Pharmacies-Turned-Restaurants: The Cure for What Ails You

Posted on: June 30th, 2014 by Katherine Flynn

Credit: W.A. Frost & Co.
W.A. Frost & Company prides itself on serving seasonal, organic, locally sourced cuisine. 

If only you could get a doctor to write you a prescription for a meal in a refurbished pharmacy-turned-restaurant -- you'd feel better in no time. In the Summer 2014 issue of Preservation magazine, we highlight three such eateries: the Gryphon Tea Room in Savannah, Ga., housed in the city’s 1926 Scottish Rite Building; the Hillside Farmacy in Austin, Texas, named for the 1920s drugstore that occupied the same space; and Tonic at Quigley’s in Washington, D.C., located in the circa-1891 Quigley’s Pharmacy.

There are several more around the country, however, that could also do the trick -- consult our handy guide below.

W.A. Frost and Company | $$$

374 Selby Avenue
St. Paul, Minn. 55102
(651) 224-5715

Known for its unique cocktails and local, seasonal organic fare, W.A. Frost and Company has been a St. Paul staple since opening its doors in 1975. The three-story building the restaurant inhabits has been sitting on the same corner in the city’s historic and upscale Cathedral Hill neighborhood since 1889, when it was constructed to house a variety of businesses, including a women’s bath and manicure establishment and the pharmacy of William A. Frost, the restaurant’s namesake.

W.A. Frost and Company now occupies the footprint of the former pharmacy on the building’s first floor, and the entryway features original tile detailing. Low ceilings of original tin in the restaurant’s lower-level lounge area foster intimate conversations, and a back patio allows patrons to enjoy the warmer summer months.

The menu includes an impressive spread of 14 international and domestic cheeses, and a well-stocked and award-winning wine list offers a compliment to any starter, entrée, or dessert selection. Vegetables from the restaurant’s one-of-a-kind backyard organic garden regularly make their way into the Chef’s Tasting Menu, a six-course, fixed-price menu that varies from day to day but recently featured pan-roasted steelhead trout and buffalo spiced veal sweetbreads, among other delicacies.

Credit: Gexydaf, Flickr
The Bair Bistro in Steilacoom, Wash., is housed downtown in an 1895 drug-and-hardware store.

The Bair Bistro | $$

1617 Lafayette St.  
Steilacoom, Wash. 98388
(253) 588-9668

A self-proclaimed “living museum,” the Bair Bistro in the small community of Steilacoom, Wash., on Puget Sound, prides itself on inundating diners with relics and photos from the early 1900s when they walk through the doors.

The Bair Bistro occupies the former Bair Drug and Hardware Store, built in 1895, and still features the original name on a sign that faces the street. Since 2009, the Steilacoom Historical Museum Association, together with restaurant owners Maxwell and Sarah Cannon, have worked hard to ensure that visitors to the Bair get an authentic experience. A 1908 soda fountain is still quenching visitor’s thirsts, and some authentic turn-of-the-century remedies line the walls in their original jars.

Hearty favorites like the Cattleman omelet, with ground beef, tomato, mushroom, bell pepper, and parmesan cheese, as well as a pancake topped with lox and served with shredded russet and sweet potatoes, anchor the menu at this breakfast and lunch joint. A wide selection of Italian sodas and ice cream floats keep patrons with a sweet tooth happy. The owners hope to eventually expand the menu to include dinner, and to open up the space to community events.

Fremin’s Restaurant | $$

402 West Third St.
Thibodaux, La. 70301
(985) 449-0333

The building that now houses Fremin’s Restaurant in Thibodaux, La., started out as a three-story doctor’s office and pharmacy, but in 1965 Hurricane Betsy had other ideas. Strong winds pummeled the 1878 brick structure and destroyed the top floor. Today, the two-level former home of the Roth Drugstore hosts diners eager to taste Fremin’s Creole- and Italian-inspired cuisine.

The bar and restaurant got its start in 1998, when brothers Dale, Barry, and Francis Fremin bought the building and started a two-year restoration process that included overhauling electrical and plumbing systems and addressing heavy moisture damage in the walls. Francis describes the process as a “nightmare,” but despite its difficulty, the Fremins were able to preserve the original tin ceilings and exposed brick, maintaining the interior’s authentic feel.

Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty seafood gumbo, crawfish tortellini carbonara, or a traditional chicken club sandwich, there are no shortage of options on the menu. If nothing strikes your fancy, the Tuesday through Saturday happy hour featuring $4 martinis might.

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Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn

Katherine Flynn is an assistant editor at Preservation magazine. She enjoys coffee, record stores and uncovering the stories behind historic places. Follow her on Twitter at @kateallthetime.

Preservation Magazine, Travel