Tucson, AZ

Zero-gravity space picnic at a diner in Tucson. A single example of a wide range of foods, some sharpened, some severely angular, all edging away from an approaching wall of whiteness. (Photo by H. Ensor)

Denver, CO

Jailed for impersonating a muppet. Sad.

(Alameda and Zuni)

Fredericksburg, TX

This painting is not about the giant peaches they put in the ice cream but more about the effort it takes this laborer to make it. It looks pretty hard. “We put blood, sweat and tears into our product.  Mostly sweat.”

Asheville, NC

Unscaled uncooked fish, ashtray pot pie.  I actually took this a while back so I assume Mama’s Soul Food is a microbrewery now.

Denver, CO

It’s refreshing to break out of the hot dogs and hamburgers routine.  This is from the Ethiopian section of town, perhaps unbound by American cultural expectations of food signs. Either way, I’ve never seen this painted before. Debatably fruit cocktail, but the shape embedded in the whipped cream and the calamari rings do leave room for questions.

Tupelo, MS

No thanks!

Faben, TX

The prelimary drawing gives a touching view into the process that made this suggestive arrangement possible.  I especially love that they decided not to fill in the “bacon” caption under the hotdog.

Tucson, AZ

 Hot dog taking a nap on an old sofa. They got this sucker behind safety glass.

Pecos, TX

You can buy a melon, and then get the HELL out of here.

Atlanta, GA

Lee Street. Spirograph city. I love those crazy gear shapes, the self-imposed tightness of space. It’s like each item is vacuum-packed, when really there’s plenty of space to spread out on that wall. Close-value color pairing is working,

(image by T. Goggin)

Jackson, MS

Bailey Street, Jackson, Mississippi. Chicken, sausages, fries, classic steam and asterisks. Without context, the lines could indicate they are falling fast. The panel to the left says you must be 25 or older to enter, an odd choice.

Mt. Vernon, NY

I really enjoy looking at this. Not because I like it; in fact, it makes me feel pretty uneasy. The confrontational Halloween elements interfering with the making of this soup. But the wobbly bowl, thick outlines around everything, the great yellow outpouring with the black dashes. There is a wonderful white negative space throughout makes it all seem strangely intentional.

Nashville, TN

Big burger in a small space. And it’s a squirmy one, with three layers of meat and FOUR layers of lettuce and a ton of tiny mushrooms maybe. Bacon is another tricky thing to paint.  Love the handling of the ice cream cone — the dots, the lines. Below is the other side of the same place. There are a lot of signs that make the claim of the “biggest” burger available within a certain region. This might be the first example of onions being shown as lovely naturalistic rings. This burger has only one meat and two layers of lettuce, but it’s got a  lot of personality.


Nashville, TN

According to the text you can get ribs and catfish, but the mischievous chef is also pushing a lot of apple, grapes, parsnips and a wedge of some kind of cheese. That looks like almost too much to carry at once.

Pearl, MS

Typically schematic sno-cones. You see them all over the country, always janky, barely thought-through. But I love the simple dark gray and green with super light scattered letters and ubiquitous asterisk elements. Especially endearing is how the one sno-cone has a special bond with the window frame. Auch, and the tight design of the front of the establishment, the play of greens and whites. Pretty classy. Pig lips, please.

Mt. Vernon, NY

Lou relies pretty heavily on our foreknowledge of sauerkraut. The mustard is not the familiar yellow mustard yellow of the previous post but the symmetrical repose and clean, sharp edges and elegant lettering make it a fun thing to see drive by.

Duchess County, NY

A wiggly line of mustard lovingly portrayed. Realistic light on the subject but no shadow underneath, giving it an airborne appearance. And the mysterious compulsion (definitely not sexual in nature) to paint hotdogs at near perfect 45 degree angles.  Here are two of many examples:

Jackson, MS

Jackson, MS. I feel half-tipsy already looking at that painted sign. The steeply tilted pool table, the sloppy drunk floating head and glass. Curious choices are made regarding the layering of cue sticks, rack, burger image and shark image. Possible the burger and shark were there first. All the imagery presumably represents things you’ll see inside Dot’s Lounge, which raises questions about the shark. With all due respect to the rules, that wall is begging to be loitered against. Ubiquitous asterisk flourish.

(Photo by Ashleigh Coleman)

Bronx, NY

This aggressive painting by The Royal Kingbee is obscured by an ice machine. In fact, between the ice machine and the deep field of vision with distant water, this one in the Bronx has a lot in common with this one in Nashville. A full third of the well-considered painting is hidden from view, but I wouldn’t anticipate the hidden area giving any more guidance for how to apprehend this image: Why the angry sandwich bearer; why the tropical theme, and so on. However, the light on the sandwich is convincing as all heck.

Monterey, TN

This old woman (you can see her gray bun) (behind the brown and green bun) is struggling to carry a gigantic hot dog. One wonders if the hamburger sprouted hairy man legs, or if a man was carrying it and it engulfed his torso. Either way he’s not in a position to help. An unsettling grouping.

