The first documented Chinese restaurant in the United States opened its doors in 1849. The Canton Restaurant is no longer around today, but it was the first ripple of a culinary wave that would change America forever.
To many Asian immigrants, the United States proved to be unfriendly shores, even as their foods became part of the country’s culinary fabric. The restaurant business was one of the few available livelihoods for many, and cooks soon modified their traditional dishes not only to suit the tastes of local customers, but to account for the vastly different ingredients available in a new country. But at the same time, immigrants set up businesses to make the familiar foods of home for their communities. Both types of businesses proved resilient, some enduring for more than a century. 1911 saw the founding of America’s oldest Chinese-American restaurant and its oldest tofu factory, both of which remain open.
Today, settings both creative and traditional host Asian eateries across the United States, from Buddhist temples to repurposed train cars. Whether historic or quirky, this list is just a slice of the enormous diversity of the Asian-American culinary experience.