01/14/2011 03:19 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The 10 Best NYC Restaurants of the Last Two Centuries

The modern restaurant as we know it was invented in 1831 south of Wall Street at Delmonico's, based on Swiss and French models. The previous sort of establishment was usually a hotel dining room with limited dinner choices; a coffee house that offered tea sandwiches, pastries, and sometimes a set meal or two; and eating houses that made the food fight scene in Animal House look tame.

These types of venues held down the lower end of the dining spectrum (the wealthy had their own cooks, the poor ate at home or in the streets), and a meal at any of these places was likely to occur in a hubbub. Further discomfited by sometimes having to stand, eaters were expected to finish their meals in 20 minutes or less, just like at franchise fast food restaurants today. There was nothing relaxing about eating in a New York restaurant before the advent of Delmonico's, and it was enough to give you indigestion.

Read more on Fork in the Road