History is usually recorded in words on the page, in film, and, these days, in ones and zeroes. But sometimes, stories of the past exist on restaurant plates and in Grandma’s cookie recipe. For anyone seeking to understand another generation and another era, food and drink can be powerful tools.
From a Civil Rights–era restaurant that sustained activists to a candy shop reviving nostalgic treats, the following places offer delicious lessons in history. Some of these enterprises are modern endeavors, like a restaurant recreating dishes from Moorish Spain. Others have endured through the generations, such as a revered soba shop that once served noodles to the Imperial court in Kyoto in the 15th century. All of these institutions offer more than food to curious visitors, by preserving a direct, edible connection to the past.
Editor’s note: This piece originally ran on December 3, 2021. It was updated, with the addition of more restaurants, on September 5, 2023.