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.


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


Filed under miscellaneous

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

  1. Paez

    What was the name of the Spanish restaurant at the Pickick Arms. hotel 10017 ny

  2. Lucille Pollina

    What was the name of the bar/restaurant on Delaware Ave in Kenmore Ny in the 1950’s?

  3. Bill Pittman

    Anyone remember the Berghoff in Chicago?

    • Cheryl Grogan

      I have been wracking my brain to remember the name of the restaurant on Milwaukee/Irving that had two entrances! You could enter on Milwaukee and Irving. It was a real nice restaurant and absolutely fabulous food. Does ANYONE remember the name? I believe they had a second restaurant down Irving (?) toward Ashland. PLEASE, SOMEBODY, lol ~ I’m 72-years-old and used to go there quite frequently with my late husband 🙂

    • Helene Maram

      Yes! The beer…did they have singing waiters???

      • Anonymous

        No singing waitpersons that I remember. But apparently, it’s still open! Oh, that I could get there! But Chicago is not a logical destination for an 87-year-old resident of Schenectady, NY.

  4. Sue Bass

    I’m looking for a lobster restaurant near Penn Station in NYC from at least the 1930s through the 1960s. Not sure that lobster was in its name but think it was in the huge sign that hung outside.

    • Anonymous

      Paddy’s Clam House was on W. 34 St. west of 7th Ave.

      • Sue Bass

        Thanks for bringing back memories of Paddy’s Clam Shack. I found a NYTimes review of it in the early 1980s. But what I remember was the 1950s and my father telling me that before WW2 they had sawdust on the floor. Then sanitary rules came in to ban that.

      • Bill Pittman

        O ya. Paddy’s! Great place for seafood, when it was open.

  5. Anonymous

    Does anyone remember bluebird grille or diner in Lancaster Pa?

  6. Joseph Egan

    Does anyone remember the name of the Upscale Gentlemen Restaurant in Park Square, Boston, MA. Families were invited during Easter & Christmas Holidays. Please Reply to Antiqueegan@AOL.com if you are aware of the name. Thank You

  7. Andrew Weeks

    I remember staying with my father at the Jefferson Hotel in the early 1960s and eating at a place across the street which I remember as the Bismark Café. Salesman and journalists hung out there. It had an old world atmosphere and, I was told, east European waiters. Is this simply my imagination? I can’t find any reference to it.

  8. Red Sloan

    I’m looking for picture of a restaurant that was in old down town Galveston 1955/56/57. If I recall was on 21 first st around 300 block.
    Manhattan Cafe .

  9. Judi Griffith

    The old Callahan’s Restaurant in Ashland, OR, Mary made the “Best” Scampi Sicilian, does anybody have the Recipe?

  10. Joan Carollo

    Remembering popular Family Owned Restuarants in St Louis Mo in the 1950’s & 60’s ??

  11. Micheline Cote

    Please I need help to remember the name of a all you can eat seafood restaurant in Hallandale Florida in the sixties. It was a restaurant which had a facade similar to the white house, on a small scale.

  12. Ruth

    I loved Butterscotch cookies sold at the Colonnade restaurant in downtown Cleveland, oh. It may have been the Colonnade cafeteria, not sure. Would love the recipe! They were about 4 inches round, chewy center, crisp edges. So good!
    Ruth S

  13. 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????
    Utlady2u@gmail. com

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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:

    • 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. sandi


  23. J.Lay

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

  24. 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.

  25. Richard Creel

    What happened to Savanno’s Restaurant?

  26. 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…

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

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