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A treasure trove of old restaurant menus!

Here's a website that I'll be wallowing in quite contentedly for the near future: the Los Angeles Public Library Menu Collection. The database lets you search by city, so of course I pulled up all the Chicago restaurants. Here are my favorite menu covers (and if you click through the links, you can see the inside of the menus too):

Barney's Market Club

Cafe Bohemia


Edgewater Beach Hotel




Probably my favorite of the bunch is the Riccardo menu, whose stylishness is not at all surprising given how renowned the restaurant was for its art collection. And though the Colosimo's and Walgreen's menus have little artistic merit, I included them here for the sake of curiousity. Colosimo's was located in the notorious Levee vice district and was operated by Big Jim Colosimo, who was the kingpin of the Chicago mob before Capone took over. And the Walgreen's menu is notable for the breadth of its food selections - I've always imagined the old Walgreen's to only have soda fountains, but clearly they were regular short-order grills. (And I love how "perch" is crossed out with red ink on "Deep Fried Filet of Perch" and replaced with "haddock." Perch happens to be native to Lake Michigan, while haddock is an ocean fish. Odd that they ran out of the local species.)

It also occurred to me that this database is an excellent resource for fiction writers, especially those who write historic fiction. If one of your scenes is set in a 1950s restaurant, this would be a great place to skim old menus so you can get the old menu items (Swiss steak, anyone?) and prices just right.

November 27, 2008 in Chicago Observations, Ephemera | Permalink


All I get is:

Your current query has expired. Perform the search again.

Posted by: rp_photo at Jul 17, 2009 3:20:38 PM

Keep trying. It appears to be working this morning.

Posted by: Pete at Jul 18, 2009 11:27:23 AM