A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 22, 2007
Restaurant (Refectory)

New York City has long had eating places, with the earliest being called “taverns” or “inns.” George Thompson (in a post to the American Dialect Society on December 21, 2007) provided citations (below) that the popular term for such places until about 1840 was “refectory.” At about 1840, the French term “restaurant” began to be widely used. I found the first English use of “restaurant” in a travel book by James Boswell (the famous biographer of lexicographer Samuel Johnson), with a journal entry from 1766.


Wikipedia: Restaurant
A restaurant is a retail establishment that serves prepared food to customers. Service is generally for eating on premises, though the term has been used to describe take-out establishments and food delivery services. The term covers many types of venues and a diversity of styles of cuisine and service.

A restaurant owner is called a restaurateur; both words derive from the French verb restaurer, meaning to restore

(Oxford English Dictionary)
restaurant
[a. F. restaurant, substantive use of the pres. pple. of restaurer to RESTORE.]
An establishment where refreshments or meals may be obtained.
The use of F. restaurant in this sense is stated to have originated in Paris in 1765.
1827 J. F. COOPER Prairie II. ii. 28 At the most renowned of the Parisian restaurans.
1835 WILLIS Pencillings I. vi. 39 A newly-painted and staring restaurant.
1859 SALA Tw. round Clock (1861) 147 At these restaurants they give you things with French names.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
refect, v.
trans. To refresh, esp. with food or drink; to restore after fatigue. Now usually refl.
c1470 HENRY Wallace III. 9 Fyscheis in flude refeckit rialye Till mannys fude.
1570 LEVINS Manip. 47/47 To Refect, reficere.
1614 LODGE Seneca, Epist. 259 So like~wise ought we sometimes to recreate our spirit, and refect the same with some delights.
1646 SIR T. BROWNE Pseud. Ep. IV. vii. 196 A man in the morning is lighter in the scale,..and is also lighter unto himselfe, because he is refected. Ibid. V. vi. 241 After which they commonly retired to bed, and refected themselves with repast. .

(Oxford English Dictionary)
refectory, n.
A room for refreshment; esp. in religious houses and colleges, the hall or chamber in which the meals take place.
The stressing refectory was at one time somewhat prevalent (see Walker’s note, and is still used by some Roman Catholics.)
1483 CAXTON Gold. Leg. 241/2 There cam two yong men of ye same habite & forme whiche entrid in to ye refectory or fraitour.
1526 Pilgr. Perf. (W. de W. 1531) 65 Seruynge at meet & in other places, redynge in ye refectory, or in the chapyter hous at collation.
1582 N. T. (Rhem.) Mark xiv. 14 The Maister saith Where is my refectorie, where I may eate the Pasche..?
1617 MORYSON Itin. I. 95 Their refectory or place where the Monkes eat, is faire and large.
1687 DRYDEN Hind & P. III. 530 He..cells, and refectories did prepare, And large provisions laid of winter fare.
1756 NUGENT Gr. Tour, France IV. 71 In the refectories where the soldiers eat, most of the famous battles and sieges..are painted on the walls.
1797 MRS. RADCLIFFE Italian vi, She passed through the refectory where the nuns had just returned from vespers.
1820 SCOTT Abbot xii, A spacious chamber, which had once been the refectory of the convent.

Boswell on the Grand Tour
Italy, Corsica and France
1765-1766
edited by Frank Brady and Frederick A. Pottle
Yale University
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.
1955
Pg. 257 (1766, THURSDAY 2 JANUARY):
A restaurant keeper just by Le Blanc’s furnished me dinner and half a bottle of wine for three livres, and Etienne, my valet de place, was very active and had the name of “l’eveille.”

12 June 1821, New York (NY) Evening Post, pg. 3:
TO THE PUBLIC.  WE, the subscribers, beg leave to inform the public that having renewed our lease at the well known Refectory No. 39 Reed street, and having provided ourselves with a frost chest, we are enabled to furnish the delicacies of the season in the best style, viz.

Chickens, Steakes, Cutlets, Pickled Oysters, and tongues, &c. and Mock Turtle soup of a superior quality, will be furnished daily throughout the season.  Liquors of the first quality will be furnished at the bar.  Also, the best of Madeira, Port and Claret Wines.  *** DECOUSSE & Morse.

3 September 1821, New York (NY) Evening Post, pg. 3:
DECOUSSE & MORSE return thanks to their patrons for the kindness and encouragement they have experienced in business, and beg to inform them and the public, that in addition to the establishment in Reed street, they have opened a Refectory at No. 7 Chatham row, west of Longworth’s, and within four or five doors of the New Theatre, where they hope to meet a continuance of that support which they will ever be happy to merit.

21 December 1822, New York (NY) Commercial Advertiser, pg. 2, cols. 1-2:
(A long letter complaining of misspellings in signs: ceaks (cakes), cichen (kitchen), iorning (ironing); also: “now our oyster cellars and eating shops are dignified with the title of Refectory”—ed.)

28 April 1824, National Advocate, pg. 2, col. 7:
FIVE DOLLARS REWARD.  STOLEN from the privy of Morse’s Refectory, 31 Park,

26 May 1837, New York (NY) Times, pg. 2, col. 5:
Shin Plasters. — A great number of these substitutes for small change, issued from hotels and restaurants, are in circulation.

22 June 1837, New York (NY) Daily Express, pg. 2, col. 5:
New York, too, has her hotels, her restaurateurs, her pavilions, and her arcades—her refectories, her confectories, and her infectories, upon a most munificent scale—besides her club houses, her lodginng houses, her watch houses, and above all her fashionable boarding houses—the latter being notorious for two unrivalled qualifications, viz: high rates and low fare.

31 July 1841, Morning Courier & New York Enquirer (New York, NY), pg. 2, col. 3:
Pinteux’s Caffe.—Of late years Restaurants and Caffes on the Parisian plan, have greatly multiplied in our city. . . . 
(Pinteux’s is on Broadway, near the Hospital—ed.)

11 December 1841, New York (NY) Herald, pg. 2, col. 4:
And then the counsel “headed me,” as the phrase now is, and brought a French witness to turn my plain English “oyster cellar” into a “restaurant.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRestaurants/Bars/Bakeries/Food Stores • (0) Comments • Saturday, December 22, 2007 • Permalink