Exterior of Kewpee Hamburgers in downtown Lima (photo by Jim Vickers)
Food + Drink

Eat at 12 of Ohio’s Oldest Restaurants

These restaurants with storied histories have served hungry diners for generations. Check out a dozen spots across the state should be on every Buckeye State bucket list.

Ohio has plenty of creative chefs and new restaurants that serve up flavors of the world, but it also has plenty of landmark spots that have stood the test of time. These 12 restaurants have long histories and the stories that go with them. From the oldest continually operating business in Ohio (opened in 1803) to the Darke County shop that has spent nine decades turning out a local delicacy known as the Maid-Rite, these finds should be on your list of Ohio food road trips. 

Exterior of the Golden Lamb in Lebanon (photo courtesy of Golden Lamb)
Golden LambLebanon
Known as Ohio’s longest continually operating business, the Golden Lamb has been around as long as the state itself, opening in 1803. What began as Jonas Seaman’s “house of Public Entertainment” now operates as a restaurant and hotel and has been a stop for 12 U.S. presidents and other notable figures over the years. The establishment has remained consistent over the course of its more than two centuries of business by offering travelers both lodging and food. Menu favorites include the Golden Lamb roast turkey dinner, braised lamb shank and classic shepherd’s pie. 27 S. Broadway, Lebanon 45036, 513/932-5065, goldenlamb.com

Spread Eagle Tavern & Inn in Hanoverton (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Spread Eagle Tavern and InnHanoverton
Completed in 1837, the Federal-style brick building housing the Spread Eagle Tavern and Inn can be found in the tiny Columbiana County village of Hanoverton. It’s said that canal workers who lost their jobs during the bank panic of 1837 built the place, and it is purported to have been a frequent stagecoach stop for President Abraham Lincoln. Stepping inside is like taking a trip into a different time thanks to the restaurant’s antique and period-appropriate furnishings and fireplaces. Dinner menu choices range from flame-grilled filet mignon and beef Wellington to elk loin and Maryland blue crab cakes. 10150 Plymouth St., Hanoverton 44423, 330/223-1583, spreadeagletavern.com

Exterior of Arnold’s Bar & Grille in Cincinnati (photo courtesy of Arnold’s Bar & Grille)
Arnold’s Bar and Grill Cincinnati
Holding the title of the oldest bar in Cincinnati, this downtown spot has been serving locals since 1861. When Prohibition hit, it became a cafe with living spaces on the second and third floors, but that doesn’t mean the booze ever really stopped flowing. Hugo Arnold, the bar’s second owner left behind the bathtub where he concocted batches of bathtub gin, and it remains at the establishment to this day. Come for the history but stay for the food. Arnold’s is famous for its spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce. 210 E. Eighth St., Cincinnati 45202, 513/421-6234, arnoldsbarandgrill.com 

Bun’s Restaurant Delaware
When driving down through downtown Delaware, keep an eye out for the arch and neon sign hanging over Winter Street pointing you to Bun’s Restaurant, which has been serving locals since 1864. People keep coming back for a menu of traditional favorites that includes barbecue meatloaf, eggplant Parmesan and the Bun Burger, a classic American burger with bacon, American cheese and fries on the side. If you want to go for an old-school family-dinner throwback, order the liver and onion meal, consisting of beef liver, grilled Spanish onions, brown gravy, bacon and garlic mashed potatoes. 14 W. Winter St., Delaware 43015, 740/363-2867, bunsrestaurant.com

Burger at Ringside Cafe in Columbus, Courtesy of Ringside Cafe
Ringside Cafe Columbus
For fans of professional boxing, this classic spot is a unique place to grab a bite to eat. Outside, a large mural depicts James “Buster” Douglas, a Columbus native who against all odds knocked out the formerly undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson, in 1990. Since 1897, this cafe has been a winner for its burgers, all of which are named after boxing phenoms. Order the legendary Ali, an Angus patty with cheese topped with an onion ring and coleslaw or go big with the Buster Douglas, 1.5 pounds of beef with bacon, cheddar cheese, blue cheese, garlic aioli and coleslaw served a double helping of fries. 19 N. Pearl St., Columbus 43215, 614/228-7464, ringsidecolumbus.com