Tupelo, MS

“Arsh taters,” you can hear the accent. Irish, or white potatoes, as opposed to sweet potatoes, that’s old school. Pretty low effort, as produce signs tend to be, the shapes forlorn, but touching, especially with the tiny purple car on the window sill. (photo from D. Fortner)

Half Moon Bay, CA

Whatever Chef Pepe’s hand is used for, it has seen a lot of action. But staying on topic (hand-painted food signs), the sandwich is competently rendered, a confident and inviting symmetrical splay. The surface of the toast is very credible. The flowing text banners, the corner embellishments and pointing hand instead of arrow all indicate a Victorian, or at least “historical” identity. Though it’s a little hard to concentrate with Chef Pepe standing there.

(photo by J. Eichman)

Bratislava, Slovakia

A moody scene, the only food being a half-shucked ear of uncooked corn. Some empty vessels, a grinder, a scale and an unlit lamp. Somehow still makes me want to go in and have a seat.
(photo by A. Saterstrom)

Nairobi, Kenya

First “and Beyond” food sign added to the Archive, this is in Nairobi, Kenya, added by B. Johnson to the archive. Classic butchery and hotel. Hoofstock checks in but don’t check out. Nice realism, one wonders if the painter painted from life (so to speak) the meat hanging in the window. I wonder how many food signs are painted from life.

Dodgingtown, Connecticut

dodgingtown, ct1
A highly-ordered and self-contained sandwich. Plays well with others, keeps respectful distance from typography. Notice there is no shadow, no table, no other food. This is not a real sandwich, with flavor, but an idea of a sandwich. More an ideogram, a graphic symbol, than a sandwich.

El Paso, Texas

chikamatsuda,H&H Car Wash, El Paso, Tx
H&H Carwash and torta shop in El Paso, contributed to the HPFSA Archive by C. Matsuda. Nothing wrong with a spotlight on a gigantic sandwich but not sure why lettuce is spilling out just that one place.

Denver, Colorado

Dead shrimp hot tub at Colfax & Trenton.

Tucson, Arizona

A burger and fries vacationing on a tropical island.  The water and beach are sketchy, but the burger, especially the bun, is strangely lifelike, even shadows on each sesame seed.

San Francisco, California

Oh say, here’s another that references a landscape, and this also includes produce. I wonder if there’s something about produce that makes one want an expansive field of vision. (Fillmore Street)

Nashville, Tennessee

As mentioned before, that texture of brick and cinderblock does nothing for a painting, but is that the Nashville skyline with reflection in the Cumberland River?  Nice touch.  The ice machine should move around the corner.  I think I’ll add a category called “Landscape/Cityscape” in the hopes others arise.  (photo by J. Eichman)

Chino Valley, Arizona

At the other end of this very small rural town, yet another cut-out shape sign. This time ice-cream, unnecessarily labeled as such, apparently held against its will other bits of cut-out shapes.  The drip is not convincing, but the cut-out format does not lend itself to realism.

Chino Valley, Arizona

One might make the claim that hand-painted food signs say something about the culture in which and for whom they exist. This sign doesn’t mean any harm. Nor does it want to spark any passions, cause a fuss, or risk being seen as interesting in any way. Cut-out shape signs are kind of like that.

Lake Lure, North Carolina

lakelure, nc_a.sebrell
I’ve been stalling on posting “cut-outs” because I find them lackluster and hard to get enthusiastic about them. But enough cut-out food signs have entered the archive that one feels obliged to give them due representation. Dull though they may be. They appear more in rural agricultural areas. At least that is the working theory; let’s see if it bears out. (photo by A. Sebrell)

Twin Rivers, North Carolina

Produce painted at farmer’s markets tend to be among the least adventuresome of food signs. Not surprising, perhaps; it is as if to say: you want a peach, I grow and sell peaches, what more information do you need.

San Francisco, California

This informational painting highlights the tools and techniques of Italian delicatessenship.  Stylish pedestrians on Chestnut St. in the Marina District are not just looking for sustenance but for food that has been stretched, sliced, tweezed and rolled with specialty rollers made by grandparents in home-countries.  In other words, this sign in not selling ravioli, but artisan-ness.

Tucson, Arizona

tucson, az_broadway
It is as though Vinnie asked the sign painter to make a dog chef serving a hot dog, imagining a cartoon dog in a chef’s hat. But the result is a bizarrely realistic painting of a German Shepherd delivering the food, which is not whimsical but nightmarish in feeling.  Still, a great shadow under the Sonoran dog.

San Antonio, Texas

My favorite part of this is all the wonderful text, italicized, some whimsical details.  The ice cream image (competently rendered) takes a back seat here.  And there’s the fugitive leaf. (photo by L. Davenport)

Hatch, New Mexico

Old school sentient coffee. (photo by L. O’Neill)

Hatch, New Mexico

Old school sentient burger doing a happy dance with mittens. (photo by L. O’Neill)

Long Beach, California

This definitely goes in the “splashy” category, though slow-motion lava lamp style splashiness. (photo by J. Friedman)

New Orleans, Louisiana


This Dante-esque pot of crawfish is brought to life by a festive splatter of scalding viscera. The huge claws at the top imply that the crawfish masses are being boiled by a giant evil crawfish, the Punisher.  Those two crawfish that are trying to escape can just forget about it; like the damned in this Fra Angelico painting from the 15th century, they will be paddled back in.

