Utilized everywhere from menus to murals, chalkboard art adds a casual complement to upscale dining and is an emerging trend we’re noticing more frequently within the hospitality industry. Modern dining destinations are embracing this one-of-a-kind décor created by artists, patrons and staff in lieu of traditional wallpaper and paint. Fun and playful, chalkboard art adds personality, sets the mood for a lighthearted meal and serves as an eco-friendly method to display a restaurant’s ever-evolving culinary philosophy and mood, providing a changing landscape and ambiance for patrons — regulars and newcomers alike.
The Tasting Kitchen in Abbot Kinney, CA features a variety of elaborate chalk illustrations drawn by local artists including British-born Kour Pour and Jules Muck alongside its own head bartender and “LA’s Best Bartender” winner Justin Pike, who began working initially as a bartender as a way to fund his art projects. The blackboard wall functions as Pike’s drawing board for original cocktails, homemade bitters, liqueurs and other “medicinal” ingredients which draw on pre-Prohibition traditions. Replete with special daily spirit and beverage offerings, the chalkboard wall spotlights special ingredients such as his use of array obscure and underappreciated – as well as unique, handmade – components, including items such as fermented beet molasses, quassia bark, Bonal, house kola (made from South African kola nuts), housemade falernum (almond, clove, and cinnamon), and Becherovka herbal liqueur (Czech bitters with a sweet clove essence). Butchering guides also decorate the walls of the Tasting Kitchen (see image below), providing diners with a free lesson with their meal.
Since opening their first downtown Los Angeles location in 2006, Mendocino Farms has been reconstructing “fine dining” entrées into sandwiches, as well as reinterpreting classic regional sandwiches with modern influences. Owners, Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen, cull inspiration from national brands to create spaces that are welcoming, warm, and vibrant. In addition to live trees, turf covered benches and open kitchens, the Mendocino Farms locations also include chalkboards with content that changes frequently. Gracing the chalkboards throughout are Chef Judy Han’s daily specials, inspirational culinary-minded quotes from literary greats, a rotating list of beer and wine selections, new sandwich suggestions and artistic musings from customers, all of which seamlessly encouraging guests and staff to make Mendocino Farms a home away from home. Blue Cow kitchen & bar, Mendocino Farms’ newest addition, making its debut in February 2012 in downtown Los Angeles, will also incorporate chalkboard art.
At Comme Ça, the walls are covered with phrases, inspirational quotes, recipes and drawings. Inspired by Parisian sidewalk bistros, Comme Ça’s artwork represents the liveliness of the eatery.
Michael Voltaggio’s ink.sack uses chalkboard walls as a casual way to highlight the menu. Another blackboard wall is dedicated to showcasing local street artists as well as customer ‘graffiti.’
Buvette gastroteque in New York City educates customers on the regions of the wines they serve with an illustration of a map. The artwork also serves as a menu noting the prices by the glass and bottle of each selection.
Chalkboard art also covers the pages of celebrity toque, Thomas Keller’s book Ad Hoc at Home, where Dan Bunter and Nick Dedier bring Keller’s family-style recipes to life. By mixing photography with hand drawn components the cook book offers clear and easy-to-follow instructions — an ideal format to teach the at-home-chef.