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Menu Design in America A Visual and Culinary History of Graphic Styles and Desi

Menu Design in America: A Visual and Culinary History of Graphic Styles and Design 1850-1985

By Jim Heimann, Steven Heller, John Mariani, Taschen, 2011

Old menus are a very appetizing form of time travel. Menu Design in America gives readers a chance to end up anywhere from the Plaza Hotel for Christmas in 1891 to the S.S. Alaska in 1934 to the Diamond Horseshoe in Wyoming in 1955 and many more.

In days gone by, menus were often a souvenir when dining out was much more of a luxury. With the lavish illustration on these pages, it’s easy to see why. Graphic innovations were a way for restaurants to set the tone, and there are some amazing examples. The Art Deco designs are especially eye-catching.

Photography is peppered throughout the book, like the photo of ladies lunching at the elegant Stork Club (“New York’s New Yorkiest place”) in 1944.

The menu items themselves are a window into the past. The Chili Bowl, in 1930s Los Angeles, was one of the first fast-food restaurants, long before McDonald’s. “Chili Bowl” was not a bowl, but a burger topped with a scoop of chili, which you could get for 35 cents.

History buffs, foodies and those in-between will find this book to be a real treasure trove and a time machine in one.

TAGS: Design
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