Opening the gates of the NYT, and an early restaurant review

Kottke.org, by way of Chuck Taggart’s blog, went nosing about in the recently unlocked New York Times online archive and found the earliest restaurant review. That’s worth reading for many reasons, including a list of the types of dinner to be found in New York in 1859 (Stetsonian! Delmonican!). But what tickled me most was the excerpted account of dining at the last on the list, an unnamed “Third-class Eating-house”:

The noise in the dining hall is terrific. A guest has no sooner seated himself than a plate is literally flung at him by an irritated and perspiring waiter, loosely habited in an unbuttoned shirt whereof the varying color is, I am given to understand, white on Sunday, and daily darkening until Saturday, when it is mixed white and black — black predominating. The jerking of the plate is closely followed up by a similar performance with a knife and a steel fork, and immediately succeeding these harmless missiles come a fearful shout from the waiter demanding in hasty tones, “What do you want now?” Having mildly stated what you desire to be served with, the waiter echoes your words in a voice of thunder, goes through the same ceremony with the next man and the next, through an infinite series, and rushes frantically from your presence. Presently returning, he appears with a column of dishes whereof the base is in one hand and the extreme edge of the capital is artfully secured under his chin. He passes down the aisle of guests, and, as he goes, deals out the dishes as he would cards, until the last is served, when he commences again Da Capo. The disgusting manner in which the individuals who dine at this place, thrust their food into their mouths with the blades of their knives, makes you tremble with apprehensions of suicide…

Not too different from now, except we can add TVs blasting out cable news and twats on cellphones.

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