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Dining Out In The 1950s



In the "car culture" of the 1950s, any restaurant that allowed us to stay in our cars was bound to be popular! Thus was born the drive-in restaurant, complete with curb service and carhops.

Didn't the food somehow taste better from a car window tray?

While most drive-ins were privately owned, there were a number of popular drive-in chains. These included A&W, Dog n' Suds (1953) and McDonalds (1955).

McDonalds History
Hamburger Hall Of Fame
The Drive-In Restaurant Page
Dog n' Suds
Save The Crossroads Drive-In
Vintage Eateries

The Spot, 1955

The famous Snow Cap on Route 66

Bud's Drive-In

Many drive-ins had a round "aerodrome" design. An abundance of neon transformed them into wonderlands after dark.

hamburger joints
ice cream

White Castle
Burger King (1954)
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Tastee Freez (1950)
Dairy Queen
Tony Packo's

During the 1930s and 1940s, Colonel Harland Sanders served his famous fried chicken at the Sanders Court & Cafe, a restaurant/motel complex in Corbin, Kentucky. In the early 1950s, a new interstate highway was built nearby which completely bypassed Corbin, taking away much of Sanders' business. In 1952 he auctioned off his complex and began to assemble a network of restaurants that would sell his Kentucky Fried Chicken on a franchise basis. He allowed them to prepare and sell his chicken, but the actual recipe for those "11 herbs and spices" remained a closely guarded secret, and is still a secret to this day.

Kentucky Fried Chicken History
White Castle
The First Burger King
Tastee Freez
Tony Packo's

Howard Johnson's

family restaurants
casual restaurants

Howard Johnson's
Big Boy
Horn & Hardart Automat
Brown Derby
Dutch Pantry
Dutch Cupboard

Bob's Big Boy opened in 1936.
The Big Boy chain was born in 1952 when the first franchise was sold to the Elias brothers in Michigan.

Very retro...
stone facade, pastel colors, sweeping lines and check out that sign!

Howard Johnson's
Bob's Big Boy
Automat History
Meet Me At The Automat
Good Eats: Restaurant Postcards
Howard Johnson's History
Bob's Big Boy Official Site
The Brown Derby

Along with soda fountains and lunch counters, these factory-built eateries had their last hurrah in the 1950s.

Ohio Diners
Diner City
New Jersey Diners
Silver Diners Of Upstate New York
The American Diner

Tips On Tables: Restaurants & Nightclubs

fine dining
supper clubs

In the city, an evening of dining and dancing was considered the height of glamour. Many of the best restaurants were located in hotels.

More than a restaurant, but not quite a nightclub, the supper club was born in the 1930s. Supper clubs were open during the evenings only, and provided smaller towns with a touch of dining elegance. They were all-inclusive nightspots, with dinner, dancing and perhaps some live entertainment all in one place. Many supper clubs were located in vacation areas, where they operated in conjunction with resorts.

In New York, Sardi's was popular with the theater crowd and featured hundreds of colorful celebrity caricatures on the walls. In Chicago, the Walnut Room at Marshall Field's was a popular luncheon spot for stylish shoppers. The Blackhawk Restaurant introduced their famous Roast Beef Cart and Spinning Salad Bowl.

In the 1950s many restaurants and supper clubs were adopting the popular new Polynesian tiki decor. Nowhere was this style more prevalent than in the Trader Vic's chain of restaurants.

New York City
Eden Roc
The Embers
21 Club
Savoy-Plaza Hotel:
-------Trader Vic's
-------Empire Room
Hotel Biltmore:
-------Charcoal Grill Room
Pierre Hotel:
-------Cotillion Room
The Four Seasons
Plaza Hotel:
-------Persian Room
-------Oak Room
-------Palm Court
Russian Tea Room
Blackhawk Restaurant
Marshall Field's:
-------Walnut Room
Edgewater Beach Hotel:
-------Polynesian Room
The Berghoff
Palmer House:
-------Trader Vic's
-------Empire Room

Los Angeles
Beverly Hills Hotel:
-------Polo Lounge
La Rue
Dino's Lodge
Villa Nova



soda fountains
lunch counters

Most drug stores had soda fountains, and variety stores like Woolworth's had lunch counters. They were perfect for grabbing a quick bite during your lunch break or while shopping downtown.

1956 Woolworth's menu

The soda jerk got his name from the jerking motion he made when pulling the soda handle

soda shops
malt shops

Young people enjoyed meeting, eating and listening to the jukebox at the local soda shop.

What's playing?

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Dining Out (page 2)

other pages in this section:
Travel & Nightlife
Shopping & More
Town & Country

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