You can buy a piece of food history with the vintage restaurant signage and menus at Cool Culinaria, a newly-launched online gallery. Founded by Charles Baum — self-proclaimed “menu maniac” and art collector with ties to legendary restaurants The Rainbow Room and Windows on The World — the site features menus, artwork and signage from restaurants dating as far back as 19th-century Paris, reformatted into prints and wall hangings.
As lowered printing costs at the turn of the last century allowed for menus to be more commonplace, a creative boom followed to meet competitive standards. Even today, racy imagery like the poster girl for NYC’s famed chop suey joint China Girl has its memorable effects, as much as the elegant Belle Époque posters from 1890s France. Rising food historians will especially obsess over the menus themselves; visually compelling for their design alone, they also offer a vivid cultural narrative of popular tastes, culinary trends and artistic styles through the years. Also check out the shirts.