Fascinating Images of America’s Finest Mid-Century Restaurants

Historian and author Peter Moruzzi is an expert on mid-century architecture, nightlife, and classic dining. For decades, this resident of Los Angeles and Palm Springs has collected the postcards and paper ephemera that helped form the basis of his books Palm Springs Holiday (a romp through Palm Springs from the early 20th century to the 1960s) and Havana Before Castro: When Cuba was a Tropical Playground. Now, thanks to the images and essays in his brand-new cultural history, Classic Dining: Discovering America’s Finest Mid-Century Restaurants, we can explore what it was like to swagger one’s way into swanky dining establishments in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, and New Orleans during the Mad Men era. Learn about the establishments, some still with us and many long gone, where shish kabobs and bananas foster were grandly presented in flames, Caesar salad was prepared tableside, prime rib was served from fancy carts, and dishes such as oysters Rockefeller and lobster thermidor were the norm. Check out some of the images, along with commentary from the author, after the jump.

Photo courtesy Mai-Kai Inc.

Mai-Kai, Fort Lauderdale, as it looks today

Built in 1956 and later expanded, the Mai-Kai still lures crowds eager to embrace the Tiki culture popularized after World War II. For many years, the Mai-Kai sold more rum than any restaurant or bar in the United States.

Peter Moruzzi: “The Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is without a doubt the best surviving Polynesian restaurant in America. Here, the great Tiki supper club practices of flaming food, expert cocktail mixology, ritual drink presentations, and live Polynesian floor shows can still be witnessed in a tropical setting.”