The Tremont House (1829-1895) was Boston’s leading hotel during the antebellum era. Built at the corner of Tremont and Beacon Streets, the Tremont House introduced the nation’s first indoor plumbing, private room keys, and gaslights. Charles Dickens remarked: “The hotel (a very excellent one) … has more galleries, colonnades, piazzas, and passages than I can remember, or the reader would believe.”
The menu for the inaugural Tremont House dinner featured six courses with several dishes offered for each course. The Tremont House served a number of French dishes, including perdix au choux (partridge with cabbage); fricandeau de veau (larded and braised filet of veal), voul au vent aux huitres (oysters in pastry shell); pate froid (cold paté); and blanc fromage (a cross between ricotta and mascarpone).
For many years, the Tremont House was the champion of French gourmet cooking for Boston’s elite, offering more French-style dishes than almost any nineteenth-century Boston restaurant. Early hotels like the Tremont House used the bill of fare to establish a French-inspired sequence of courses which were served to all diners—soup, fish, meat, game, sweets, cheese, desserts (originally, fruit and nuts), and beverages. Restaurateurs understood how a well-crafted, variegated menu could make the mouth water and draw in patrons. Though vestiges of Puritanism persisted in New England, many of Boston diners enjoyed luxuries of the table at the Tremont House and its competitors. Well into the 1880s, “King’s Handbook of Boston” ranked the Tremont’s dining room among the best in Boston.