A Four-Restaurant Town

The Farmstead Federation
Nothing says "I returned from the market seconds ago" quite like a smattering of almost illegible script (in contrast to the farm-to-table philistines who program their crab cake starter years in advance and thus have time to get it all elegantly typeset).
KEY ELEMENTS Handwritten (or printed "handwritten") descriptions; line drawings; exhaustive detailing of the provenance and pedigree of every last blob on the plate.
LOCAL EXPONENTS The Butcher Shop, Craigie on Main, Erbaluce, Island Creek Oyster Bar

The Frenglish Legion
Florid fonts, swirling arabesques, and exotic-sounding foreign terms inject a dose of je ne sais quoi into what’s essentially French diner grub, the croque-monsieur to our ham and swiss. A breathless celebration of the infinite choices conveys conviviality and casualness, as does lamination, says Izzy Berdan, who designs menus for the Aquitaine Group. "It says, ‘You will get this menu dirty – and that’s okay.’"
KEY ELEMENTS Fleurs-de-lis; framed panels; a curious amalgam of French and English.
LOCAL EXPONENTS Aka Bistro, Back Bay Social Club, Brasserie Jo, Eastern Standard, Gaslight, La Voile

Ye Olde Brigade
Bostonians are suckers for history, a truth not lost on gastropub owners, who’ve tapped into that antiquarian exuberance via their menus.
KEY ELEMENTS "Yellowed" paper; avian silhouettes; aggressively vintage fonts deliberately faded to achieve an "oops our letterpress just ran out of ink" look; quaint retro snacks that weren’t even on the menu during the era being emulated; extraneous E’s.
LOCAL EXPONENTS Citizen Pub, the Gallows, Hungry Mother, Lord Hobo, Stoddard’s

The Minimalists
Like highly curated boutiques featuring a single frock or footstool, the spare, uncluttered menu conveys a careful paring-down to only the best. Gone are frilly indulgences like colors, dollar signs, and descriptive detail. It’s a balancing act, says Visual Dialogue’s Fritz Klaetke, who’s designed menus for chef Barbara Lynch. "White space can be a nice separator, but the page can’t look empty."
KEY ELEMENTS Sans-serif fonts; copious white space; nouns.
LOCAL EXPONENTS Market by Jean-Georges, Menton, O Ya, Sportello, T. W. Food

  • samuel

    super cute article! congrats on generalizing an entire city’s food into 4 menu themes. this is the kind of unique and cutting edge reporting that boston’s food scene deserves.

    impressed this actually made the print at boston magazine.

  • samuel

    super cute article! congrats on generalizing an entire city’s food into 4 menu themes. this is the kind of unique and cutting edge reporting that boston’s food scene deserves.

    impressed this actually made the print at boston magazine.