Taschen’s newest coffee-table book, Menu Design in America: 1850–1985, is a lavishly illustrated, totally delightful history of the things we ate, when we cared to eat out, in the 19th and 20th centuries. And because of its depth (and specificity of focus), it doubles as one of the coolest graphic-design books we’ve seen this year.
At first, at least, the designs—and dinner selections—were firmly in the European tradition. Early in the 20th century, restaurants that served ethnic foods came into their own. And if American cuisine took a few more decades to distinguish itself, you wouldn’t know it from the menus American restaurants were printing in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s—they’re put together so well that the prospect of eating at HoJo’s ca. 1941 actually looks good. The book features menus from cruise ships, railroad dining cars, zeppelins, famous nightclubs (the Cotton Club; “21”), and restaurants—like Oakland, California’s Trader Vic’s—that became national institutions.
This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here.