Like stands, shacks most certainly represent a type of eating places whose origins stretch back into antiquity. Their simple structures can be erected hastily for fairs or to capture the pennies of hungry travelers. In an automobile culture they suggest open spaces and open roads.
They convey honest rusticity with uncomplicated, inexpensive fare for ordinary folks rather than elaborate cuisine accompanied by the pomp and ceremony of the palace as enshrined in posh restaurants. The kinds of food sold in shacks, huts, and shanties is likely to be lobster, fried chicken, barbecue, or other casual fare that is eaten with the hands, and quickly.
Low prices are implied in huts and shacks. The slogan of the Shack in Upper Darby PA was “Where Dining is an Event not an Extravagance,” while New York City’s eighteen Shanties of the 1930s promised “The Country’s Finest Products at the City’s Lowest Prices.” For 15 cents the menu offered orange or tomato juice, buttered toast, and coffee.
On the other hand, low prices or not, how many people would want to patronize a true shack? The crude Depression-era lunchroom shown above has a tarpaper roof and scanty stock on its display shelves.
Today, because such places are harder to find, they project a strong contrast with the manufactured food and decor of chain restaurants. In contrast with artless roadside shanties, McDonald’s and other fast-food outlets are carefully designed, highly managed food selling environments.
At the same time, restaurants tend to look to the past rather than the future for themes that will attract customers. Shacks and huts are entirely capable of filling that role too, even in New York City, a most unlikely setting. The Shack, in Manhattan, is scarcely convincing. One of Chicago’s leading restaurants of the 1930s was the Chicken Shack, which was furnished with not-a-bit-rustic modernistic chrome tables and chairs. Its proprietor, Ernie Henderson, was invited to demonstrate his chicken frying methods at the 1939 convention of the National Restaurant Association, marking the first time an African-American was given such an opportunity.
© Jan Whitaker, 2013
5 responses to “Image gallery: shacks, huts, and shanties”
Jan, Wrote a great response to Sue Thompson’s comment but I don’t see it here anywhere. I have so much trouble getting the site to publish what I have written and losing so many opportunites inthe process. When I go to “post” what am I doing wrong? I absolutely cherish the content of my blogging…can someone out thre find my last one somewhere. I think it would comfort Sue. Martha
Martha, I approved it and I don’t understand why it doesn’t appear at the end of the post. I will try to find out what the problem is. It seems only to be happening on the Schrafft’s post.
…love these little places
That’s a great one!
I think this blog and subject matter is one of the best out there. Keep up the good work. I will continue to contribute when I can. Just sent in another response today. Thumbs up, Martha Hoffman