Modern restaurants with vintage food thread

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by BigBrother, Nov 10, 2020.

  1. BigBrother

    BigBrother Familiar Face

    Messages:
    58
    So! If there's anything I like as much as vintage dance, clothing, and films, it's the food of yesteryear.

    It's nearly an addiction. Continental food, "chop suey"-variety Chinese, Eastern European deli food... I've found that food from before the 1970s is so much more my taste- a lot more savory, rich, creamy... just flavors I relish. Whether it's lobster newburg, various stews and roasts, innumerable French-inspired (or -imitated) dishes, I just love them all. Give me a book of old menus and lose me for hours.

    Unfortunately it's fared almost worse than the clothing of the era. It's nearly impossible to find this sort of food anymore, yet I feel there must be a few places people know of that still dish it out, be they in the US or elsewhere. So I'll start...
     
  2. BigBrother

    BigBrother Familiar Face

    Messages:
    58
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
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  3. BigBrother

    BigBrother Familiar Face

    Messages:
    58
    China Cafe in Downtown LA's Grand Central Market prides itself on the gloriously inauthentic Chinese of the past that it serves (egg foo young, chop suey, etc.) They've been doing it I think for eighty years!
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
  4. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Messages:
    21,643
    Location:
    London, UK
    If you ever get to London and want to splash out a little, try Rules on Maiden Lane. The UK's oldest restaurant, Rules has been in business in an unbroken run since 1798 (yip, the tail end of the eighteenth century!), and owned by just three families in that time. Last changed hands in the late 30s / 40s, from memory. They specialise in very traditional 'British' cuisine - house specialities include the rack of beef ribs; I'm especially fond of the steak and kidney suet pudding. It's our normal anniversary haunt, which falls in mid August, just in time for the Glorious Twelfth to put grouse soup on the menu as a starter. They do specialise in a lot of game, and all meats come from their own estate in Scotland. Never had a bad meal in there. The decor is also wonderfully eclectic. I've eaten in many places, including the Ritz on Picadilly (I took my now wife there for dinner on her first birthday while we were together), but Rules remains my favourite.

    rules.co.uk
     
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  5. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Any strip-mall Chinese joint in the Northeast will still have the traditional stuff. I always go to one on Christmas Eve.
     
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  6. Zombie_61

    Zombie_61 I'll Lock Up

    The Original Pantry Cafe, known to the people I know as simply "The Pantry". Established in 1924, it's a throwback to the Los Angeles diners from that era. I've never had a bad meal or bad service there; I only wish they still used 1924 prices.

    Pie 'N Burger. Opened in 1963 it's not much more than a diner counter with a handful of adjacent tables. Simple menu - sandwiches, burgers, a bowl of chili or a chicken pot pie, an assortment of pies, beverages, etc.. Nothing fancy, but they use fresh ingredients. Absolutely the best burgers in southern California unless you want that hipster crap with arugula, bean curds, and 10 varieties of ramen.
     
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  7. Haversack

    Haversack One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,111
    Location:
    Clipperton Island
    San Francisco still has a few restaurants that meet your needs. (Although they are getting fewer).

    Oldest is Tadich Grill. Dating back to an 1849 coffee cart, Tadich is primarily a fish house, (you can get liver, bacon and onions though). Menu is printed every day so they can list what came in. You can choose how you want it: Grilled, poached, deep-fried, baked, etc. They also have their standards such as cioppino and several seafood casseroles. A businessmen's place with dark wood, curtained booths and white coated staff who know their stuff.

    Sam's Grill. Smaller and less well-known than Tadich but pretty much the same approach. A different Croatian family owns it. The sand dabs are particularly good. Its only been around since 1867.

    Original Joe's. A San Franciscan Italian place that has been around since 1937. Invented a quick businessman's lunch known as Joe's Special - a scramble of ground beef, spinach, egg, mushrooms, and onions. They do their own butchering. Big upholstered booths, tuxedoed waiters, and yet a different Croatian family behind it.

    Tommy's Joynt. One of the few surviving hof braus in Northern California. Founded by band leader Tommy Harris in 1947, Tommy's has a long cafeteria line of carving stations and a busy bar. Buffalo Chili is a specialty.

    Hang Ah Tea Room. A dim sum place located down a Chinatown alley since 1920. There are newer, fancier place to eat dim sum, (and frankly Hang Ah used to be better), but it survives by being reliable and inexpensive. Although not as cheap as it used to be before the guidebooks found it.
     
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  8. BigBrother

    BigBrother Familiar Face

    Messages:
    58
    Loving all this stuff, thanks everyone! Still though I'm seeing the sorts of places I was expecting (mostly burgers, chop houses, seafood, etc.) Definitely keep them coming, but the real challenge for me has been Continental cuisine. If you've ever perused a New Year's Eve menu from 1937 or seen a vintage hotel or cruise ship's dinner offerings, you'll know what I mean. In fact I'll dig up a few examples...

    http://menus.nypl.org/menus/decade/1940s

    (This site, btw, is superb. I've actually visited the NYPL on 42nd St/Bryant Park during an exhibit of their menus and for someone like me it was heaven!)

