“There is a 1960’s menu from the House of Lee in Oakland, Calif., featuring ‘fried ravioli,’ better known as wontons; a dog-eared menu from Mon Lay Won, a turn-of-the-century New York City restaurant that called itself ‘the Chinese Delmonico’s’; and one from Madame Wu’s Garden in Los Angeles, a favorite of Cary Grant and Mae West.
The bills of fare, gathered over the years by Harley Spiller, who has amassed a number of curious collections in his Upper East Side apartment, may be the ultimate road map to the Chinese restaurant’s extraordinary trek across the American landscape.
Excerpts from Mr. Spiller’s collection are the centerpiece of a new exhibition at the Museum of Chinese in the Americas in Chinatown about a rarely examined phenomenon: the Chinese restaurant in America.
There are now close to 36,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States, according to Chinese Restaurant News, a trade publication, more than the number of McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King franchises combined. What began in this country as exotic has become thoroughly American. A study by the Center for Culinary Development, a food product development company, found that 39 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 13 who were surveyed said Chinese was their favorite type of food, compared to only 9 percent who chose American.”
More here from the New York Times.