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Restaurant Republic

The Rise of Public Dining in Boston

2016

Kelly Erby

Restaurant Republic

From plain food to luxury dining— the rise of eating out in the early Republic

In this fascinating book, Kelly Erby explores the evolution of commercial dining in Boston during the nineteenth century. She sheds light on how commercial dining both reflected and helped shape growing fragmentation along lines of race, class, and gender—from the elite Tremont House, which served fashionable French cuisine, to such plebeian venues as oyster saloons and Chinese chop suey houses.

Restaurant Republic acknowledges the struggles involved in the development of a modern American consumer society and demonstrates that dining can make complex, and even contradictory, impulses rational.

Andrew P. Haley, University of Southern Mississippi

Before the 1820s, the vast majority of Americans ate only at home. As the nation began to urbanize and industrialize, home and work became increasingly divided, resulting in new forms of commercial dining.

In this fascinating book, Kelly Erby explores the evolution of such eating alternatives in Boston during the nineteenth century. Why Boston? Its more modest assortment of restaurants, its less impressive—but still significant—expansion in commerce and population, and its growing diversity made it more typical of the nation’s other urban centers than New York. Restaurants, clearly segmented along class, gender, race, ethnic, and other lines, helped Bostonians become more comfortable with deepening social stratification in their city and young republic even as the experience of eating out contributed to an emerging public consumer culture.

Restaurant Republic sheds light on how commercial dining both reflected and helped shape growing fragmentation along lines of race, class, and gender—from the elite Tremont House, which served fashionable French cuisine, to such plebeian and ethnic venues as oyster saloons and Chinese chop suey houses. The epilogue takes us to the opening, in 1929 near Boston, of the nation’s first Howard Johnson’s and that restaurant’s establishment as a franchise in the next decade. The result is a compelling story that continues to shape America.

Restaurant Republic

Kelly Erby is assistant professor of history at Washburn University.

Restaurant Republic

Restaurant Republic acknowledges the struggles involved in the development of a modern American consumer society and demonstrates that dining can make complex, and even contradictory, impulses rational.

Andrew P. Haley, University of Southern Mississippi

Restaurant Republic

Contents
Introduction: Dining Out in Boston
1. Filet de Boeuf at the Tremont House: Luxury Hotel Dining Rooms
2. Bolted Beef and Bolted Pudding: Eating Houses
3. Charlotte Russe in the Afternoon: Elite Ladies’ Eateries
4. Roast, Chop Suey, and Beer: Cafés
Epilogue: Ice Cream at Howard Johnson’s
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index