn't until 1739 that it was officially named White Horse Tavern. This long legacy has made the New England mainstay one of the oldest restaurants in the world, according to Food and Wine. Other establishments on that list include St. Peter Stiftskulinarium in Salzburg, Austria, having opened in 803, and Ma Yu Ching's Bucket Chicken House in Kaifeng, China, which dates back to 1153. Making the list is another American restaurant, Union Oyster House, known for serving the best clam chowder in Boston. However, the Beantown restaurant opened its doors in 1826, which means that White Horse Tavern is the oldest operating restaurant in the U.S.

While more than three centuries may have passed since White Horse Tavern began to serve customers, its character remains largely the same. In the 1950s, per Food and Wine, the site went through a restoration process as a means of preservation. The restaurant is currently operated by a Newport-based group, its ninth owner to date.

A mix of old and new

Having earned recognition as a National Historic Landmark, White Horse Tavern is definitely an American pub worth visiting. Meat, seafood, soups, and salads are all to be found on the two-page menu (via White Horse Tavern). While entrées like lobster ravioli would have been unheard of by the original 17th century diners, clam chowder would have felt more familiar to anyone living on the New England coast back then. Popular dishes in Colonial America were stews, meat puddings, fritters, and spiced cake for dessert, per The Travel. Meals have been greatly improved since the early days of the country, and according to the White Horse Tavern listing on Visit Rhode Island, the restaurant focuses on fresh ingredients and offers contemporary dining. Fish, clams, and lobsters are sourced from the Narragansett Bay while produce is brought in directly from Rhode Island farmers.

A raw bar featured on the menu includes a caviar service, oysters, a lump crab cocktail, and a small shellfish sampler. In addition to the quintessential New England clam chowder, lobster bisque and French onion soup are available. Entrées include beef Wellington, made from foie gras mousse, puff pastry, whipped potatoes, sautéed greens, glazed carrots, and Perigeaux sauce. Crispy duck confit and pan-seared scallops also are listed. For those in the mood for something extra special and local, ask for the catch of the day.