Place Setting: Over the Counter at Historic Pharmacies

Restaurants in vintage pharmacies hold the cure for what ails you.

Gryphon Tea Room

337 Bull St., Savannah, GA 31401
912.525.5880 |
$$ | Café

Run by the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and located on picturesque Bull Street, the Gryphon Tea Room occupies the former A.A. Solomons & Co. drugstore in Savannah’s 1923 Scottish Rite building. The family-owned business, which dated to the 1840s, once filled a prescription for Gen. Robert E. Lee. Original details abound: Diners can still read the name of the drugstore in the ceramic tile flooring and admire the Tiffany-style lamps, as well as a mahogany clock with a carved griffin on either side.

Gryphon’s restoration was spearheaded by SCAD faculty, and the tea room opened for business in 1998. It offers a traditional tea menu, accompanied by fresh, seasonal, locally sourced cuisine. Try the wild Georgia shrimp entrée with orzo, pesto, feta, and fresh tomatoes or, for brunch, the crème brûlée French toast with berry compote.

Hillside Farmacy

1209 E. 11th St., Austin, TX 78702
512.628.0168 |
$$ | New American

Greg Mathews needed a place for his collection of vintage apothecary cabinets. After discovering the history behind a former po’ boy sandwich shop, the Austin entrepreneur and his wife and business partner, Jade Place-Mathews, decided the empty storefront would be the perfect venue for both the cabinets and a new, pharmacy-inspired restaurant.

The shop originally housed the Hillside Drugstore, opened in the 1920s and owned by Austin’s first African-American pharmacist, Doc Young. Young’s daughter, Yvetta Turner, still owns the building, and the couple, along with executive chef Sonya Coté, worked closely with her to make the space feel authentic.

Mathews describes Hillside Farmacy’s menu as “things we wanted to have in our neighborhood” — including fresh oysters and dishes with local ingredients. Patrons favor the macaroni and cheese, with an optional poached egg and pancetta.

Tonic at Quigley's Restaurant

2036 G St. NW, Washington, DC 20036
202.296.0211 |
$$ | American

The brick building that houses Tonic at Quigley’s Restaurant was originally constructed in 1891 as Quigley’s Pharmacy, a drugstore and lunch counter. Located in Washington, D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood and founded by a George Washington University alumnus, the shop was a popular student gathering spot for decades. The university eventually purchased the building and used it as the geography department and a storage space before leasing it to the Tonic Restaurant Group, which opened a bar and eatery there in 2007.

“Our goal was to keep it as close to what it was as possible,” says Jeremy Pollok, the group’s managing partner. Contractors took special care to restore interior brick work, which had been covered with layers of drywall and paint. “[Workers] had to remove the paint not brick by brick, but pretty close,” he says. After a careful restoration and partial addition, the space now serves as a backdrop for Tonic’s take on American comfort food.

For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.