Restaurant dining is a mainstay for many Americans. In 2013, 58 percent of American adults reported dining out at least once per week. Restaurants are such staples of culinary culture that we tend to take their modern-day traits for granted. But they went through a lot of changes to become the delicious destinations we know today.
To learn more about old-school American restaurants, we read Repast by Michael Lesy and Lisa Stoffer. Lesy is a professor of literary journalism at Hampshire College, and his wife, Stoffer, comes from a family of chefs. After discovering an archive of old menus held by the New York Public Library, the two were inspired to write a book, released in 2013, to capture the restaurant scene of the early 20th century.
This was a time when Delmonico’s was the standard of New York City dining luxury, hotel restaurants frequently had separate entrances for men and women and “chop suey” was still the popular favorite on Chinese restaurant menus. But some things, we learned, really haven’t changed — waitstaff, it seems, have always been underpaid.
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