The history of Union Oyster House

Explore Boston’s oldest restaurant with us. 🦪

Exterior of Union Oyster House restaurant in downtown boston

You can dine at the same restaurant as so many Boston legends.

Photo by BOStoday

Boston sure has a lot of history to claim — one of our city’s many accolades? We’re home to the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the country.

We’re talking about Union Oyster House, the local landmark situated along the Freedom Trail and steps away from Faneuil Hall.

The National Historic Landmark first opened its doors to diners in 1826, and the building has likely been there since ~1700. While there’s no record of the official construction date, we do know it’s the earliest recorded standing brick building in our city. Before it was an eatery, the building was home to Capen’s Dry Goods Store.

Some of the first moments of the American Revolution happened in this space. Isaiah Thomas published “The Massachusetts Spy” from the building’s upper floor in the 1770s.

In 1826, the business became the Atwood and Bacon Oyster House. Those owners were responsible for adding one of the most iconic parts of the space — the semi-circular oyster bar. This is where Daniel Webster famously drank his brandy with at least six oysters each day.

Of course, we can’t forget about another very famous patron — John F. Kennedy. He loved to eat in the upstairs dining room, and now, visitors can enjoy a meal at the “Kennedy Booth” dedicated in his memory.

If you stop in nowadays, you’ll find a massive space that honors its storied history, from clippings of newspaper features to murals depicting how Boston has changed over the years. There’s also an attached gift shop selling goodies like cornbread mix, the restaurant’s official cookbook, and merchandise.

Now that you’ve had your fill of history, we’ll serve up our go-to food orders. City Editor Sara loves a fried clam roll with a side of chowder, while City Editor Jess orders a dozen oysters to enjoy with the freshly baked cornbread.

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