If you were to travel back in time 50 years and visit a restaurant, be it a high-end French bistro or a grubby roadside truck stop, a glance at the menu would most likely send your head spinning. Menus are ever-evolving creatures, and even in the past 20 years certain dishes that were once considered restaurant staples have gone the way of the dodo.
Consider the humble Salisbury steak. The ground beef patty, topped with gravy and served alongside mashed potatoes, was once as commonplace on menus as hamburgers and fried chicken. Now, it’s been relegated to a forgotten corner of the freezer aisle.
Or the elegant duck a l’orange. There was a time when every respectable French restaurant had their definitive version; now, only a handful of restaurants serve the classic dish in all of New York City.
So what is it, in particular, that causes a dish to completely fall out of fashion? Tastes change over time, of course, but what’s not to like about, say, beef Stroganoff? The once-glamorous dish was brought back from Russia after World War II and was a menu mainstay through the 1950s and beyond, but now it’s largely relegated to traditional Russian restaurants and, once again, the freezer aisle.
For the most part, these dishes disappeared from menus because they were very heavy, and tended to rely on complicated French techniques that have gone out of style in recent years (but might be on the way back into vogue, if restaurants like Le Coucou are any indication). But in some cases, dishes have vanished due to necessity. Take, for example, abalone meunière, which was once de rigueur on high-end menus, especially in Southern California. But abalone was essentially fished out of existence, and it is no longer commercially viable for many restaurants to serve it.
From humble working-man fare to the outrageously ostentatious, click through for a glimpse at some food items that have all but disappeared from American menus.