Let’s Read An Old Menu! Featuring: Aunt Emma’s Pancakes, San Diego, 1961

Hello, everyone and welcome to Let’s Read An Old Menu! This is the first in what I hope will be a new weekly series looking at restaurant, hotel kitchen, and lunch counter menus from the 19th and 20th centuries. Sometimes things will be familiar, sometimes they’ll be weird. But one thing you can count on is that they’ll almost always have cottage cheese on the menu, and they’ll almost never actually explain what’s in anything.

Before we start I’d like to thank the users of the /r/vintagemenus subreddit, whose vast collection of scans will provide the material for many posts to come. Other great resources include the New York Public Library and the Culinary Institute of America, both of whom have digitized their own menu collections and who are the source for quite a few of those Reddit posts. I’d also like to thank our own Future Ex-Mrs. Malcolm Reynolds, whose Let’s Read An Old Magazine column inspired this one.

What’s For Lunch?

Aunt Emma’s Pancake House, in San Diego, CA, circa 1961.

Is The Restaurant Still There? If Not, What Can We Find Out About It?

Yes! Well, sort of. The San Diego location is long gone, but as of 2019, Aunt Emma’s still operates in Chula Vista and National City (Home, one presumes, of Supergirl!)

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3Apparently we’ve stumbled upon the real international house of pancakes, eh? I grew up knowing German Pancakes as another name for Dutch Babies, a magnificent popover-like dish, but based on the present day menu, what they serve under that name is crepes. In the future I may have more commentary on unique menu items, but this one is more surprising in its breadth than unfamiliar in content (Except maybe the jelly omelette, ick.) I’ve never encountered sourdough french toast before, I’m intrigued but suspicious. Imagine being able to get breakfast this cheap! (I expect I’m going to be saying that a lot while we’re here.)

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A handful of additional items are shown on leaflets off to the side. It’s classic griddle fare all around, nothing as curious as 75 cent latkes or pancakes with freaking coconut in them of all things.

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The back cover depicts tableaus from many of the countries whose pancakes Aunt Emma heartlessly-appropriated– the Africa one feels slightly unfortunate.

Thank you all for reading. Let me know in the comments if this is something you’d like to see me write about more in the future! And if we have any SoCalvocados reading, maybe go eat there and let me know if they’re any good!

Next Time: A combination disco and Mexican restaurant in Montana that’s got some jokey jokes.