The first Little Tavern opened March 24, 1927, in Louisville, Kentucky, by Harry F. Duncan. The first Washington location was opened in October 1928 and the first in Baltimore opened its doors in June 1930. By 1937, there were 33 shops open. At the height of the chain, there were almost 50 locations. Duncan sold the chain in 1981. The chain had troubles in the 1990s and the last restaurant closed on April 29, 2008, although the Laurel location was re-opened that year as Laurel Tavern Donuts after being given the recipe for the burgers, which it still served as of 2018.
The original slogan of the chain was "Buy 'em by the bag", and its signs promised "Cold Drinks * Good Coffee". The stores were quite small and could accommodate only a few seated customers, while most business was take-out.
From 1928 to 1931, Little Taverns had block construction and their castle design closely resembled White Castles and White Towers of the same era. Baltimore No. 3, was the first Little Tavern to employ the "Tudor cottage" design that would become so closely associated with the chain for years to come.
- Ghosts of Baltimore website
- Historical preservation of Little Tavern in Silver Spring, Maryland
- The adaptive reuse of Little Taverns
- Kelly, Jacques (September 29, 1996). "Little Taverns sold hamburgers 'by the bagful'". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
The chain suffered badly in the 1990s.
- Scharper, Julie (April 27, 2008). "Serving up burgers, with a side of nostalgia". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
- Smith, Russ (May 1, 2008). "Out of Business". Splice Today. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
A brief news story tucked away in the 'Maryland' section of Wednesday's Baltimore Sun announcing the closing of the last Little Tavern burger joint in the Baltimore/Washington metro area
- Glaros, Tony (September 15, 2010). "Laurel Tavern Donuts". Going Out Guide. The Washington Post. Archived from the original on October 9, 2010. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
topped with the same blend of chopped onions and Montreal steak seasoning as those sold by the previous tenant: Little Tavern ... got the recipe from a woman who was a longtime manager there