    You'll notice many dishes with French sauces (anything "ala "), things along those lines. It's a long shot, but those are really the sorts of dishes/restaurants I'm after. (Unfortunately modern French doesn't really do this style, and classic French, which remains few and far in between in the US, isn't quite it either.) Keep the rest coming, but anyone have any leads on these?

    Oh, and it's worth mentioning- you tend to see these sorts of dishes, when you can encounter them, at old, old Italian restaurants as well. It's fascinating (well, to me at least :)), this pseudo-Gallic/Continental style was considered, back in the day, simply the high-end of dining, so places would shoehorn it in. Here's a great example:

    https://www.littletonis.com/Seafood/

    The Shrimp Scampi Marnier, which I've had, is *exactly* this sort of dish- French-inspired, wine-based, just *tastes* like the old style of cooking and is through and through a vestige from Little Toni's 1950s days. I can virtually guarantee you no new Italian restaurant would have this dish or anything like it on the menu (you'd have to taste it to know what I mean.)

    Anyway, again, don't let me distract or deter other suggestions, but for any of you who have leads on these unicorns, *please* do share! :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
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  9. Frunobulax

    Frunobulax

    Messages:
    15,894
    Location:
    Funkytown, USA
    While it would seem you should be able to find such fare in the bigger cities (NYC, LA, etc.), I would suggest you make a trip to New Orleans. Old school French is still very much en vogue there, and many of the restaurants have been serving for over 100 years. Antoine's and Arnaud's are the most famous, Tujagues's is another. While the food scene in NOLA also pushes modern boundaries, there is still a solid strain of classic cooking still being practiced there.
     
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  10. Cornelius

    Cornelius A-List Customer

    Messages:
    434
    Location:
    Great Lakes
    I'll second @Frunobulax's comment regarding New Orleans.

    Midwestern U.S. cities abound with restaurants like this. Here's a few which immediately come to mind:

    Le Bouchon in Chicago has cuisine of a tradition specific to Lyon. Fantastic cassoulet, and duck confit makes a menu appearance with some frequency. Unfortunately the family's sister restaurant, La Sardine, closed permanently due to Coronavirus restrictions.

    For a classic steakhouse, you can't beat Gene & Georgetti's, a place where many deals have gone down over the past 75 years (including Siskel & Ebert being swayed to switch their weekly film review show from public television to private with the promise of fat, fat paychecks - both died millionaires). Fancy a Schnitzel? Try the Berghoff, run by the same family in the same location for 121 years, and with their own house beer, it's a favorite lunchspot of judges & lawyers at the nearby Federal courthouse. Famously also the last bar in the city to admit women. Both of these joints are of the sort featuring waiters in crisp whites who are 72 years old and have worked there since they were about 14.

    For the sort of dinner-before-a-show Italian restaurant that looks like its menu & decor haven't changed since Sinatra was a teen, try Italian Village. Their lunch bartender's been working there for over 60 years.

    For a smaller Italian restaurant with a very neighborhood feel, try Bruna's. They make their own pasta on site, naturally, and have an exclusive contract with an Italian vineyard to supply their house wine.

    Just south of downtown, near Chicago Fire Department headquarters, is the classic deli Manny's, where all local politicians must make their appearance, including Obama. They were hit pretty hard with the pandemic's loss of business, but customers came through to save the place.

    Ninety miles north, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Comet Cafe does traditional diner dishes exceptionally well (though with more vegetarian options than would've been the norm), and, pre-covid, was open quite late.
     
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  11. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,249
    Location:
    vancouver, canada
    Helen's Grill on Main & 25th.....the last joint in town that has liver and onions on the menu. Bert's down the street used to but he sold and the new owners modernized the menu......took off the liver and replaced it with avocado toast.
     
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  12. Haversack

    Haversack One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,111
    Location:
    Clipperton Island
    If its classic French Continental Dining that you are hankering for, then down the Peninsula from San Francisco is place that should scratch that itch. In Belmont on El Camino Real is the Iron Gate Restaurant. White tablecloth, tableside flambeed dishes, and here's their dinner menu. Its in its own free-standing building with the owners' apartment on top and its parking lot was its own neon sign.

    San Francisco has seen many of its actual French restaurants close in the past year. (Not necessarily due to Covid). Two of my favorites, La Folie and the Jeanne d'Arc closed because their owner-chefs retired after 30-40 years of serving respectively, large portions of imaginative modern French cuisine, and classic Lorraine dishes. The Jeanne d'Arc had what an old girlfriend called the best non-chocolate desert she had ever had: a Grand Marnier souffle. There are still several bistros and a few brasseries thriving. Casual service of Moules or Steak Frites, Buckwheat Galettes, decent burgers, etc. One of the better brasseries, Le Central, (around since the 1974), still has white tablecloths and a cassoulet that has been simmering away for 16,533 days as of last year. They are currently closed but will hopefully survive.
     
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  13. Haversack

    Haversack One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,111
    Location:
    Clipperton Island
    Concerning the new owners of the place replacing liver with avocado toast on their menu: I think they're missing a bet combining the two. Chicken livers and avocados on toast is a classic breakfast dish that goes back to 1919 at the St. Francis Hotel.
     
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  14. belfastboy

    belfastboy I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,249
    Location:
    vancouver, canada
    I think our city's large millennial vegan cohort would object strenuously!
     

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