Tuesday, May 15, 2012


As a man with an interest in dying forms – the book, the printed map, the devilled egg – it probably won’t surprise anybody that I’m also interested in picture postcards. I suppose the impulse behind sending a postcard is no different from that behind sending an email or a tweet, but the physicality of the postcard, the small amount of trouble that’s involved in matching a card to its recipient, buying the stamp, going to the mail box, shows that the sender has made an effort in a way that, for instance, posting an image on Facebook just doesn’t.  When food is involved it’s better still. 

I got dragged along to a “paper show” at the weekend and came away with a few food-related postcard treasures.  I’m not a serious collector, certainly not an “archivist,” I just grab what appeals to me, and it turns out I’d grabbed several postcards showing Chicago restaurants, as you see, above and below.

Now, we all know that the past is another country, that they eat and drink things differently there, and we also know that postcard images rarely tell any version of the truth, but the fact is, the bars and restaurants depicted in these postcards are more elegant and stylish than any restaurant I’ve ever been in, or am ever likely to go, in my entire life. 

A little bit of research reveals that none of these restaurants is still in existence.
Hoi Sai Gai apparently means the Good Old World, so I suppose it may have been on its way out even at the time.  The back of the postcard claimed it was the world’s largest chop suey house.  Its menu looks way less stylish than the place itself.

Fritzel’s, which describes itself on the card as “Chicago’s Beauty Spot,” was included recently 
as one of the city’s all time 40 best restaurants by Chicago magazine, which described it as, “Home of the three-hour lunch for columnists, models, and moguls … Chicago’s version of Toots Shor’s."  Personally I liked it a lot better with the curved bar.

There’s less celebration online for Sheridan’s than for the other two, despite its selling line on the back of the card “Air Conditioned – Smartness – Choicest Foods – Moderate Prices for All.”  There’s now a liquor store and deli in its place.  This picture is from the flickr set of somebody named Cragin Spring.

Among my other scores, the card below for Tillamook cheese.  Interesting that they choose to show the place as a giant industrial facility with “storage plant of 3 million pounds capacity.” Today’s cheese makers would surely show a happy cow and a couple of “artisans.”

And finally this card from Arbogast and Bastian Inc, of Allentown, Pennsylvania for “Heat-n-eat sliced bacon, fully cooked.”  The card is aimed at restaurants that wanted to get their bacon cooking time down to three minutes or so.  There are 300 slices per case. 

“Ideal for all bacon uses,” they add helpfully.

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of a restaurant listing "smartness" among its virtues. Like you could pick up dinner and get some help with your math homework at the same time.