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Cato’s Road House

New York

The following information is from Alice Morse Earle’s Stage Coach and Tavern-Days published by The MacMillan Company, New York, in 1900.

At the junction of 51st and 52nd Streets [in New York City] with the post road stood Cato’s Road House, built in 1712. Cato was a negro slave who had so mastered various specialties in cooking that he was able to earn enough money to buy his freedom from his South Carolina master. He kept this inn for forty-eight years. Those who tasted his okra soup, his terrapin, fried chicken curried oysters, roast duck, or drank his New York brandy-punch, his Virginia egg-nogg, or South Carolina milk-punch, wondered how any one who owned him could ever sell him even to himself. Alongside his road house he built a ballroom which would let thirty couple[s] swing widely in energetic reels and quadrilles. When Christmas sleighing set in, the Knickerbocker braves and belles drove out there to dance; and there was always sleighing at Christmas in Old New York–all octogenarians will tell you so. Cato’s egg-nogg was mixed in single relays by the barrel full. He knew precisely the mystic time when the separated white and yolk was beaten enough, he knew the exact modicum of sugar, he could count with precision the grains of nutmeg that should fleck the compound, he could top to exactness the white egg foam. A picture of this old road house, taken from a print is here given. It seems but a shabby building to have held so many gay scenes.

Cato’s House