The 15½-inch high menu is printed in vibrant magenta, a hue exhibiting the psychedelic intensity still popular in the early 1970s. When opened on two folds, the bill of fare is shown on three inside panels. H.E.L.P. served a lacto-ovo vegetarian cuisine—dairy products appear directly on the menu and eggs were used in the pastry. Since three-quarters of the guests were non-vegetarians, the restaurant offered substitute meat dishes made with vegetable protein, such as “vegeburgers” and “beef stroganoff” shown on the middle panel. (Double click to enlarge.)
By late 1974, H.E.L.P. had closed and the space was occupied by the guru-owned vegetarian chain called the Golden Temple Conscious Cookery. The new eatery received mention in “Jean de Belley’s Restaurant Review” which noted that “the number of letters from readers asking for reviews of vegetarian restaurants (in Los Angeles) averages about one per year. But every month we receive inquires for inexpensive dining.”6
The slow (some say inexorable) shift toward eating more plant-based foods has picked up steam in recent years. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were about 19,000 restaurants devoted to vegetarian and vegan cuisine in the United States. Even though California remains at the heart of the movement, the USC Library “diaccessed” (disposed of) an item it miscataloged as an “Om Shanti restaurant menu, 7910 West Third Street [Los Angeles?]” which happens to be how this menu was described on eBay.7 Perhaps it is the same one.
3. Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) was a Hindu monk and first prominent Indian teacher to settle in the United States.
5. Frances Moore Lappé. Diet for a Small Planet. New York: Ballantine Books, 1971.
6. “Jean de Belley’s Restaurant Review and Gourmet Guide,” Vol. 7, No. 11, November 1974.
7. Online California Archive (OAC), Coll2014-017, USC Libraries, University of Southern California.
8. Former restaurateur Warren Stagg died in 2016 at Pune, India where he was a long-standing member of the faculty at the Ajna Center for Learning.