Taste of a decade: 1950s restaurants

forumdishBy the end of the decade almost 40% of Americans live in suburbs and 75% have televisions. Church-going enjoys a revival. “Under God” is added to the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God we trust” is stamped on coins. Even as social pressures push women toward homemaking, 40% work outside the home. Congress passes the Internal Security Act requiring communists to register with the Attorney General. In Brown vs. Board of Education the Supreme Court rules that “separate but equal” education must end. Casual dining prevails, both at home and in public, yet interest in new dining experiences, luxury, and exotic cuisines is apparent. The restaurant industry looks forward to a bright future.

Highlights

1950 Trade magazine Restaurant Management warns restaurateurs to have nothing to do with subversive organizations on the Attorney General’s list, including the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, the Hawaii Civil Liberties Committee, and the Michigan School of Social Science. – The National Restaurant Association adopts the slogan “It’s fun to eat out” to boost the family trade which has fallen off because, the organization believes, people are home watching TV.

picks2991952 A Chicago restaurant advertises its “atomic menu,” with items such as “Guided Mussels.” – Teens get behind the wheel and drive-ins flourish. In Stockton CA patrons can choose among Billy’s Drive-In, Dick’s Drive In, Don’s Drive-In, Travo-Burger Drive Inn, or the Snow White Drive Inn. – A prominent black Denver physician wins a suit against a drive-in restaurant in Fort Morgan CO after he and his wife are refused service.

1953 Dazzled and bewildered, vacationing Eleanor writes to Clare in Haverhill MA about the smorgasbord she enjoyed at Old Scandia in Miami: “Had dinner here today. Couldn’t tell you half of what I ate as the food is so different. What a life.”

1954 A wine expert advises restaurateurs that California wines, though inexpensive, are hard to merchandise because of their “strange un-American names” such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. – Restaurant surveys in Chicago reveal that “some establishments use 25 per cent fewer man hours in the kitchen now than five years ago because of pre-fabricated meats, frozen foods, pre-pared potatoes, and commercial pies and cakes.”

1955 A pancake boom begins after the Aunt Jemima Pancake House opens in the new Disneyland in Anaheim CA. – Duncan Hines says that some of the best restaurant dishes he’s ever eaten are almond souffle at Voisin in NYC, cheesecake at Lindy’s, and apple pie at the Forum Cafeterias in Chicago.

hotshoppes29711957 The Hot Shoppes company operates restaurants and cafeterias in 11 states and D.C. as well as serving meals on airlines, the NY Thruway, and in government dining facilities. It keeps a 3,000-acre sheep and cattle ranch in Virginia, as well as a commissary, butcher shop, bakery, and ice cream plant in D.C. – In NYC the Forum of the Twelve Caesars opens. Unfazed by its campy decor and toga-clad waiters, NYT reviewer Craig Claiborne hails its “lusty elegance,” “opulent” food, and “superb” service.

burgerchef2981958 When the IRS cracks down on expense accounts by requiring detailed proof of expenses, membership in The Diners’ Club rises sharply. In NYC, advertising executives make up the largest category of members, followed by people in the TV industry. – The Burger Chef chain gets its start.

1959 Along suburban roadways national hamburger chains offer stiff competition to drive-ins and downtown hamburger shops such as Little Tavern and White Tower. With more than 100 units across the US, Ray Kroc attributes McDonalds’ success to cheap mass-produced food and the elimination of carhops. – Citizens protest that the new coffeehouse phenomenon will attract beatniks. In D.C., Coffee ‘n’ Confusion, offering Irish stew, coffee, and chess, promises to price coffee high enough to keep out undesirables.

© Jan Whitaker, 2009

Read about other decades: 1800 to 1810; 1810 to 1820; 1820 to 1830; 1860 to 1870; 1890 to 1900; 1900 to 1910; 1920 to 1930; 1930 to 1940; 1940 to 1950; 1960 to 1970; 1970 to 1980

23 Comments

Filed under food, history, restaurants

23 responses to “Taste of a decade: 1950s restaurants

  1. Shirley

    My mother will be 78 years young tomorrow on August 7th & I am desperately trying to find a old pictures of the menu from the Snow White Drive in where she worked in Tennessee from in the 50′s for her cake. Can anyone please help me????
    Shirley
    Utlady2u@gmail. com

  2. My mother remembers a cafeteria on Pitkin Ave in Brooklyn, NY in the 1950s. Does any one remember the name?

  3. Anonymous

    Does anyone recall a restaurant in Hawaii near Waikiki called Rocos Italian Farmhouse?

