Collecting Vintage Menus to Hang in My Kitchen

I’m not sure how the idea came to me. How did it come to me?

Ok, I was in San Francisco, staying with my friends Kristen & Felix, and I had a bit of a cold (another illness! Proof that I’m dying?) While coughing and sneezing in their guest bedroom, I was noodling around on the internet and found myself on E-Bay. And while on E-Bay (a site I rarely visit) I had the sudden idea to search for vintage menus. And a new addiction was born….

Searching for vintage menus on E-Bay is so much fun! Day after day, all kinds of new ones show up; menus from Spain and England and France, menus from old restaurants in New York and Chicago and San Francsico; menus from train cars and museums and fundraisers. I was hooked.

I bid on a few and when I got back to New York, I went to visit Bonnie Slotnick of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks and told her about my new obsession. “Well you know I have a whole box of vintage menus that I sell,” she told me, reaching under a table and pulling our a giant box. Heaven!

It was from that box that I purchased the menu you see at the top of this post; a menu from the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas from 1977 (here’s the bottom half):


I also purchased this menu from a 1970 S.S. Rotterdam cruise:


Here’s the inside:


There was this menu too, also from a 1970 S.S. Rotterdam cruise:


It features such items as Langostine Cocktail with Cardinal Sauce, Corn-Fed Capon Roasted on a Spit & Sherbet Matador.

My favorite menu that I purchased from Bonnie’s is this one:


It’s from an Italian cooking demonstration that took place in Manchester, England in 1956. Craig and I love the design so much that we framed it and now it’s hanging next to my kitchen window:


(That’s a Muji frame from the MoMA store.)

In case you think that’s the end of it…. it’s not!

Bonnie told me that on Saturday (this past Saturday) there’d be an Antiquarian Book Fair at P.S. 3 in the Village and they’d have lots of vintage menus. That’s right near where I live, so of course I spent my Saturday afternoon rifling through dusty but beautiful old menus.

There were two rooms at the Book Fair, but I only thought there was one; so at first, after circling room one, I found only one table selling menus. The man told me he was the only one at the whole Antiquarian Book Fair selling vintage menus, so I took him at his word, and purchased two menus from him. This one from Stockholm (1921):


Here’s some of the inside:


He also sold me a menu from a 1910 dinner for the Employer’s Association of Roofers and Sheet Metal Workers of Greater New York and Adjacent Cities (I forgot to take a picture of this, but it’s a very plain menu on a tiny card.) It features oyster cocktail, Potage Victor Hugo & Long Island Duckling.

As much as I thought these menus were cool collector’s items, they didn’t have the same visual pop as the ones I found at Bonnie’s. I thought that would be it for the Antiquarian book fair, until I discovered Room #2 and many many more menus to choose from!

It was in Room #2 that I found this menu from the Hotel St. Catherine on Catalina Island:


And this menu from Gallatin’s in San Francisco:


And this Children’s Menu from the New York Central Railway system:


I love these last few and I’m going to find frames for them today and tomorrow to start hanging them all over my kitchen.

Is that it?

Well there are the menus I also bought on E-Bay (a dangerous addiction). None have arrived yet (one’s a seafood menu from Hawaii with little tropical fish on it, one’s from Trader Vic’s and one’s from a Philadelphia restaurant with a cool painting on the cover.) But I think my vintage menu collecting has to go on hiatus, now, since I got hit pretty hard with taxes this year. My money must be saved for important things like food and clothing and shelter and….


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