Salted, smoked, preserved, and pickled foods were the great equalizer
Of course, not everybody had the wherewithal to eat wild game or fancy foragings. But even laborers, migrants, and peasants craved a good meal out from time to time, which made the common practice of salting, smoking, jarring, pickling, and preserving the easiest way for early restaurants to keep their fares somewhat fresh. The fact that most lower-class people ate simply to fill their bellies, not for pleasure, meant flavor, texture, spice, and seasoning weren’t that important, of course. In early New York, restaurant workers slaughtered the pigs that roamed the streets, and roast pork became an early staple. But in the hands of capable chefs doing the best with what they had, old-timey basics like beans, bacon, biscuits, and beef eventually became the soulful, hearty fare that every American diner was built on.