Recreating The Elegance of New York In The 60’s

New York in the 60’s

I might be a 21st-century kid but I absolutely hate the lack of formality of today’s world. What happened to dressing up nice for a night out in the city or practicing the art of relaxed dining? It seems to me that the only priority today is doing things as fast as possible and of course capturing it all on camera- if you didn’t film it were you even there? The answer according to my generation is no. I, on the other hand, would argue the contrary. A lack of an Instagram post should not equate to your absence but instead to the proof that wherever you were had you captivated enough to not feel the need to let the world know of your whereabouts. The number of cell phones at a table never ceases to amaze me when I eat out. I find myself questioning whether the service and quality of the food are even noticed.

Liz Weiss
Liz Weiss

What might be considered formal today would be unrecognizable for someone from New York in the 60’s. We suggest nicely placed ribbon patterns that can be used as pour lines. Our goal is to recapture the best of the past as you welcome your guests. Today cocktails like those of the Don Draper/Mad Men era are shaken, and not stirred. It’s interesting to see that plastic has even become acceptable to use for serving those cocktails.

In the old days glasses and plates were small. If you were dining on Park Avenue in the 60’s your 6 oz. wine glasses would be filled to the brim, or you would be served 5 oz. of your favorite on the rocks, or a 10 oz. high ball.  Now glasses are much bigger, thinner and elegant. We suggest trying to emulate the fancy cut crystal of mid-century New York City with stirring jars and julep and cocktail strainers.  Today’s jiggers have gotten tall and slender (Japanese jiggers).

Tabletop manufacturers are paying homage to the era of elegance. We are seeing a return to cut crystal, pressed glass, and etched patterns.  Companies including Steelite are bringing back coupe cocktails with lace patterns on the rim and base.

During the age of elegance the focus was on a smaller plate and glass. Today that has evolved into a larger plate and a larger glass being the accepted norm for restaurants to make its presentation statement. The larger the plate or glass the more elegant in today’s dining world. Decades ago table linen was a must as well as an ashtray at the middle of every table. Now instead of an ashtray there is an Ipad for customers to order on.

NYSRA February 2019 728×90

Mickey Mantle’s New York featured standard dinner plates of 9”-9.5”. Today they are typically 11”-12”.  They usually were a heavily decorated off white plates with one color decorations and lace like patterns. They are back, but technology has allowed these decorations to be more intricate. Scallop edge plates are in a resurgence.

What was a 7” fork has now evolved into an 8-9” fork to match the larger dinner plates. Today, we equate large with elegance. Today there are fewer flatware items.  Fish knives and forks and a sauce spoon are destined for the Sunday Times crossword puzzle. 

It’s fascinating when you look at old menus. There were lots of overcooked meat and potatoes with butter in New York in the 60’s. Today’s fare is much lighter fresh and colorful and healthier. Great steaks are still a favorite even as vegan and vegetarian dishes allowing everyone the treat of a night out.

Formal dinner service at restaurants and clubs in the 60’s had a very different look. Then, you would never serve family style outside the home. Today you see it everywhere.  Our H. Weiss team can help you with finding that right blend between nostalgia and the needs of today’s dining public.

With Fashion Week last month in Manhattan, I can’t help but think about how diners dressed in the 60’s. Women had a black dress and pearls and the gentleman wore a suit and tie.  Today you will probably see athletic wear with a fancy watch.

It’s easy to say that there is less expense account entertaining, partially because of tax codes, but I personally think it is because we want to go home and spend time with our families and doing what we want. Thankfully for all of us, that includes eating out.

Have a great Fall and remember our H. Weiss team is here to help with giving your catering service a fresh take and keeping it fresh and creating signature concepts for your customers.

Liz Weiss
Liz Weiss is the President and co-owner of Armonk, NY based H. Weiss Co., a division of BHS Foodservice Solutions. She is known nationally as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on tabletop design. The Michigan State graduate is also actively involved with WPO-Women’s Presidents Organization. Comments may be sent to