The Californian, New York 1950s
The Californian opened in Times Square, New York City, in 1952, billing itself as the area’s most unusual restaurant.
It was one of a series of eating establishments started by Arthur Maisel, a former salesman in a sporting goods shop.
Ten years earlier, after discussions with a customer who worked as a chef in a café serving ham and eggs, Maisel borrowed $3,000 and opened his own Glorifried Ham n Eggery. He poached the chef and the two men set up shop together.
We think the Glorifried refers to the fact that everything was fried in butter, which would have been expensive during World War II when luxuries were scarce.
Maisel then went upmarket with state-named restaurants that grew into a reputable chain with other restaurants called The Floridian, The Texan, The Virginian, The Georgian and so on.
Each one had a map on the menu cover – The Californian shows the state’s natural attractions, movie industry and beach life.
Shrewdly, Maisel grasped what his customers wanted – good food, reasonable prices ( everything was under $2) and everything served with polish and aplomb. ‘The watercress next to the hamburger is like the corsage to a lady,’ he observed.
Maisel made dining out fun too. His lemon meringue pie was more than half a foot high, he served Sundae Extravaganzas with seven different types of ice-cream and his Gigantic soda was described as ‘a super-colossal, tremendous, overflowing, over-filling, over-spilling, over-powering ice cream soda served in a glass as big as a vase.’
Maisel Restaurants grew to number nineteen before the company was liquidated in the late 1950s.
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.