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Last week, I posted about the The Gustavademecum for the Island of Manhattan, a delightfully geeky, DIY-made, mid-20th century dining guide produced by a physical chemist for the benefit of traveling scientists and engineers.
One of the key features of the guide was an elaborate series of symbols and letters that provided a lot of information about various restaurants in a small amount of space—and which look like some kind of crazy alchemical shorthand. In the original post, I included a page from the guide, so you can look at that to see the symbols in action.
Hugh Merwin, who wrote the story on The Gustavademecum for Saveur, also scanned a page from the guide's key, which didn't appear in the original story. You can see some of it above, and visit his personal website to see the full key.
This is a page from Gustavademecum for the Island of Manhattan: A Check-List of the Best-Recommended or Most Interesting Eating-Places, Arranged in Approximate Order of Increasing Latitude and Longitude — Prepared for the convenience of mathematicians, experimental scientists, engineers, and explorers. Which is possibly the best name for a dining guide ever.
Physical chemist Robert Browning Sosman passed this pocket-sized guidebook out at conferences and updated it regularly between 1941 and 1962.
The key feature: Sosman's ... somewhat unique ... observations about the restaurants he visited. And the fact that much of that information was encoded in a sort of proprietary shorthand, cribbed from scientific symbols. The result looks something like a cross between restaurant listings and an alchemist's workbook.
In each of the guide's at least 15 editions, Sosman reviewed 300 restaurants, relaying facts like cuisine and cost, as well as esoteric observations like tableside lighting (measured in lumens) and waiters' estimated IQs. All of it was written in a mashup of mathematical figures, glyphs, Greek, and astrological symbols. A sigma meant there was samba dancing. A lowercase "m" suggested that Madison Avenue types frequented the restaurant
Sadly, the Saveur.com story that this comes from doesn't include a cheat sheet guide to deciphering Sosman's shorthand. A major disappointment. Perhaps one of you can add to the information here?
A waitress poses inside an egg-shaped dining booth at an A380 theme restaurant during a media event before its official opening in Chongqing municipality, April 25, 2012. Special Class, the name of the restaurant, is about 600 square metres in size, including the six private rooms, and can serve up to 110 customers, local media reported. The restaurant officially started business on May 1, 2012. (REUTERS)
Here's a sentence I never expected to type: You should really read the Grand Forks Herald's review of The Olive Garden.
This is in North Dakota, for those not familiar. With almost 100,000 people in the metro area, it's the third-largest city in the state. It recently got its first Olive Garden and critic Marilyn Hagerty got in ahead of the lunch rush.
The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting ...
At length, I asked my server what she would recommend. She suggested chicken Alfredo, and I went with that. Instead of the raspberry lemonade she suggested, I drank water.
She first brought me the familiar Olive Garden salad bowl with crisp greens, peppers, onion rings and yes — several black olives. Along with it came a plate with two long, warm breadsticks.
There are several things to love about this review. For me, it's about the nostalgia. If you grew up in places where Olive Garden and Red Lobster really were the best restaurants in town, you can't help but feel a warm twinge of homesickness reading this. It's not judgement. I can't judge. I chose to go to Applebee's for my fancy high school graduation dinner.
But the best part about this review comes from some background information dug up by intrepid Duluth News reporter Brandon Stahl. In the course of verifying that this was, in fact, a real review, he uncovered something wonderfully upper-Midwestern. First, read the full review. Done that? Great. Now, get this—that was not a positive review of The Olive Garden.
Stahl talked to a former Grand Forks Herald editor who says, "By the way, [Marilyn Hagerty's] regular readers will recognize that as a fairly negative review since she spent a lot more time on the ambience than the food."
Cultural context: It's the difference between a glowing review, and a passive-aggressively negative one.
Via David Brauer
Here's a guide to the specialized sign language used by the Maitre D' and staff at NYC's swanky Eleven Madison Park restaurant; there's also a set of traffic rules to keep things moving smoothly (staff walk clockwise and keep right, guests and staff leading guests have right of way, followed by hot food, cold food, empty plates, and then empty-handed staff).
(via Beth Pratt)