Freedman’s fascinating study, well fleshed-out with historical and cultural detail, doesn’t seek to list the best restaurants the country has ever seen. Instead, he identifies those which captured and defined important turning points in the way Americans ate and, especially, dined out. In doing so he illuminates huge swaths of American culinary history by placing each of his choices in context. Just as it is impossible to discuss Howard Johnson’s without addressing other mass eateries such as McDonald’s and White Castle, Freedman’s chapter on Chez Panisse acknowledges the restaurant’s enduring influence as well as the ambivalence some people feel about the praise heaped upon it. (Also here: Delmonico’s, Antoine’s, Schrafft’s, Mama Leone’s, The Mandarin, Sylvia’s, Le Pavillon, The Four Seasons). Freedman, a professor of history at Yale, offers a very insightful tour.
Color and black-and-white photographs. Paperback.