    • Ed Schock

      I remember it. They sold wine in basket that all your party signed and it was the hung on the wall. The walls were covered with them.

  4. Robert Miller

    Any information about FELIX YOUNG’s restaurant in Manhattan was open in the 1930s to 60s? Need a street address, pictures and any other info.email to:
    enigmaeditor@yahoo.com

    • Regarding Felix Young, I can only tell you that he was involved in many night club restaurants, as owner, co-owner, maybe operator. His career was on both coasts, in Hollywood/Los Angeles, Miami Beach, and New York City. I’m not sure about the dates you referenced (it would actually be a time-consuming research project to answer your question adequately). He briefly had a place on Park Avenue in Manhattan, which seemed to last only a few months in 1960 (475 Park Ave). Evidently he had an earlier NY restaurant/club but I don’t know what it was named. He also ran or “owned” Trocadero and Mocambo in Los Angeles, and La Rue and L’Aiglon in Miami Beach. He was also a Hollywood producer.

  5. Anonymous

    Does anyone remember a restaurant I think named Schafers in Manhattan area? I think it might have been quite famous. My mum worked there in the fifties. She’s no longer with us so I need to find out about this restaurant. I also have an autograph of Marylin Monroe that my mum got of her when she used the restaurant.

  6. e ledwell

    Anyone have a memory of Munro’s Boston House in Martha’s Vineyard, MA or in Florida? They were my grandfather’s restaurants.
    Thanks!

  7. DJ

    Hi, I was just wondering if anyone had ever heard of a restaurant in Brooklyn NY called Mom’s Place? My mom and Dad were married in Brooklyn and were actually from Galveston Tx. My dad was very close with Mom’s sons. He passed 8 yrs ago, and is missed dearly. My mom lives with us now, and has a photo of their reception. Her memories have faded though, and I was just wondering what part of Brooklyn it was in. She said they had the best Italian food ever cooked, and there was a bar in the restaurant as well. She said it covered a city block it was so big! She also said Tony Bennett and other entertainers were friends of Mom’s family. Any info would help. Thx!

  8. henry sarnecke

    Does anyone know which street housed the East Inn Restaurant east of Michigan Avenue in Chicago in the 1950′s-60′s. That is where we got engaged and will be celebrating our 50th Anniversary.

  9. gtrleyshon

    This is great! I’m wriitng a novel in which one of the characters is a restaurateur and learned his craft from his father who owned a restaurant in the fifties. Very helpfu!! Will keep coming back.

  10. sandi

    I’M LOOKING TO SEE IF ANYONE REMEMBERS THE OLD H.B. SANDWICH SHOP IN ROCHESTER, NEW YORK 57 CLINTON AVE SOUTH. I WAS HOPING TO FIND WHAT IT MAY BE NOW IN THAT LOCATION OR IF THERE IS A PICTURE ROAMING AROUND OUT THERE FROM 1952. IT WAS MY MOTHER’S FIRST JOB BACK THEN, AND IT WOULD BE AWESOME FOR A SCRAPBOOK PAGE. THX

  11. J.Lay

    Is there anyone that has Memories of Lay’s Arbor Inn in the 50′s & 60′s?

  12. Fran Lawler

    Would someone please refresh my memory : late 50s, early 60s, a very expensive restaurant in the National Press Club Building in Washington. It’s not any of the present day ones. Thx.

    • I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for but one well-known restaurant in that building in the 1950s and 1960s was the Sirloin Room, run by Mickey and Betty Costin. It was located below ground, decorated in colonial style, and conspicuously lacking in signs (though on 14th St. a window displayed a wax figure in colonial costume in front of roasting meat). The restaurant’s cocktail lounge mimicked Gadsby’s Tavern in Alexandria.

      • Fran Lawler

        thank you, that’s it. I remember my father, on getting the bill the first time there, telling us we all had to work in the kitchen that night.

  13. Richard Creel

    What happened to Savanno’s Restaurant?

  14. Hi Jan,
    Another interesting post. As soon as I saw that hamburger I thought of Wetsons. I’m not even sure that is what they were called. I know their hamburgers didn’t look like that!

    P.S. Is there anything I can do to help with your visits to my blog. Email me if so…

  15. Pingback: Irs » Taste of a decade: 1950s restaurants

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