Scientific studies and research over the years have shown that nostalgia is good for our health and emotional well-being, boosts our mood and triggers inspiration. If anything will make you feel warm and fuzzy, it’s the Vintage Menu Art you’ll find at the Playa Vista Farmers Market, Rose Bowl Flea Market and Long Beach Antique Market.
Barbara McMahon and Eugen Beer have rescued vintage restaurant and bar menus from around the world and turned them into fine art prints. They work with private collectors as well as public institutions like libraries and the Culinary Institute of America retrieving original menus of iconic restaurants.
The menus are scanned and then meticulously restored and digitally repaired to look like the original, minus some of the coffee and gravy stains, creases and paper tears. Some menus are repaired by professional art restorers and others are cleaned up by digital artists. The collection of menus from all over the world dates from 1813 through to the 1980s.
There’s the original Brown Derby menu, which includes the chef salad from owner Bob Cobb, now immortalized as the Cobb Salad. Price: 95 cents. The Kim Ling Inn menu from the new Chinatown in the early ‘40s, also known as the towering “House of Quality Food” on North Broadway, offered free fortune-telling on the mezzanine lounge.
The Malibu Sea Lion menu (now Duke’s on Pacific Coast Highway) offered abalone steak before the mollusk nearly became extinct, and the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel offered chateaubriand for two with Bearnaise sauce and souffle potatoes for $3.50. The architectural gem that was Van’s drive-in and cocktail lounge in Burbank is immortalized on the menu cover. It later became Arthur’s, which was used as the location for Arnold’s Drive-In in the first season of “Happy Days” starring Ron Howard and Henry Winkler.
All the prints come with the cover, inside menu and painstakingly researched histories of the nostalgic eateries. From the Doll House in Palm Springs to the Stork Club in New York and everything in between, the collection also is available online and includes a search function to find a favorite. At $25 per package, they make a priceless gift that conjures up memories of first dates, anniversaries and family outings.
Click on the photo gallery above to take a walk back in time.