The earliest years of Little Tavern, Harry F. Duncan’s chain of hamburger stands in St. Louis Missouri are still somewhat of a mystery. In an interview given by Duncan in the 1970s, 50 years after the fact, he says one sentence about operating five locations of baby beef restaurants, but it’s unclear as to whether he meant the name of the restaurant was “Baby Beef Burgers” or whether he was describing his product as small using the word “baby”. Either way, this one sentence has been re-quoted for decades like a game of telephone, with each subsequent news story or book altering it slightly. In my extensive research, I haven’t found anything concrete on the 1925-1927 St. Louis years, no photos, no street addresses. Little Tavern company documents from the 1930s make no mention of the former chain. I’m hopeful some information may exist at the Andrew County Museum in Missouri.
Little Tavern No. 1
510 West Broadway Louisville, KY
Opened March 24, 1927, closed c. 1950
The building was demolished by 1955. The Al J. Schneider Co building, later known as the Bank of Louisville building, was built on the site in 1960.
Company photo from 1930s Little Tavern publication, courtesy Larry Collier.
Little Tavern No. 2
414 E Broadway, Louisville, KY
Opened October 8, 1927, closed c. 1942
Bought by James and Donna Spellman,who operated it as the Little Manor System Restaurant for 32 years.
Caufield & Shook photo, commissioned by Harry F. Duncan of Little Tavern in 1928. ULPA CS 097019 Courtesy the collection of the University of Louisville.
Little Tavern No. 3
652 S 18th St, Louisville, KY
Opened Dec 22, 1927, closed c. 1942
Operating in 1946 as the Charles R. Melven restaurant.
Left image, Company photo from 1930s Little Tavern publication, courtesy Larry Collier. Right Image, Caufield & Shook photo, commissioned by Harry F. Duncan of Little Tavern in 1928. ULPA CS 097020 Courtesy the collection of the University of Louisville.
Little Tavern No. 4
2120 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY
Opened March 24, 1928, closed August 1935
Purchased by Herman A. Parris, a former employee of Little Tavern, in 1935 and reopened as White House Shop no. 1. Parris would go on to open White House Shops restaurants at 333 W Oak, 2525 Grinstead Dr., 2810 Taylorsville Road, and 2292 Bardstown Road (a former Little Mansion System location), with an office at the rear of 2112 Bardstown Road.
This may be the only former Little Tavern location in Louisville still standing, currently operating as an Insurance office, directly to the left of Great Flood Brewing.
Image: Google Maps, 2016
Little Tavern No. 5
417 W. Chestnut, Louisville, KY
Opened May 17, 1928, closed c. 1942
Operating as Eddie L. Rivers Restaurant in 1946
Left Image: from news story on Marshall DeVore, who later managed the Little Tavern in Laurel, Maryland. Right Image: Company photo from 1930s Little Tavern publication, courtesy Larry Collier.
Little Tavern No. 6
129 S. 2nd St., Louisville, KY
Opened May 15, 1930, Closed 1932
1933- Liberty Barber Shop
1934 – L.K. Diefenbach Restaurant
1937 – L.K. Diefenbach Restaurant
1941- Snack Sandwich Shop
1946 – Robert O’Banion Lunch
1958 – Chuck’s Quick Lunch
Caufield & Shook photo, commissioned by Harry F. Duncan of Little Tavern in 1930. ULPA CS 111433. Courtesy the collection of the University of Louisville.
1141 Dixie Highway, Louisville, KY
Found in directories starting in the mid 1950s, It’s unclear whether this was associated with the hamburger chain
Little Tavern and White Castle both opened their first locations in Louisville in 1927 and maintained a similar presence in those early years. Within a few years, the area was flooded by other hamburger restaurants. Interestingly, while White Castle has called all competitors imitators since the early days, many of these Louisville hamburger stands of the 1930s riffed on the Little Tavern image as much as on that of White Castle.
Little Castle – 116 S. 26th, Louisville, KY. Founded by former Little Tavern employee Leonard Higdon
Little Chef Sandwich Shop 3283 Taylor Blvd, Louisville, KY
Little Cottage Hamburger Shop 1707 Mellwood Ave, Louisville, KY
Little Manor System 414 E. Broadway, Louisville KY (in former Little Tavern no. 2)
Little Mansion System Inc. 900 W. Main St., 2292 Bardstown Road, 3626 Lexington, 1822 S. 3rd
Little Palace Hamburgers 1224 W. Walnut, Louisville KY
Little Shanty System 604 W. Walnut, Louisville, KY
White Comet 420 S. 3rd, Louisville KY
White Crescent System 1043 E Main, 1057 E Main, 1707 Mellwood Ave.
White Cottage Inn 1353 S. Shelby Louisville, KY
White Cottage 4044 Preston Highway Louisville, KY
White Horse 515 W. Broadway, Louisville, KY
White House Shops, 2120 Bardstown Rd., 333 W. Oak 2525 Grinstead Dr., 2810 Taylorsville Rd., 2292 Bardstown Rd.
White Hut 617 S 2nd Louisville KY
White Manor 1707 Mellwood Ave.
White Palace 223 W Liberty Louisville KY
White Spot System Hamburgers 1501-1/2 W. Market 228 N. Main
White Swan 566 S. 5th Louisville, KY
White Tavern 216-1/2 South Limestone, Lexington, KY, 113 North Limestone Street, Lexington, KY, 265 East Main Street, Lexington, KY, 518 West Main Street, Lexington, KY, 327 West Main Street Danville, KY, 308 W Washington Street, Charleston, WV, 1215 Washington Street, Charleston, WV
White Way System 1101 W. Broadway, 315 S. 26th