Interior of The Spot in Sidney (photo courtesy of The Spot)
The Spot Restaurant Sidney
What started as a chuckwagon in 1907 eventually became a brick-and-mortar restaurant with 1941-era art moderne architecture. The restaurant is still located where it started and has fed burgers to generations of locals and a few notable names such as George W. Bush and actor Rob Lowe. (In fact, Lowe’s dad bought The Spot in the 1950s.) The menu is packed with American classics, such as the wide array of delicious pies, frosted malts and quarter-pound hamburgers and cheeseburgers that are sure to have you reminiscing about the good old days. 201 S. Ohio St., Sidney 45365, 937/492-9181, thespottoeat.com  

Guarino’s RestaurantCleveland  
Vincenzo Guarino came to Cleveland from Sicily in 1898 and introduced the flavors of his home country to his new city by opening this restaurant in 1918. Since then, it has become a landmark of the city’s Little Italy neighborhood and remains its oldest operating restaurant. The house-made lasagna is a standout, but you can’t go wrong with the traditional pizza and pasta meals. (If you want to branch out, try the brasciole — a flat steak with prosciutto, parsley, garlic, hardboiled egg and cheese.) The ambience of this family-home restaurant is as much of an allure as the food. 12309 Mayfield Rd., Cleveland 44106, 216/231-3100, guarinoscleveland.com

Exterior of Kewpee Hamburgers in downtown Lima (photo by Jim Vickers)
Kewpee HamburgersLima
This fast-food chain was founded in Flint, Michigan, in 1918, but it is closely associated with the Ohio city of Lima. Kewpee Hamburgers arrived there in 1928 and quickly became known not just for its burgers but also for its outdoor turntable that would spin cars toward the road, allowing them to exit after using the restaurant’s drive-thru. That original Lima location is still open today, and customers continue to line up for a to-go bag or a bright orange tray filled with burgers, fries, fish sandwiches and more. There are two other Lima locations, but this classic spot is our favorite. 111 N. Elizabeth St., Lima 45801, 419/228-1778, kewpeehamburgers.com

White Oaks Restaurant Westlake
A popular local speakeasy during Prohibition, White Oaks opened its doors in 1928, importing alcohol from Canada, France and Scotland to help separate itself from other places that were serving up less sophisticated bathtub gin. The restaurant pays tribute to that history by still using the original door that led to the men’s lounge all those years ago. But don’t let the restaurant’s past incarnation fool you; this place is known for its fine dining fare that ranges from appetizers such as shrimp cocktail and escargot imported from France to entrees like pork tenderloin, rack of lamb and center-cut filet mignon wrapped in applewood bacon. 777 Cahoon Rd., Westlake 44145, 440/835-3090, white-oaks.com

TAT Ristorante di FamigliaColumbus
This Italian family restaurant is said to have been the first to bring pizza to the Columbus area. When the restaurant opened in 1929, its main priority was to share the flavors of Italy with the community. The dishes here are made fresh and from-scratch, right down to the sauces and the Italian dressing. Favorites here include the chicken Parmigiana covered in provolone cheese and a special tomato sauce as well as the Italian sausage dinner with mushrooms, onions, green peppers and spaghetti.The lineup of specialty pizzas includes The All Meaty One, packed with pepperoni, Italian sausage, bacon and meatballs. 1210 S. James Rd., Columbus 43227, 614/236-1392, tatitalian.net

Hungarian hot dog at Tony Packo’s in Toledo (photo by Rachael Jirousek)
Tony Packo’s Toledo
Tony Packo’s captured prime-time TV fame when actor Jamie Farr worked the name of his hometown establishment into several episodes of the hit television series “M*A*S*H” during the 1970s and ’80s. The restaurant, which has been serving diners at its original Front Street location since 1932, is also known for its tradition of asking famous visitors to sign a foam hot dog bun to display on the wall. (Actor Burt Reynolds started the tradition when he signed a real bun.)  Yet the most famous star at Tony Packo’s is the Hungarian hot dog, a split-sausage creation covered with chili and onions. 1902 Front St., Toledo 43605, 419/691-6054, tonypacko.com

The Maid-Rite Sandwich Shoppe in Greenville (photo by Jim Vickers)
The Maid-Rite Sandwich ShoppeGreenville 
If you haven’t heard about this restaurant for its steamed, loose-meat sandwiches (yes, they are tastier than that sounds), you’ve probably heard about its exterior wall of chewing gum discarded by generations of diners (and, yes, that’s more charming than it sounds). Think sloppy joes without the slop but topped with pickles, onions and mustard, and you have an idea of what an Original Maid-Rite is all about. (There’s also the Cheese-Rite that is all above plus a slice of cheese.) Open since 1934, this spot is a must-visit for those looking to sample one of Ohio’s most unique eats. 125 N. Broadway, Greenville 45331, 937/548-9340, maidrite-greenville.com