How Different Did Manhattan’s Menus Look 30 Years Ago?


We recently unearthed a fascinating artifact: A tome titled Manhattan Menus, which was perhaps the Menupages of the pre-Internet era (it was published in 1975). Gathering menus for restaurants that no longer exist (Lutce, La Caravelle, Luchows, etc.) as well as some diehards (Old Homestead, the 21 Club, Le Prigord), its a warp back to a pre-Kobe, pre-locavore time when items were presented in French, appetizers like prosciutto with melons as well as herring in cream were standard, everyone served a vichyssoise, sole was a respectable fish, and entres like beef Stroganoff and Wellington were served unironically. Veal was that times pork, and milk-fed was its grass-fed. Anyway, we dusted off the book and its menus and compared them to their present-day counterparts.

Broadway Joes Steakhouse
ranks among the top steak houses in New York
Evidence of Inflation: Jumbo-shrimp cocktail was $4.25 vs. $15.75 now.
Menu Changes: Youll no longer find herring in cream, broiled sole, or spumoni.

Le Cirque
offers bowing French manners, and ultra-polite atmosphere vs. (New York mag listing) a place designed less for glamorous celebration than a hushed business lunch
Evidence of Inflation: Burgundy escargot was $3.95 vs. $19 now.
Menu changes: Gone are menu items like le kebab dagneau orientale, le dindonneau au bacon (from the charcoal broiler), seviche (from the buffet froid), caviar de Beluga, oeufs Benedictine, entrecte au poivre vert au vinaigre de Bourgogne

El Faro
excellent Spanish cuisine vs. someone still cares about the food, which is comfortingly well prepared.
Evidence of Infation: Paella Valenciana was $6 vs. $22.25 now.
Menu Changes: The old menu didnt include tapas (as it does now), but it did include a barbecued fillet of pork with almond sauce. Its amazing how little the entrees have changed, however, as dishes such as the Chicken Villaroy (a breast of chicken with bchamel cream) are still honored.

El Parador Café
patrons will line up in platoons probably the best Mexican food in the city vs. on an overlooked block first-rate traditional Mexican
Evidence of inflation: Mole poblano was $6.75 vs. $20 now; ropa vieja, $6.50 vs. $21.
Menu Changes: The old menu featured more English and many more basic, familiar dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, and tostadas.

Four Seasons Restaurant
this posh, carriage-trade, spacious, and famous restaurant will make a lasting impression on you and your guests vs. there may be better places to eat in New York City, but this is the single greatest room
Evidence of Inflation: Smoked salmon was $3.50 vs. $32 now.
Menu Changes: Dinner is now prix fixe, as opposed to la carte. Bye-bye to dishes such as calfs brain beurre noir, veal kidneys, frogs legs Provenale, sweetbreads meunire, and seafood pancake.

Grotta Azzura
attracts dedicated cognoscentes from all over town reputation rests primarily on the excellence of its kitchen vs. like Little Italy itself, Grotta Azzurras best days are behind it
Evidence of Inflation: Lasagna was $3.50 vs. $15 now.
Menu Changes: The old menu included no less than eleven varieties of spaghetti (with sauces such as mushroom, tomato, meat, marinara, and clam) and four varieties of calfs liver.

Minetta Tavern
the perfect example of a Greenwich Village saloon, virtually unaffected by the passage of half a century vs. a culinary destination
Evidence of Inflation: Steak was $7.25 vs. $21 now.
Menu Changes: Of course the Minetta used to be a red-sauce joint serving fettuccine, linguine, spaghetti, manicotti, etc. The old and new joints used to share one menu item (frogs legs), but now the dish is off.

Old Homestead
because of its proximity to New Yorks meat packing district, the Homestead is quite naturally renowned for its beef in steak, roast, or stew vs. has seen better days. But it still serves up some of the best steaks in town
Evidence of inflation: Filet mignon was $10.25 vs. $41 now.
Menu Changes: Of course there were no Kobe burgers (or any burgers at all) on the old menu, but there was some exoticism: South African lobster tails, milk-fed Wiener schnitzel la Holstein or with tomato sauce, and whale-sized lobsters. For dessert: Fruit Jell-O.

One if by Land, Two if by Sea
the cuisine is excellent and most rewarding vs. ;the famed beef Wellington is fine, as are the other French and American standards
Evidence of inflation: N/A since the menu used to be la carte and is now prix fixe. Theres now an $8 supplement charge for the beef Wellington.
Menu Changes: No more pt in lingonberry sauce, or melon and Westphalian ham. The curry of chicken and shrimp is also a distant memory.

Le Prigord
has long been classed among the citys better French restaurants vs. a Sutton Place landmark of old-world French cooking
Evidence of inflation: N/A, since the menu used to be la carte and is now prix fixe.
Menu Changes: The menu is pretty much the same, with a few tweaks. For instance, the turbot used to be poached in mousseline sauce; now its a champagne sauce. The roasted duck aux pches is now aux fruits de saison. No longer served: Pigeon en cocotte aux olives.

Russian Tea Room
a happy place which seems always to be celebrating a holiday vs. the power regulars who lost their lunchtime booths in the late Warner LeRoys 1999 $30 million rehab may never be happy here
Evidence of Inflation: Beef la Stroganoff was $11.50 vs. $39 now; Kulebiaka, $9.35 vs. $36.
Menu Changes: The menu used to be heavy on cutlets and incuded dishes like beef Duchesse with mushroom sauce. The Karsky Shashlik (fillet of lamb with kidneys) has been replaced by a lamb tasting.

youll dine well here, of course; but the theatrical gallery is by all odds the feature attraction vs. while the food wont win any awards, you wont be disappointed with traditional favorites like the famed special house antipasto
Evidence of Inflation: Cannelloni au gratin was $6.35 vs. $25.75 now.
Menu Changes: There are some carryovers via the Sardis traditions menu, but the old menu was much larger, with more than twenty appetizers and 30 entres. Youll no longer find dishes like the clam cocktail, corned beef and cabbage, Welsh rarebit, or chicken la King.

21 Club
a meeting place for stage, screen, radio, sports, and jet-set people, supplemented by relaxing tycoons vs. now mostly vintage crowd
Evidence of Inflation: Cold Senegalese soup was $2.65 vs. $14 now; jumbo lump crabmeat, $8.50 vs. $21
Menu Changes: Again, theres some carryover via a Classics menu that includes the jumbo-shrimp cocktail and Caesar salad, but appetizers like smoked whitefish have now been replaced by smoked Berkshire pork belly. Also, you wont fined entres like sauted frogs legs, sweetbreads, or grilled squab.