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In the 18th century, dining out wasn’t common…Restaurants as we know them didn’t exist and people mostly ate at their homes. Only travelers ate out and their options were taverns and inns that served limited menus at set times…

As the city’s population grew, streets became congested and commutes became too long to accommodate a mid-day meal. Oyster cellars opened up throughout the Financial District to feed this segment of the population….

Establishments serving food became more sophisticated as the 19th century progressed. Delmonico’s, which is still around today, opened in 1827 and allowed customers to order whatever they wanted from the menu instead of getting a fixed meal, as was customary…

As the city became rapidly industrialized in the 19th century, a new system emerged to feed these workers: the mobile food cart. While politicians, businessmen, and other white-collar workers went to oyster cellars and restaurants for their midday meals, lunch came to the working class. Vendors would park outside of factories and docks and, for a few pennies, would sell items like gingerbread, yams, oysters, and corn.

See “How urban development shaped the way 19th-century New Yorkers ate” by Diana Budds on New York Curbed website (2019)

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