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Celebrating restaurant cuisine

“Recherché viands.” “Splendid appurtenances.” “Bibular veritabilities.” Wonderfully novel words of praise have been spun by proprietors, patrons, and reviewers in praise of restaurants and their fare. Although the modern era produces few phrases so elaborate as those before the Civil War, the examples below show there are no end of restaurant features that can be lauded.

1816 The owner of the Town and Country Refectory in Providence promises his meats and liquors are “calculated to make glad the heart of man, to revivify exhausted nature, to restore the valetudinarian to health, and to refresh the weary traveller.”

1838 A patron says of a dinner at the American and French Restaurant, Washington DC: “…it was one of the most splendid entertainments ever served up at a public house in the United States, and I much doubt whether the London Tavern, the Café de Paris, the Rocher de Cancale, or any other restaurant or hotel in Paris or London ever surpassed it, either in the qualities of sumptuous and recherché viands, splendid appurtenances, or fine wines.”

1855 Touting Shelley’s Restaurant Sans Pareil, NYC, a notice says “Gentlemen curious in gastronomy, and choice in their selection of Epicurean Varieties and bibular veritabilities, must of necessity visit this classically chaste Palazzo, sooner or later.”

1878 Tony Faust’s Café and Oyster House, St. Louis, claims to be where people can “enjoy the finest oysters ever introduced into this market; delicate brook trout, the most delicious wines, the excellent Anheuser beer, a fragrant cigar, or any of those palatable and delicious articles which make our appetites so vigorous and unruly.”

1896 At a small Brooklyn restaurant run entirely by women, a diner is dazzled by its graham bread, which “recalls the hasheesh of Monte Cristo, or the most entrancing story you ever read of the effect of opium. After the first taste you think you’ve found a new kind of nut, the sweetest ever known.”

1921 A Chicago tea room prefers cultured guests and claims “you will observe, seated about the blue tables at Le Petit Gourmet, discerning men and women, who delight in having found a dining room where the cuisine of the most celebrated continental cafes has been equalled.”

1930 At Trotsky’s, 155 West 35th Street, NYC, Hyman Trotsky (brother of Leon*) runs a restaurant “where unusually good food and a strict observance of the dietary laws goes hand in hand!” No butter is served with the meals and “the waiters delight in sassing you back.”

1936 According to its management, the mission of the Riviera Restaurant in San Francisco is to introduce “The famous foods and glamorous environment … of romantic Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo, San Remo, Genoa! Tempting dishes, delightfully different menus, prepared by a master chef!”

1949 At Karl Ratzsch’s “old world restaurant” in Milwaukee, the management asserts “our Guest-Book proves that World Celebrities flock to us for their favorite Old or New World Dishes.”

1958 A columnist exclaims that L’Escoffier, in the Beverly Hilton, which brands the hotel “for all times as a gourmet’s paradise” is “the best expense-account spot in town.”

1961 In the Van Nuys CA area, The Quail bills itself as “The Gourmet Roadhouse – The Valley’s Most Elegant Secluded Twosome Restaurant.”

1969 Terry Lomax’s El Rancho in Amarillo TX advertises “All You Can Eat! A Wonderful World of True Authentic Italian Spaghetti Awaits You! Cooked the Old World Way. Truly a Gourmet’s Delight.”

1988 A reviewer writes of 72 Market Street, Venice CA, “The food is as wonderful as a perfect wave …”

* A reader has checked Leon Trotsky’s genealogy and found no sibling named Hyman, so it would appear the source I used for this was mistaken. The NY restaurant was, in fact, spelled Trotzky’s.

© Jan Whitaker, 2010


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