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Lobster Salad Sandwich: 1953

Lobster Salad Sandwich: 1953

Jan. 17, 1953. New York. "Schrafft's, New Chrysler Building. Interior IV." Highly developed example of a genre of eatery once known as "quick service lunch," now more generally called "fast food." Gottscho-Schleisner photo. View full size.


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At least

in the luncheonette they served actual food, in my experience of the 1960s.

Fast food as typified first by A&W in 1964 then McD a few years later around here was shoe leather by comparison. I avoided those places based entirely on taste. A good club sandwich and proper fries never figured at the fast food burger joints ever. After 50 years of rubber fake grilled pork and chicken that never hit the ground running, I kind of miss the old days when personal service and a decent meal could be had at a reasonable price.

This place looks like the palace version of a luncheonette. Would have liked to eaten there, uncomfy stools and all.

National Cash Register

The cash registers are Class 6000 models from The National Cash Register Company. The registers pictured had two drawers providing a separate drawer for two operators. Each operator would be accountable for their drawer.

Note the "Wilmark" sign on the top left of the register. Wilmark was a "Mystery shopper" service.

Great Place To Eat

I remember my mom taking me here either before or after we went to Radio City Music Hall for a show.

If I remember correctly (and I could be wrong), that the food came from a "hidden" kitchen behind the opening in the wall just below the Cream Of Mushroom Soup sign. It seems that each U-shaped counter has such an opening.

Recollections, anyone?

Quick Service Lunch

We called such places "luncheonettes". Maybe Schrafft's was a bit too upscale for that.

I'd choose the corner seat. It would best accommodate my wide stance.


Love the use of mirrors to really expand the visual space.

Just before opening?

The clock image is reversed since we are seeing it in the mirror. It's about 11:10. Two coffee pots are full, one on the warmer in the near area and another waiting in the service opening of the next area over. I'm guessing it's AM and Schrafft's opens at 11:30.

Shelves and stuff

Technically, the shelves under the counter were called "parcel shelves" but most often contained ladies' purses. Many of this type restaurant were located in department stores (I liked the lunch counter in "Woolworth's" myself) and the shelves gave one somewhere to stash small items to keep them out of the way of the food. As for ashtrays, just ask and the waitress will put one up for you, along with a book of matches.

Front and center

is an example of the worlds largest, 2200 pound, and judging by the size, possibly steam operated cash register.

Ring It Up

It looks like each counter had its own cash register. That means that the server handled the food and collected the cash and made the change. I remember eating at counters like that. I don't remember them wearing gloves. I also don't remember any outbreaks of illness caused by the lack of those sanitary procedures. I kind of think they really came into play during the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s.

"New" Chrysler building?

So this is not the 1930's Chrysler building on Lexington Ave? It certainly wouldn't be considered "new" in 1953- what building is this?

No ashtrays

The clock says 1:55 so I assume that's AM. Everything has been cleaned and set up for the next day. I bet those ashtrays are right under the counter.

My Mother Waitressed Here

Mom was a waitress at this Chrysler Building Schrafft's in 1946-47. She moved from West Virginia to New York to go to the Barbizon modeling school, and supported herself by working at Schrafft's and roomed with 3 other newcomers to the city. Though she later went back to WVa and married my Dad, her New York memories were a point of pride and pleasure for the rest of her life. Once, when a couple of diners stayed at their Schrafft's table until after closing time, delaying the staff's departure, Mom and another waitress stood aside in a corner and softly sang, "Goodnight Ladies."

Little design features

I love the storage bins under the counter. Not so much with the love for the bolted-to-the-floor seats. We aren't all the same size!


Where does the person behind the counter get in and out?


I love the little shelves under the counter at each seat, I guess to put your purse or scarf, or whatever you carried with you. Also, the register at each station is very efficient.

Oh wow!

I'll have the lobster salad san, the mushroom soup, and one of those big slices of layer cake -- and a glass of water. I'm watching my weight, you know.


No ashtrays in sight; seems very rare for this period. I would love to have lunch here! Love it.

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