If the idea of poring over vintage restaurant menus excites you — and you haven't yet signed up to help digitize the menu collection at the New York Public Library — we've got the book for you. Menu Design in America, edited by Jim Heimann with an introduction by Steven Heller and captions from John Mariani, not only catalogues nearly 800 American menus, it also gives a history of the whole concept of a printed menu. The book's publisher, Taschen, sent a copy over to us, and after having gone through it, we have to say we're pretty impressed. The menus range from an October 11, 1847, example from Chicago's City Hotel (pearl barley was the featured soup that day) all the way to a 1981 menu from Wolfgang Puck's Spago and a 1985 offering from Chez Panisse.
In between, there are classic menus from places still open (La Grenouille's beluga caviar was $8.00 back in 1965), and others that are long gone (San Francisco's Tait's was advertising its 10¢ Budweiser on draught back in July, 1905). We obviously can't show you all the menus here, but we did convince Taschen to let us preview a few of the menus — check it out in our slideshow, then get the book here when it's available in mid-August.
Menu Design in America [Offical site]
Related: How Different Did Manhattan’s Menus Look 30 Years Ago?