The Food Section weighed in with their History in Menus item, which focuses in on one of the more unusual collections on the NYPL site, the Miss Frank E. Buttolph American Menu Collection, 1856-1930.
I had browsed the collection when the site first launched, but gave up quickly because the site was achingly slow at that point. But its mere existence got me thinking about the fact that menus are very interesting as design artifacts, even (and sometimes especially) the paper ones that litter apartment building doorways and pile up haphazardly in the apartments of almost every New Yorker I know. You can get your menus online more and more. I am especially fond of browsing Amazon‘s weird Restaurants section where the physical menus have all been scanned in individually. (Hello, business model anyone? I can’t seem to figure it out.)
The other night I was dining in high style with some friends: take out faux-burritos from Burritoville (warning: dumb musical flash scariness at that link). They recently redid all their packaging, branding and menus. My friends scoffed at the idea when I said I was almost certain that they must have paid someone to do it. (Or had someone in-house doing their design, which I kind of doubt.) I agree with them that it’s not fabulously designed, but someone did design it. Menus are somewhat unsung from a design perspective, at least to the average person. But really, when you think about it, they’re a very interesting design challenge: God knows I’ve seen some incredibly poorly executed menus in terms of information design, and of course, their look and feel can go a long way towards branding the restaurant itself.
Some places have menus that I particularly love: PUBLIC restaurant in NYC is a great example, as well it should be, the restaurant is owned by design firm AvorKO. And I’m sure none of you will be surprised to hear that I’m fond of the simplicity of Florent‘s menu. All of Keith McNally‘s restaurant menus (and branding overall) are notable as well.
What are the menus you love (or hate)? Send .jpgs or links to jen AT unbeige DOT com.