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15 Bizarre and Totally Cool Vintage Menus

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    Photo: Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Special Collections.

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    It's hard to believe that just 50 or so years ago, you could get a quarter-pound burger for 50 cents and a shrimp-and-avocado salad for $1.45.

    Thanks to the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, we now have physical proof of such prices. Starting June 13, the foundation will host a major exhibition, "To Live and Dine in L.A.," at the Central Library, showcasing menus from the long-lost era of cheap diners, Hollywood hangouts, and Lawry's $3.75 prime rib.

    For non-Angelenos, an accompanying book will feature select menus from 1875 to the 1980s, including one for a 1906 dinner from the social Jonathan Club, a 1959 menu from Dean Martin's Dino Lodge, and yes, some Canter's covers from the 1980s.

    "The menu can be a gateway into someone's soul, even if there is no menu at all," chef Roy Choi writes in the book foreword. It's particularly telling when you see Spago's illustrated menu from the 1980s, or a Cantonese restaurant's rum-centric cocktail recipe. And, as any food lover will learn, the menus showcase who was cooking what, when, and where in the city. Here, we've rounded up a few of the most visually enticing menus through the ages, including the risqué cover of Paris Inn, where diners could get a full French-Italian dinner for $1.50 in 1930, complimentary cocktail included.


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