Al's Beef on Laflin and Harrison in Chicago. Photo: Al's

The Classics

Why Classics? Because Legacy Restaurants Tell the Stories of America

By

Welcome to The Classics. 

These are the singular places that, over decades, have come to define their communities, and more often than not, their cities. These are the dining rooms that are irreplaceable, the improbable success stories that have no formula, the timeless operations that have kept pushing into the future, and above all, the restaurants we adore.

To celebrate these legacy restaurants, we have compiled a collection of essays, tributes, and love letters from luminaries across the country, with the hope of honoring these places — and ensuring they thrive for future generations.  

During a time when the restaurant industry is weathering an unprecedented storm, this project also serves as a reminder of the importance of restaurants in our culture and history. 

Within these restaurants are so many indelible moments of the 20th century. They tell the story of the civil rights movement in D.C., the places that were front and center in the march on Washington and also nourished behind the scenes. They tell the stories of immigration in Los Angeles, of segregation in Nashville, and of changing neighborhoods in San Francisco. These are the places have become part of pop culture, from Hollywood’s golden age to the music industry’s favorite hot spot to a famous Chicago dish’s curious baseball connection

These restaurants, and so many more like them, have also imprinted personal moments for all of us: They are where we get engaged, where we form family, and where we celebrate life. They are where childhood memories are ingrained, whether through a burger at the bar or over a special Sunday feast

America’s stories are told through restaurants; join us as we tell some of them. 

P.S. Oh, and this isn’t a one-time thing. We’re going to keep honoring The Classics, publishing appreciations on a regular basis, so if you’ve got a favorite in your city, let us know.

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