Blasts From the Past: 11 Timeless Menus Slideshow
May 16, 2013
11) House of Prime Rib, San Francisco
Since 1949, the House of Prime Rib, one of San Francisco’s most legendary and perpetually packed restaurants, has done one thing, and done it very, very well. Giant prime ribs are rolled (yes, rolled) to your table and carved to your specifications, and served with salad, mashed or baked potato, creamed spinach, and a Yorkshire pudding. And that’s it. Sure, there’s a token fish dish, but you come here for the prime rib and the dessert cart or you don’t come at all. The owners have known that all along, and have wisely decided to leave the menu untouched.
10) Original Pantry Café, Los Angeles
The Pantry Café hasn’t closed its doors since 1924, and hasn’t changed its menu much either. There’s still a "Steaks & Chops" section, complete with a club steak, hamburger steak, and country-fried steak, spaghetti and meatballs, and roast beef dinner, sides that include a loaf of bread and a gallon of coffee, simple breakfast items, salads of the "mixed with mayo" rather than the "over lettuce" variety, and homemade desserts. It’s an old-fashioned way of eating that’ll never go out of style, especially at 2 a.m.
9) Brookville Hotel, Abilene, Kan.
The dining room at Abilene, Kansas’ Brookville Hotel has been serving its "Family Style Fried Chicken Dinners" since 1915, and it became a local legend during WWII, when soldiers from nearby Camp Phillips and the Smoky Hill Air Base kept it always full. To this day, you can pull up a chair and be served the same home cooking that’s been enjoyed by generations — relishes, coleslaw, cottage cheese, skillet-fried chicken, mashed potatoes with cream gravy, creamed corn, biscuits, and ice cream — for just $14.99.
8) Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco
San Francisco’s legendary Swan Oyster Depot hasn’t changed at all since it first opened on Nob Hill in 1912, and neither has the menu: it’s all about the fresh seafood here. Clams, oysters, lobster, smoked fish, clam chowder, crab Louie, shrimp cocktail… that’s about it. Want a salad? It’s your choice of seafood on top of iceberg lettuce. Now that’s old-school.
7) Yonah Schimmel, New York City
Since 1910, knishes (the gut-busting pastry-wrapped mixture of mashed potatoes and add-ons like spinach, mushrooms, and buckwheat with onions and spices, not the square fried kind) have been sold out of this ancient Houston Street throwback to a time when the Lower East Side was still overflowing with Jewish immigrants. Most visitors don’t make it past the front counter, but should you decide to take a seat in the little-used back dining room, which seats about 25, you’ll be ordering off a menu that very well might be New York’s oldest and most unchanged. A variety of both sweet and savory knishes are obviously the most popular offerings, but they also make some of the best homemade soups, potato latkes, and kugels you’ll ever have. If you truly want to be transported to the old Lower East Side, skip Katz’s and grab a knish.
6) Ralph’s, Philadelphia
Italian immigrant Francesco Dispigno opened this Philadelphia restaurant in 1900, and it’s the oldest Italian restaurant in the country that’s still run by the same family. That "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it" attitude is best realized through the menu, which is classic Italian red sauce through and through. Many of the recipes for sauces, meatballs, pastas, and meat dishes haven’t changed since opening day.
5) The Berghoff Restaurant, Chicago
A true Chicago classic, Berghoff first opened its doors in 1898, serving free sandwiches to guests who bought a mug of beer. Over the years a full roster of German classics made their way onto the menu, but a look at this one from a very long time ago reveals that things haven’t changed very much: that pork shank and the Thuringer sausages with sauerkraut won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.
4) Louis' Lunch, New Haven, Conn.
Louis Lassen is widely believed to have essentially invented the hamburger behind these tiny walls near Yale in 1895, and they stuck with what they do best. Louis' Lunchs menu now contains a whopping three additional items: potato salad, potato chips, and homemade pie. This menu is so unchanging that you cant even get ketchup.
1) Union Oyster House, Boston, Mass.
Widely regarded as America’s longest continuously operating restaurant, this Boston landmark is also serving a menu that’s essentially the same as it’s been since it first threw open its doors in 1826. Shellfish and other seafood including the underappreciated scrod, Boston baked beans, clam chowder, and lobster pots are, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same as what was served nearly 200 years ago.