We're writing and producing photographs for the only book ever about America's oldest restaurants (ranging from 100-300 years old!) - a truly historic document, then later we'll be co-producing and hosting a TV series profiling the same restaurants.
We plan to drive across the country in three or four trips beginning in the winter of 2009 and aim to finish our adventure in early summer of 2010. Along the way we’ll visit 100 of the country’s century-old restaurants, located in all 50 states, most of which have been continuously serving patrons for over ten decades. Eating establishments that have played a big part in shaping US culinary culture for the past ten decades, represent the best of family traditions, have provided jobs for millions of people, entertained and fed millions more, and in many ways define what we call American hospitality.
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They have served ordinary folks, as well as many of the most famous citizens of each decade: Civil War generals Grant and Lee, Presidents from Washington to Taft, famed writers like Hemmingway, Samuel Clemens, Louisa May Alcott, Longfellow, and Harriet Beecher Stowe; Western figures like Buffalo Bill, Lewis & Clark, Billy the Kid, and Calamity Jane; and key historical figures like Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Clarence Darrow, and Frederick Douglas.
They are in America’s smallest towns and biggest cities. They stand alone on the streets, or hide inside tiny inns, rustic taverns, or weather-beaten saloons. They’re on sleepy back roads and bustling boulevards. Some are homespun plain and simple while some rival the palace opulence of kings and queens. In many ways, they have literally helped build America.
We’ve begun production on a large format fully-illustrated book that will profile these 100 centennial restaurants. Each restaurant will be featured in a 2 to 3-page spread that will include a synopsis of their history, a review of their signature dishes, images of the restaurant interior and/or exterior today, and historical images provided by the restaurants themselves. Whenever possible we’ll include copies of old menus, or print a comparison chart showing prices of yesteryear alongside today’s prices, and we will meet and interview chefs, cooks, owners, busboys, waiters, hosts and hostesses, returning customers, and customers who arrive for their first visit while we’re on location.
The earliest restaurant we’ll visit and profile is the White Horse Tavern, in Newport, Rhode Island, which began serving travelers “Stewed Pompion” and “Roast Beef-Stake” in 1673. While the youngest centenarian on our list is Gaido’s, a famed seafood restaurant in Galveston, TX, which began its long run dishing out “Iced Crab Fingers” and “Southern Pecan Catfish” in 1911.
We’ve guided PBS viewers around the US and 20 countries for seven seasons on Barbecue America – The World Tour, (www.barbecueamerica.com) but now we're in early pre-production for a 13-episode cable network TV series about the 100 oldest restaurants that we’ll host. On the show we'll take viewers on a lighthearted but educational trip through American cultural and culinary history, visiting every corner of the country, showcasing recipes, cooking styles, and traditions that make American cuisine the best in the world. Visiting two locations per episode, perhaps one a historic New England Tavern the other at a Texas stagecoach inn and saloon, or an episode segment that profiles a glitzy upscale New Orleans French Quarter legend, while the second segment takes viewers to America’s only centenarian Japanese restaurant in Seattle.
But driving across country to 48 states is expensive, even if we do it on the cheap (we're going to fly to Alaska and Hawaii of course). We need money for gas, hotels (cheap as we can find), food (not offered me by the restaurants we visit), and other expenses along this 9,000-mile+ odyssey. We estimate costs to be in the neighborhood of $12,000-$14,000 for the entire project, just for the hard costs of travel expenses. We’d love to have a little extra to pay bills, make sure our home doesn’t get snapped up by the bank, and our medical insurance doesn't lapse (especially eating all that rich food). So that’s where you all come in.
We’re offering pieces, some larger than others, of our dream project to perfect strangers who believe in what we’re doing, and would be proud to be a part of helping this ambitious project take place. Basically we need all the help we can get to afford to go on this cross-country pilgrimage and not go broke, so we’re throwing ourselves at your mercy.
We're counting on our family, friends, acquaintances, business associates, my friends on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Digg, and Linkedin, and everyone and anyone who has an interest in America's culinary (restaurant) history, loves to travel, loves to eat, and who is generous and supportive of our project and will help to spread the word as far as possible.
For you contribution we promise hard work, recognition in the project, a copy of the book, some fun along the way (in the weekly blog our supporters will have exclusive access to), and some great reading and incredible recipes. With your help we’re on the way to visit some of America’s best, most unique, and oldest dining rooms ~ and we’ve reserved a special table just for you.
Thank you and God bless you for your support.
OH, AND IF YOU HAVE OR KNOW OF SOMEONE WHO HAS A CLASS A, B, OR C MOTORHOME OR RV ( A WINNEBAGO TIOGA WOULD BE PERFECT) THAT I CAN BORROW FOR THIS PROJECT PLEASE LET ME KNOW, THE HARDEST PART OF THIS WHOLE ENDEAVOR IS FINDING TRANSPORTATION ACROSS THE COUNTRY. I WILL INSURE THE VEHICLE TO IT'S FULL VALUE.