From The Gorgeous To The Offensive, 26 Surprising Vintage Restaurant Menus

Published September 26, 2016
Updated September 28, 2018

Viewed today, these vintage menus are about more than just food — they offer us insight on the times in which they existed.

Vintage Menus Pennland
S.S. Pennland, 1931.New York Public Library

Menu Cavanaghs
Cavanagh's, New York City, 1959.New York Public Library

Cafe Zanzibar
Cafe Zanzibar, New York City, 1943.New York Public Library

Menu Rms Queen Elizabeth
R.M.S Queen Elizabeth, 1957.New York Public Library

Menu Tortola
Tortola, San Francisco, 1937.New York Public Library

Menu Waldorf
Waldorf Astoria, New York City, 1933.New York Public Library

Menu Ss President Johnson
S.S. President Johnson, 1932.New York Public Library

Menu Hardart
Horn-Hardart cafeterias, New York, 1958.New York Public Library

Menu San Jose
Hotel San Jose, Mexico, 1958.New York Public Library

Menu Hotel Astor
Hotel Astor, New York City, 1930.New York Public Library

Menu Green Mountain Pine
Green Mountain Pine Room, Arlington, VT, 1959.New York Public Library

Menu Latin Quarter
Latin Quarter, New York City, 1958.New York Public Library

Menu Frisco Lines
Frisco Lines, St. Louis/San Francisco, 1943.New York Public Library

Menu Ferris
Ferris Restaurant, South Carolina, 1948.New York Public Library

Menu Cotton Club
The Cotton Club, New York City, 1938.New York Public Library

Vons 1910
Von's, Seattle, 1957.New York Public Library

World Famous
DiMaggio's Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, San Fransisco, 1956.New York Public Library

1926 Regent Cafe
The Regent Cafe, Jackson, Michigan, 1956.New York Public Library

Menu Billy Oyster Man
Billy the Oyster Man, New York City, 1941.New York Public Library

Menu Fred Harvey
Fred Harvey, Cleveland, 1945.New York Public Library

Michigan Lakos Menu
Lakos, Muskegon, Michigan, 1957.New York Public Library

Menu Mike Lymans
Mike Lyman's Grill, Hollywood, 1946.New York Public Library

Nugget
The Golden Nugget, Las Vegas, 1956.New York Public Library

Coffee Shop Menu
LaGuardia Airport coffee shop, New York City, 1961.New York Public Library

Commodore Coffee Shop
The Hotel Commodore Coffee Shop, New York City, 1955.New York Public Library

Menu Arthur Wilde
Arthur Wilde's Restaurant, Miami, 1954.New York Public Library

Gazing at a restaurant menu may seem like a rather humdrum affair, but it's one of the first -- and most immediate -- ways to understand an eatery's overall aesthetic and values.

Of course, aesthetics and values change over time and across place. This means that when we look at old menus, we're not just looking at descriptions of food, but taking a peek at how different places, different socioeconomic groups, and so on approached the meal.

The vintage menus above (appear in chronological order from 1931-1961) reveal just that.


After seeing these vintage menus, check out these bizarre (and sexist) vintage ads.

Erin Kelly
An All That’s Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she’s designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.