5 Top Collectible Historic Restaurant Cookbooks
Restaurant cookbooks are our personal favorite when it comes to collecting. Somehow the thrill of finding recipe books from our favorite restaurants is like no other (well almost…we love autographed books too!). Cookbook Village sells a lot of historic restaurant, inn and B&B cookbooks and often carry inventory that is hard-to-find. We thought we'd explore some of the top collectible historic restaurants and the cookbooks that feature their history and famous recipes. Our list of five of the top collectibles in this theme are reflected below. Enjoy!
1) Famous Recipes from Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House in Historic Savannah Cookbook
Consistently receiving 5 star reviews online, Mrs. Wilke's cookbook, "Famous Recipes from Mrs. Wilkes' Boarding House in Historic Savannah," has remained one of the to selling collectibles at Cookbook Village. We have a hard time keeping it in stock … and it's no wonder. The historic dining room is a top attraction for Savannah's visitors from around the world. Mrs. Sema Wilkes started out served lodgers home-cooked meals at the boarding house and later purchased it with her husband in 1965. Mrs. Wilkes passed away in 2002, but her business lives on through her great-grandson, Ryon Thompson who now runs the timelessly popular establishment. Even President Obama has patronized the restaurant, known for its down-home Southern cooking and family-style meals including Mrs. Wilkes' famous fried chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes and collard greens. The cookbook is very inexpensive, less than the price of many community cookbooks, but is still considered one of the most collectible by our customers.
Author: Sema Wilkes / Mrs. L.H. Wilkes
Format: Hardcover spiral comb bound
Value: $8-$12 Signed; $5-$8 Unsigned
Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room
107 West Jones Street
Savannah, GA 31401
Cuisine: American / Southern
Years in Operation: 1943 - Present
2) The Recipes of Grotta Azzura
Grotta Azzurra Inn published a cookbook that soared in final price at our Cookbook Village eBay auction store where we carry some additional cookbooks next to our main online storefront. Established in 1908, the Little Italy-based restaurant was known for attracting famous diners like Rat Pack actor Frank Sinatra and tenor Enrico Caruso. Its cookbook is one of the hard-to-find restaurant cookbooks that strikes up threads online about where to find it. Many swear by the recipes of the original restaurant owners, giving the cookbook almost a cult following among the restaurant's former customers. All of the recipes printed in the cookbook were handed down from father to son since the 1800's, and each stays true to the original recipe. The Grotta Azzurra is world famous for its Italian meals and Italian-style preparation of seafood. Striped Bass Grotta Azzurra, Lobster Fra Diavolo, and Zuppa Di Pence, Spedini A La Romano, Steak, Chicken, and Sausage Contadino, and recipes for many other delicious dishes are featured inside the restaurant's cookbook. In 1977 the restaurant was closed for six years and reopened in 2003, and evidently had new owners.
Author: John Davinok
Publisher: Davino Enterprises
Format: Softcover spiral bound
Grotta Azzurra Inn
177 Mulberry Street
New York, New York 10013
Years in Operation: 1908-Present
3) Luchow's German Cookbook
Established in 1882, New York City German restaurant Luchow's German Cookbook tops in at number three in our list of the top historic restaurant cookbooks. Some of the recipes from the restaurant's menu found inside Mitchell's cookbook are Barbecued Spareribs, Kassler Rippchen Glacé, Hazelnut Torte and Apple Strudel. We love strudel and are dying to try this recipe out. According to Wikipedia, the restaurant's founder August Lüchow was interestingly able to purchase his restaurant with the help of a loan from William Steinway, son of the the piano giant's founder Henry Steinway. After his death in 1923, Luchow's nephew-in-law Victor Eckstein succeeded him. The cookbook's author Jan Mitchell purchased the restaurant from Eckstein in 1950 and later sold it in 1970. In 1986 after new owners moved the business following a 1982 fire, the restaurant could not regain its popularity and was closed.
Author: Jan Mitchell (owner 1950-1970)
Publisher: Doubleday & Company, Inc
Format: Hardcover with brown and yellow dust jacket
Value: $20-$25 Signed; $8-$12 Unsigned
Luchow's (no longer in operation)
110 East 14th Street
New York, New York
Years in Operation: 1882 - 1986
4) The Russian Tea Room Cookbook
Next on our list of collectible historic restaurant cookbooks is The Russian Tea Room cookbook. A New York institution, the famous establishment was opened in 1927 by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet and has been celebrated on film and TV, along with its famous guests from Dustin Hoffman to Madonna (once a coat check clerk). Originally a tea and pastry shop located on 57th Street in New York City in the 1920's, today the restaurant is known for its continental fine dining, high tea, vodka selection. The cookbook shares all of these elements including recipes for the tea room's Pelmeny Siberian, Bitochki, Blinchiki, Chicken Kiev and even its famous vodka drinks. The cookbook's value like several others in this article, is not particularly high. Collectibility is not jut driven by value, it is driven by demand, availability and several other factors which we outline in our Cookbook Collectibility Ratings http://www.cookbookvillage.com/blogs/cookbook-collecting/5247632-cookbook-collectibility-ratings article on our blog.
Authors: Faith Stewart-Gordon and Nika Hazelton
Publisher: Richard Marek Publishers
Value: $10-$15 unsigned
150 West 57th Street
New York, New York 10019
Cuisine: Tea Room / Russian
Years in Operation: 1927-Present
5) Commander's Palace Cookbook
The South seems to be at the top of the list in terms of the number of collectible restaurant cookbooks that collectors love to own. What top list of historic restaurant cookbooks would be complete without the Commander's Palace Cookbook? The New Orleans Garden District landmark restaurant serves "Haute Creole" dishes shared in its cookbook--from shrimp remoulade and seafood gumbo to oysters Rockefeller. Collectors and patrons of Commander's Palace especially enjoy this recipe book as it full of some of the finest dishes the South has to offer. Established in 1880 by Emile Commander, this restaurant is the oldest dining establishment to make our list. In 1994, Frank and Elinor Moran purchased the restaurant, expanding its menu and carrying on its fine reputation for excellence Ella, Dottie, Dick and John Brennan ("The Brennans") took over management of the restaurant in 1974 and revamped its decor and design. This cookbook was published by the Brennans. As far as collecting goes, this book is easy to obtain online and readily available, not making it especially collectible in terms of availability or price. Still, per our own ratings system, a final collectibility factor is not only based on availability, but also on investment value and popularity. Surely this recipe book is one of the most popular even in the restaurant category.
Author: Ella & Dick Brennan
Publisher: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc.
Format: Hardcover with dust jacket
Value: $20-$25 Signed; $8-$9 Unsigned
1403 Washington Avenue
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
Cuisine: American / Southern
Years in Operation: 1880-Present