Tradition is the name of the game at Durgin-Park, which prides itself on not really changing much from how it was when it first got its start in 1827. The space was formerly a dining hall that served food to the merchants, fishermen, and other businessmen, as far back as 1742. The dining room was then sold to Eldridge Park, John Durgin, and John Chandler. Unfortunately, both Park and Durgin died shortly after the purchase, and to honor their memory, Chandler named the restaurant Durgin-Park.
The Chandler family owned it for the next 63 years. When John's grandson Jerry was killed in World War II, the Chandler family sold the restaurant to James Hallett, who had the poem Just A Boy printed on the back of each menu to honor John's grandson as well as other fallen soldiers of the war. The poem to this day is printed on the back of each menu.
Up until the restaurant was sold in the early 1970s to the Kelley family, Durgin-Park had developed quite a reputation for having sassy and surly waitresses. As the story goes, the restaurant tended to have a strong hire of older widows who didn't necessarily need the income but were looking for something to do, and they found working at Durgin-Park to be very social. At that time, the people who came in, for the most part, were men getting off of long shifts who would tend to be rude to them, and it got to the point that they started to give it right back. When the Kelley family bought the restaurant, they toned down the surliness just a bit. A restaurant group, Ark Restaurant Corporation, now owns Durgin-Park but has tried to maintain its historical tone.
Judging from the photos that hang from the walls in the upstairs and main dining room, that mostly holds true. Long communal tables topped with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths occupy most of the space in the three dining rooms upstairs. There are also photos of women with beehive hairdos making pies and a gentleman proudly standing next to what looks to be 20 pots of baked beans.
These days, Durgin-Park is mostly occupied by tourists who are seeking classic, homestyle New England fare. Even though it's not a popular destination for locals, it's comforting to see a piece of Boston's dining history preserved. Most recently, Durgin-Park has expanded to Logan Airport, allowing guests to get that last bite of New England before they take off.