Turtle and oxtail soup made hearty meals for traditional restaurants like Merchant’s Dining Saloon in a basement at 5th and Maine, but some more exotic culinary experiments were on the menu at several Quincy businesses. As befitted a growing city rapidly becoming a transportation hub, Quincy’s dining experiences in the late antebellum period (1856-1860) featured distinctive flavors from foreign and domestic sources that many locals had never experienced.
Quincy Restaurant on the levee between Vermont and Broadway advertised in the Quincy Daily Whig that it had “fitted up an EATING HOUSE and shall keep constantly on hand the best the market will afford.” George Dodd, the proprietor, wrote, “My Bill of Fare will comprise all the delicacies of the season. Oysters, fresh and pickled, sardines, meats, game, coffee, etc. served up at short notice.” Meals were available at all hours, before departure of the morning cars, and after the arrival of the train at night.
Many restaurants placed newspaper advertisements listing fresh oysters. Drew’s Temperance Restaurant, which served Root Beer, was located under the Quincy House Hotel and served oysters fresh or canned for lunch at all hours for 25 cents. Odell & Bowers’ Restaurant on Hampshire Street, opposite the Market House regularly advertised, “ fresh oysters, just received…”. By 1858, Loar Bower had opened the Quincy House Restaurant at Fourth Street and Maine Street where he again advertised fresh oysters and “keg and can oysters.”
The Quincy House had an enormous gourmet banquet in 1860 that rivaled the best hotel dining halls on the East Coast. The new proprietor, David W. Miller, modernized the cuisine at this popular hotel. Smells of savory dishes served over several courses wafted through the dining hall, and his bold menu brought vibrant flavors to guests.
Calf’s head in brain sauce was one such dish. The thick sauce was well-spiced and every part of the calf’s head was used. The meats included baked bass, boiled corned beef and ham, roasted beef, veal, mutton and pork, broiled spring chicken, broiled ham in parsley sauce, mutton pot pie, sauté of giblets in wine sauce, and stewed beef. Guests feasted on side dishes of fried egg plant, bean soup, relishes of pickled beets and cucumbers, boiled and mashed potatoes, cabbage, turnips, beets, snap beans, corn, carrots, rice and field greens.
Confectionaries and pastries rounded out the feast. Eight cakes were baked for dessert: molasses, pound, lady, lemon, jelly, fruit, tea and spice. Pastries included apple pie, tomato tarts, and custard pudding. Tomato tarts were a popular treat during those years, with their crisp pie crust base, and a spiral of plum tomatoes topped with sweet and spicy sugar, and cinnamon topping.
Eateries along Front Street greeted hungry travelers arriving on steamboats from the north and south. The Railroad House was managed by Pantaleon Miller at 20 N. Front, Henry Schley had a restaurant at Front and Spring, and George Byrd managed Oyster Bay.
Even more restaurants flourished at the top of the bluff. The Apollo Garden had Milwaukee Beer delivered to their restaurant at 124 Hampshire, despite Quincy’s abundance of breweries. The Quincy Daily Herald said, “Under the management of Mr. Sengen, this house has become a favorite place …. His saloon is noted for the quality of its liquors and wines, and good lager, his lunches are always provided with all the market affords.” Peter Sengen had previously opened No. 9 Saloon at 526 Hampshire in 1840.
John Drake had a confectionary and dining hall at 130 Hampshire, Herman Klipfel owned a restaurant and lager beer hall near Sixth and Hampshire, John Beck’s restaurant was at 86 Maine St., and the Prairie House, run by Miller and Pastorius was a popular eatery at the northwest corner of Twelfth Street and Broadway.
The Albion, a “resort for ladies and gentlemen,” advertised their location in “East Quincy,” two miles from the city.They had oysters, wild game, and the choicest liquors always on hand. Proprietor Edward H. Mumby operated this more exclusive inn deeper in Adams County. City lots were being purchased in Quincy as far as 24th St. by the late 1850’s, which meant The Albion was situated near the environs of today’s 48th St.
In 1858, The Quincy Daily Herald noted a specialty restaurant opening on Hampshire between Third and Fourth Street. “Mssr. H. Maurat begs leave to inform the good people of Quincy that he has just opened a new restaurant which he designs to conduct exclusively upon the French system …. he has secured the services of the best French Cook in this country .… The proprietor may always be found at his post, ready to wait upon customers in person, and he hopes by a prompt attention to the wants of his visitors to merit and receive a generous share of the public patronage.”
To those who could not afford to eat in restaurants, many local purveyors were offering new products. In 1857, brothers Albert and Louis Buddee advertised for A & L Buddee’s Mammoth Liquor Store and Fancy Groceries at 91 Hampshire Street, on the north side of the square. They rectified forty barrels of the purest whiskey a day. They also sold foreign and domestic wines, brandies, gins, whiskeys, schnapps, Ohio Cider, and Ale. Their fine grocery wares included choice fruits, nuts, pickles, ketchups, oysters, sardines, Swiss and pineapple cheeses, and various imported foods.
They claimed the white building was fireproof, being covered with a tin roof and having iron shutters and doors. A reservoir of a thousand gallons of water was secured on the third floor, 31 gas lights illuminated the interior, and hot air furnaces heated the store.
F. Flach and Company sold spices and fruit extracts that local chefs used regularly. They also shelved fruit essences of lemon, strawberry, orange, vanilla, rose, pineapple, peach, and raspberry. Spices and herbs like cloves, cinnamon, and mustard were sold in large and small bottles. Fresh ginger, celery, and parsley were available. Whether dining at home or out, Quincyans could eat well.
1857-1858 Quincy City Directory.
1860 Quincy City Directory.
“City of Quincy,” The Quincy Daily Herald. June 1, 1860
“Drew’s,” The Quincy Whig. March 23, 1861.
Eighmey, Katherine Rae. Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life. Smithsonian
Books: Washington, D.C., 2014.
“Fresh Oysters, Just Received,” The Quincy Daily Whig. January 20, 1857.
Landrum, Carl. Quincy in The Civil War. Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County: Quincy, IL, 1966.
“New Restaurant,” The Quincy Daily Herald. March 31, 1858.
“Oyster and Game Depot,” The Quincy Daily Herald. March 3, 1858.
“Quincy Restaurant,” The Quincy Daily Whig. November 11, 1856.