Tanya Sichynsky likes to collect restaurant menus, and she even has a few of them framed on the walls of her apartment in New York. The menus she displays represent a few of the dinners she had during meaningful moments in her life.
Priya Krishna wrote about menus as a French major in college. For her thesis on cuisine and French culture, she analyzed menus from the banquets held by King Louis XIV.
Both women, editors on The New York Times Food and Cooking team, know there is more on a menu than the food and its price.
“That’s your first point of contact with the ideas or values that a restaurant might have,” Ms. Sichynsky said.
Ms. Sichynsky, Ms. Krishna and Umi Syam, a graphics editor at The Times, were behind a project on restaurant menus that was published last week. By examining more than 100 menus collected from restaurants across the United States, they deciphered some of the trends shaping the dining industry right now. The presentation includes digital scans of dozens of menus, allowing readers to see for themselves the colors, logos and phrases restaurants use to communicate with diners.
Here’s how the project progressed from idea to publication.
Developing Your Recipe
To choose their 2023 list of the 50 best restaurants in America, Food reporters and editors planned to survey dining scenes in different states. It would be a huge reporting effort, with enough legwork to inspire more than one article. Ms. Sichynsky, brainstorming ideas with Ms. Krishna, suggested they had an opportunity to study menus at large. Soon, the team had a directive: While sampling the fare at taverns, bistros and fry shacks for the 2023 national restaurant list, try to take the menus home with you.