Old menus are so cool! Have you ever found an old menu stashed away in a drawer or a glove compartment? I’ve been collecting local menus for some years now, and I really enjoy the graphics, the selections, and of course the prices. It's even better if it's a restaurant that you have some connection to.The oldest menu I have is from the Ken Ying Low Chinese restaurant. It was located in Japantown at 625 N. 6th Street, now the home of Jtown Pizza Co. The menu dates prior to WWII, and lists entrees such as chop suey for .30, chicken noodles for .35, chow mein for .50, and roast duck for .50. Beer was available for .15 and soda water for .05. Of course prices are reflective of the salaries at the time.
Image: Ken Ying Low's pre-war menu. Ken Ying Low was originally located in one of the brick Chinatown buildings (Heinlenville), before moving across the street about 1915. It was one of the most popular Japantown restaurants, especially in those pre-war days. Photos ©Ralph M. Pearce
California Room Exhibit: Dining Out: Menus of Old San Jose
I noticed that the San Jose State University’s Sourisseau Academy has a collection of very cool old local menus, and have arranged for a joint menu exhibit that will be on display in the California Room from April 8 through June 28, 2019. Besides the menus, we'll also be displaying other local restaurant items like ashtrays and matchbooks.
A Few Appetizers from the Exhibit:
Image: This is a menu from El Gordo's Mexican restaurant that was located in Old Town in Los Gatos. It went out of business in the early 1970s. Photos ©Ralph M. Pearce
Image: A 1970s menu from the popular Fog Horn restaurant that was located at 195 E. Taylor Street, now home to Cielito Lindo Mexican restaurant. I'm getting hungry just looking at these! Photo ©Ralph M. Pearce
Image: This menu is an old one from Okayama Restaurant, which is still in business in San Jose Japantown. Great prices, I should take it with me next time I visit! Photos ©Ralph M. Pearce
Further Reading in the California Room:
- Recipes from Historic California: a Restaurant Guide and Cookbook by Linda and Steve Bauer
- California Room Index: Restaurant
- San Jose City Directories (from 1870) and phone books (from 1902)