A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 17, 2013

“Menuspeak” (or “menu-speak”) is the language that is used on menus. Foreign terms are often used and the language is often excessively descriptive, making plain dishes more sound exciting than they otherwise may be. “Menuspeak” has been cited in print since at least April 1981.
The syndicated newspaper columnist Erma Bombeck (1927-1996) wrote a column on the topic on September 21, 1982; one newspaper titled it “Menuspeak is a second language” and other called it “Menu-speak: the newest dialect.”
A similar term is “winespeak.”
24 April 1981, Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA),  “Wine, Part V: Getting the final drops” by Martin Richard Jr., Fun section, pg. 14, col. 1:
Jack Sabin’s offers a wide and sophisticated selection of wines. The list is handsome, there are no annoying menuspeak annotations, and the prices are the best I’ve seen in Baton Rouge.
21 September 1982, Aberdeen (SD) American News, pg. 9, cols. 1-3:
Erma Bombeck
Menuspeak is a second language
I never sit in a restaurant and read a menu that I don’t think of a great group of authors who sit at a desk day after day trying to come up with another name for a fish sandwich or a bowl of clam chowder.
America is fast becoming a bilingual country: English and Menu.
21 September 1982, Hutchinson (KS) News, pg. 10, col. 2:
Menu-speak: the newest dialect
Erma Bombeck
Google Books
Paul Wallach’s Guide to the Restaurants of Southern California
By Paul Wallach
Salt Lake City, UT: Peregrine Smith Book
Pg. 300:
While you can go on a dining orgy here— I did— there is a simpler way to accommodate first-time visitors and those who might be intimidated by formal French menuspeak.
Google News Archive
8 November 1988, Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald “A Cross To Bear,” Good Living, pg. 3, col. 2:
Arguments abound about what constitutes carpaccio. But in menuspeak, it has almost reached the stage now where any raw flesh, fanned out on a plate, can be called carpaccio.
8 February 1991, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Queuing Up for Authentic Food” by Laurie Ochoa, Calendar, pg. 23:
And at breakfast you encounter the menuspeak of California cuisine-there are lots of boasts about Yukon Gold potatoes and Plugra butter.
13 July 2005, Boston (MA) Globe, “To Our Readers,” Food, pg. C3:
Also on the same page is MenuSpeak, another weekly item, which translates an obscure term on a menu.
Seattle (WA) Times
September 1, 2011 at 1:00 PM
Say what? Menu-speak: It’s a foreign language, readers say
Posted by Nancy Leson
Recently, Seattle Times restaurant critic Providence Cicero got a dressing down from a reader regarding Providence’s rave review of Hitchcock. Here’s a taste of the rant:

I think I am a pretty sophisticated diner but I shouldn’t have to look up every other word to find out what you are saying. “What normally sauces gnocchi became a dazzling intermezzo ‘macchiato’.” Strange to say the least. “The lasagna noodles clumped together despite the brodo.” (I can’t even find that word in a dictionary). Or how about “fregola sarda pasta” which you preferred “fregola-free.”
Summer Tomato
Decoding Menuspeak: Navigating the Perilous World of Restaurant Menus
by Darya Rose | Jun 10, 2013
Decoding “Menu Speak”
Excerpt from chapter 12 of Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting
Deciphering what is healthy on a menu is not always straightforward. Restaurants have made an art of luring you in with their words and making dishes sound absolutely irresistible, regardless of how they actually taste. Another problem is that dishes that should be healthy, for instance, a Thai chicken salad, are often loaded with secret ingredients (usually extra sugar, salt, and processed oils) that actually cause them to clock in at way over the number of calories you’d expect (according to the nutrition facts, the Thai chicken salad at California Pizza Kitchen has 1,160 calories). To avoid these traps you need to first learn to decipher menu-speak and then tailor your ordering and special requests to remove the worst offenders.


Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRestaurants/Bars/Coffeehouses/Food Stores • Monday, June 17, 2013 • Permalink

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