Menu To Day!

by Omatic Design

MY DAYS of being a craphound are over. I no longer am some twenty-something designer coolster (if I ever was) saving every weird little piece of Japanese candy packaging, tree bark or random aesthetically delightful tchotchke in the hope of creating a physical environment of creative inspiration. I’m just not into collecting things no mo’.

That said, I do have some things. Things that tell a story. Things that come with a story. Things that transport me to a different place and time. Things that have a profound if unknowable history. Things that tap into the romantic side of my mind and create poignant worlds. Things that I just look at and—gosh darn it—they just make me happy.

What we have here is a menu. A gosh darned fine one if I might say.

The story: I was walking by a commercial restaurant supply joint in Northwest Portland where they deal with a lot of used equipment, the inevitable afterlife of failed restaurant ventures. I came upon a craphound’s delight by the loading zone, obviously from some demolition job. It was a large pile of detritus bound in institutional plastic wrap and destined for the dump. Rusty metal, wood debris and this old menu board. It was saturated in decades of grease and grime. I convinced one of the employees to slash the plastic so I could liberate this piece. He kindly did so, eyes rolling.

It’s a pre-fab all-metal specimen with hand painted type of the brushed-serif variety in a style common to the twenties or thirties. Of course I can’t be sure of this, but that’s part of the beauty of it. I don’t know where it came from and I honestly haven’t tried to find out.

I gently pulled out and cleaned off each slat (some have different offerings on the backside) and the board itself, gave it a hosing off in the backyard and allowed it to dry in the summer sun for fear of rust. I’m a fiend in the kitchen so it always stays mounted directly next to the stove. It makes everything feel somehow whole, as if I have a benevolent culinary ghost watching my back as I sear onions.

The minute I saw it, I realized it a piece of history. How many people looked this board? Where did it hang? Did anyone actually get the stewed prunes? And, look, it has Baked Salmon. This is only something you would see in the Northwest. Every dish is a story. It offers simple meals at fine prices and an egregiously misspelled insult to Hungary. I see fedoras. Unfancy suits and worn shoes. This is the romantic side of it. It’s probably a Depression-era menu from hard times for people looking for a square meal.

I hope you all left whatever establishment full and happy.