(Terpsichore & St. Charles Ave.)

Pecos, Texas


The left panel of this grand butcher shop diptych (one could be forgiven for calling it an altarpiece) is less tense in feeling. A customer gives the side-eye to the flacid two and a half pound chicken corpse, which she’s thinking will go nicely with several dozen eggs and a slice of peach-colored loaf. Judging by the lovely Modern era ceiling fan, the well-observed decorative butcher paper dispenser, the out-on-the-town cap and scarf, this painting must date from the golden age of Pecos butchery (assuming there was such an age). The eggs remind me of this painting by Sir Cedric morris.

Pecos, Texas


In this painting, no effort is put into playing down the psycho-killer associations we have with butchers.  The searing but vacant stare of the butcher, the purposeful arrangement of ‘sharps’ and prominent over-head cleaver and hacksaw.  Do butchers really store they cleavers above their heads with binder clips?  They even went to the trouble of painting the two separate colored electrical wires that hold the bare bulb to the ceiling.  I imagine the bulb flickering as we realize that’s not a pencil in his pocket, but a finger.

This is less a portrait of food as it is a portrait of the tools of the butcher.  A trade painting.  Along the lines of this painting from the 13th century (oh, maybe they do store knives above their heads).

Nashville, Tennessee


The food takes a back seat in this little vignette.  She doesn’t appear to like the way he’s looking at her, what with his work boot all untied.  He didn’t come here just for that plate of smears and empty glass.  Oh, or may he’s already finished and she’s bussing the table.  That may explain his look of satisfaction, and untied boot.

(photo by John Baeder)

Pecos, Texas


Here is a full figure, sly and slightly elfin in stature.  Her proximity to the sidewalk hints at trompe l’oeil.  Some interesting invention happening where her hands, plate and cakes meet.  Auch, cinderblocks; I’m making a new category for those as well.

Knoxville, Tennessee


There are a number of signs that might fall into a new category: Frontal. They tend to have a macho and confrontational message. Italics and claims of greatness. Get your smokes and your burgers and sit right here in the window, but don’t expect any special treatment. The stacking here reminds me of the 80’s video game classic “Burgertime.”

Liberty, Texas


Such incredible detail in this painting. The realism extends to the delicate blue and white patterns on the china. The burrito and quesadilla could be munched upon by a Philip Guston figure. This is part of an extraordinary triptych.

Croton Falls, New York


Going in with both hands.  This is the first painting posted here that has a human presence… requiring a new category:  “Food with Human(s)”  Wonderful colors and line quality straight out of 15th century Siena.  Strangely reminds me of this Simone Martini painting, which also kind of includes hand-painted food, though I suppose that’s a theological issue.  Same table angle.

Southbury, Connecticut

Surprisingly faithful to the take-out cup design. And a different approach to steam, not the curly lines you usually see.

Southbury, Connecticut

Dynamic, fanciful, airborne.

Globe, Arizona


Exceedingly drippy. I’m adding a new category called Fanciful. These pies are meant to be diagrammatic, representing the different sizes, but with all that cheese, and the implied narrative of the missing piece, they go beyond pure schema.

(photo by J. Gordon)

Gary, Indiana

gary, indiana2

Same food truck as the “chips” painting below.  It is true that I’ve never painted cotton candy before, I assume it’s tricky.  I’ll leave it at that.

Livingston Manor, New York

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There it is again!  The hot dog at a 45° angle.  Funny, the linear quality of the food must make painters want to represent them at an angle.  This hot dog has a Delta IV thing going on.

Asheville, North Carolina


Rabbit’s Motel, a good old meat and three place.  Meat, in this case is fish.  The three are up for grabs.  Many food signs, like the establishments they once advertised, are deteriorating.  One of the purposes of the HPFSA is to preserve an image of a painting before it disappears.

Denver, Colorado

wadsworth.louisiana, denver, co

Ah-ha!  This is the first example in the HPFSA where a single painter shows up on two different establishments.  This is clearly the same painter who did this one at Alemeda & Sheridan.

(Wadsworth & Louisiana)

Tucson, Arizona


Harsh and stiff lines, using a straight edge for everything but the splash.  Decidedly uncelebratory in feeling.

(1st Ave.)


Tupelo, Mississippi

tupelo, ms5

Barbecue sandwich?  I’m not sure what to say about this, though the choice to not mix the reds and browns completely does give it the pork-in-sauce look.

Tennessee (location unknown)


Solid.  Monumental hoop of cheese, restrained in detail, but not lazily painted.  All the letters hand-painted but not sloppy.  Timeless.

(photo by R. Fortner)


Show-Low, Arizona


As American as this Protestant pie.  If you want your food painted at lecherous angles or in cavalier colors, you may like to dine someplace else.  Like Babylon.


Show-Low, