Food fashions come and go like fashions of any other kind. The availability of new ingredients, increased knowledge of different cuisines, the imaginations of chefs and restaurateurs, and the simple change in consumer tastes all help shape what the restaurant serves. Each era writes its own menus. These are food fads from the decade you were born.
Until Wolfgang Puck and Alice Waters raised pizza at their hip California restaurants, this beloved Italian specialty was hardly ever seen far from pizza places. It is now a staple of catering, even in establishments with white tablecloths. Twenty years ago, the average American diner had never heard of, let alone tasted, burrata, romesco, kimchi, pork belly or grilled octopus, whereas today it sometimes seems that half of American menus list these items.
Likewise, many of the choices available at restaurants in this country in the 20th century can be hard to come by today. Some basics – Caesar salad, fettuccine Alfredo, roast chicken, steak fries, etc. – turned out to be immortal. But when was the last time a customer of a modern restaurant sat down to a meal of Madrid consomme, brook trout almond and baked Alaska? (Menu permutations aren’t the only transformations that occur. Here are 20 ways restaurants will change in 2021 and beyond.)
Granted, there are still places serving such retro dishes, ironically or not, but it is undeniably an endangered species. Sometimes the raw materials they are based on are endangered species as well, such as abalone and snapping turtle. Other times we’ve gotten too sophisticated (or think we have) to eat old-fashioned picky dishes like Turkey Tetrazzini or Steak Diane.
The old, almost extinct menu classics on this list are all worth tasting, whether or not you want to incorporate them into your regular diet. If you run into them somewhere, give them a try before they are completely gone.