Being the First State and one of the very first settled lands in the New World, Delaware is loaded with history. And, thanks to our state’s location right on the Delaware Bay and in between major cities, it’s always been an important stop on any routes up and down the East Coast. Delaware’s strategic location has led to nearly always being a populated state with a focus on hospitality – perhaps that’s why we have so many amazing restaurants and the some of the best resort towns in the entire country. Of course, one thing that goes hand in hand with being an older state is local history – and the following historic restaurants in Delaware have certainly made their mark on the Diamond State’s landscape.
1. Kelly's Logan House, Wilmington
The Logan House has been a part of the Kelly family since 1889, when "Whiskers" Kelly purchased the hotel and founded Kelly's Tavern on the ground floor. The Logan House was important to Irish immigrants settling in Delaware, as the Kelly family helped them find food, shelter, and secure jobs in their new home. Because of its proximity to the B&O Railroad, Kelly's was a popular stop for travelers. Famous guests of the Logan House included Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, John L. Sullivan and Al Capone. Wow, what a guestbook!
Today, Kelly's Logan house is a rowdy Trolley Square Irish pub, serving up amazing wings and great memories to the people of Wilmington, like always. You can find live entertainment and a friendly staff that will go out of your way to make sure you have a good time. Kelly's is actually the oldest restaurant in Delaware, and it also has the honor of being the oldest family-run Irish pub in the country.
Drink up tonight at 1701 Delaware Ave, Wilmington.
2. Jessop's Tavern, New Castle
The building that Jessop's Tavern is in has been a part of New Castle for over 300 years. First, it was owned by a cooper named Abraham Jessop, who ran his barrel making business out of his home here in 1724. Since then, the building has been many things - from an artisan shop to residential housing, and it's also been home to several other taverns. In 1996, the Day family bought it, and opened up Jessop's Tavern, which is one of the best historic restaurants in Delaware.
The restaurant is themed to make you feel like you're dining in colonial times. Even the menu consists of English, Dutch, Belgian & Swedish foods that the earliest settlers ate at home. The food is nearly all homemade, and it is absolutely delicious. You need to try the Shepherd's Pie!
Visit at 114 Delaware Street in New Castle.
3. Cantwell's Tavern, Odessa
The original Cantwell's Bridge Hotel and Tavern opened its doors in 1822, and ran as a hotel and pub for over 100 years. It was an elegant place against the backdrop of a quaint small town, and visitors to the town loved to dine and spend the night here when passing through Odessa, then known as Cantwell's Bridge.
Now, Cantwell's Tavern has been fully restored, and is one of the best restaurants in Delaware that focuses on farm-to-table dining, sourcing nearly all of their ingredients locally and making sure it's all as fresh as possible.
109 Main St, Odessa.
4. Irish Eyes Pub & Restaurant, Lewes
Irish Eyes has been a Lewes Canal landmark for decades, and it's certainly got its place in local history. A few years ago, $10,000 in cash was dropped from a helicopter right on the adjacent marina and the restaurant's parking lot.
Though money doesn't rain from the sky here often (it was a one-time fulfillment of a local mariner's last wish), good food and great views are the main thing that draws locals and visitors alike to Irish Eyes.
Enjoy the view and pub fare at 213 Anglers Rd, Lewes.
5. Boondocks, Smyrna
To get to this historic gem, you really need to travel way out of your way. Head out of Smyrna and keep going towards the coast... keep going... keep going. Eventually, you'll stumble upon the best crab house in the state, hidden in the middle of a cornfield. Locals have been going here for years.
Boondocks is famous throughout Delaware for its Swamp Water drink and great seafood fare. Nearly everyone in town knows the owners and you'll certainly make friends in the open dining room!
Try to find it at 825 Lighthouse Road Smyrna.
6. The Green Room at the Hotel DuPont, Wilmington
The historic DuPont Hotel has been a Wilmington landmark since 1913, when it was built. It was known for being a luxurious and grand hotel, and it expanded even more five years after opening. The building takes up an entire block in the city's Rodney Square section, and houses a theater as well as the hotel, restaurant, and office space.
The Green Room itself (which is, oddly enough, red) is one of the most historic restaurants in Delaware, having been a part of the hotel since day one. With unreal fine-dining options and many dishes carved and prepared table side, a dinner at The Green Room is an unforgettable experience. Be sure to get dessert, no matter how full you are.
42 West 11th Street, Wilmington.
7. Blue Moon, Rehoboth Beach
If you've never been to Blue Moon, what are you waiting for?! This Rehoboth Beach landmark is an absolute icon of life in RB. When it comes to historic restaurants in Delaware, your experience doesn't have to be stuffy and proper; it can be the most fun night of your life.
The food at Blue Moon is great, and you won't be disappointed by anything on the menu. However, the real fun (and the real reason why Blue Moon is so important to Rehoboth Beach) starts when the lights dim and a show begins. If you've never been, make sure you show up on a show night! You'll have a blast.
35 Baltimore Ave, Rehoboth Beach.
8. The Back Burner, Hockessin
In the 1970s, Hockessin was a railroad and farming town on the Wilmington and Western Railroad. Soon, a small restaurant opened in two remodeled coal bins, right where the railcars stopped. At first, the Back Burner served lunches and hosted cooking classes, which became a hit locally. In 1982, the Back Burner began serving dinner and cancelled their cooking classes to focus on fine dining. One quick relocation later and the Back Burner, as it stands today, was born.
One of the coolest ways to experience this historic restaurant in Delaware is to take a ride-to-dine train from the Wilmington and Western Railroad. The railroad's vintage 1929 car will take you from the station to the restaurant, and the fare includes your meal and some starters on board. As part of the deal, Back Burner offers you free range chicken, pan fried salmon, pork tenderloin or a grilled sirloin (pictured above). Vegetarian options are available, too - you'll get the full menu selections when you call to make your reservations. These trains run two more times this year, on November 10 and December 8. Visit the
for more information.
Of course, you can visit on your own any time, at 425 Hockessin Corner, Hockessin.
9. The Columbus Inn, Wilmington
The Columbus Inn was first opened in 1798 Schmalz's Bakery - but by 1812, Schmalz decided to choose beer over bread, and turned it into a tavern. By 1849, it was known as Columbus Inn, and hosted many spectators from the nearby Harness track and fairgrounds. In 1953 the Columbus Inn was bought by Wally W. Sezna, and it was operated by his family in 2007.
Present day Columbus Inn retains the historic feel of the building and serves up some of the best food in the state. You might be surprised to hear that the Asian food here is out of this world - don't miss the shrimp and scallop pad Thai or the short ribs.
2216 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilmington.
It’s easy to overlook the incredible history of these restaurants, taverns and buildings, but now that you know about them, it’s even easier to appreciate everything that these places represent in our wonderful state. If you’re still hungry, check out another one of our lists: the
most unique restaurants in Delaware.