In the 1960s, Americans were putting decades of wars, food rations, fish sticks, casseroles, and TV dinners behind them. Incomes were rising. French cuisine was en vogue and entertaining became a grand affair. Keep reading to see what foods were popular during the 1960s and which are making a return in the 2020s.

This article was originally published in January 2017; updated in January 2023.

1960s woman retro food

Americans Discover Elegant French Food

Back in the 1960s, French food and culture were suddenly within reach with jet travel. Jacqueline Kennedy brought a French chef into the White House as executive chef. Julia Child wrote Mastering The Art of French Cooking and The French Chef went on the air, giving Americans a taste of French cooking and the confidence to do it themselves.

Housewives served fricassees, gratins, aspics, chocolate mousse, and anything “amandine” at chic dinner parties. Fine dining restaurants were at the height of elegance with menu items like beef wellington, salmon mousse, beef bourguignon, fondue, and flambé.

Beef Wellington Is Back, Baby

The showy, complicated dishes from the 1960s never went away completely, but it’s been some time since we’ve seen a flambé cart or an old-school beef Wellington on the menu. As of this writing, chefs are using unexpected and fresh ingredients to create new incarnations of these elegant retro classics. Like so many food trends these days, what’s old is new again…but with a twist.

According to Google Trends – a Google tool that provides analytical data of top Google search queries across various regions and languages – searches for “beef wellington” have inched up in the last 10 years or so with notable peaks around Christmastime, especially in December 2020. Perhaps folks had more time on their hands that year?

More interesting, though, Google Trends shows related search terms that include “beef Wellington restaurant near me” and “best beef Wellington near me.” If that’s not an invitation to put it on your menu, we don’t know what is!

The same is true for the term “beef bourguignon.” On Google Trends we see “beef bourguignon near me” as a related term along with Ina Garten and InstaPot recipe searches.

Elegant Retro Food Trends On The Menu

Back in 2017, FDR’s Chef Katie Sutton couldn’t help but notice these elegant retro food redos showing up on menus in her hometown, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. Here are a few of the most notable she’s seen.

  • Oxtail Marmalade (Beef on Toast) – FDR Chef Sutton’s Holiday Party
  • Oxtail French Onion Soup (Onion Soup) – The Federal, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Chicken Liver, Onion Jam, Grilled Bread, and Apple Vinegar (Liver and Onions) – Hatchet Hall, Culver City, California
  • Fried Chicken Coq Au Vin, (Coq Au Vin) – Convivial, Washington DC
  • Soft Scrambled Eggs and Black Winter Truffles, Soft Scrambled Eggs and Uni, Soft Scrambled Eggs and Black River Osetra Caviar (Eggs on Toast) – Republique, Los Angeles, California
  • Tournedos Rossini – Republique, Los Angeles, California
  • Steak Tartare, Mustard Cream, French Fries, Fried Egg (Steak Tartare) – Marche Moderne, Newport Beach, California
  • Salmon Oscar (Veal Oscar) – Pappadeaux, Maggiano’s, Morey’s, all over the US

Of course, it’s not always high-end dishes from the 1960s that remained popular. Even macaroni casseroles and meatballs continue to shine.

Why Did These 1960s Food Trends Return?

Is it enough to say that all things good come back around again? Heck, even not-so-great things make a return. (We’re looking at you, “mom jeans.”) But it’s true. Foods that were once popular often find their way back to the plate.

It could be that retro foods have returned to the social consciousness in the early 2020s because many of these foods rely on using all parts of an animal or plant to ensure nothing goes to waste, and consumers love that sustainability aspect. It may also be that home cooks and local restaurant chefs had more time during the pandemic years to research and cook complicated recipes or long-lost recipes from their youth and now we continue to reap the benefits.

As of early 2023, many restauranteurs and restaurant brands are working toward the “dining as an experience” concept to compete with takeaway and delivery. Some things aren’t great for takeout – like soups, sauces, fondues, and the like. Perhaps that’s why this food trend has continued strong since we first saw its reappearance in 2017.

chef katie sutton

FDR’s Chef Katie Sutton provided these elegant retro food trends. Learn more about Katie’s take on food and beverage trends here.

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