A Brief Historical Tour Through Los Angeles Dining

Bob Timmermann, Senior Librarian, History & Genealogy Department,
House of Pizza menu cover

One of the great advantages of living in Los Angeles is the ability to go out to find cuisine of just about any type. For the last thirty years, the library has helped to document the history of Los Angeles cuisine through our historic menu collection. For years, it was only available to view through appointment, but anyone can view it from the comfort of their own computer.

In recent times, the Menu Collection has been a regular feature at the L.A. Weekly’s Squid Ink blog, and the library shows off some of the more interesting menus as well on a Pinterest board.

The oldest original menu from a Los Angeles restaurant is (as best we can tell as some don’t have dates on them) is from 1875 for a banquet at Don Mateo Keller’s on Alameda. The menu for this rather large feast had “maccaroni and cheese” as one of the entrees, along with curried pig’s feet. It’s unclear whether you got both or you had to choose. Menu Cover | Inside Page

You could skip ahead to some time in the 1920s to the Far East Café, one of the city’s most famous Chinese restaurants, which is actually in Little Tokyo. Menu Cover | Inside Page

For some Hollywood glamour, Musso and Frank’s has been a landmark since 1919, as this menu from 1954 brags. Menu Cover | Inside Page

Although you most certainly could buy sushi earlier than 1980 if you knew where to look, our oldest menu with sushi on it is this one from a restaurant called Amagi, which was on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Inside Page

But not every menu is from a place that would break the bank or just be for the rich and famous. This menu from the 1950s for a barbecue restaurant that had locations in Bell and South Gate called Don’s Bar-B-Q Pit featured an extremely happy-looking pig (that wore human clothes) heading to the restaurant. It is unsure if he was heading for a meal or TO BE the meal. Menu Cover | Inside Page 1 | Inside Page 2

The Burger That Ate LA Menu Cover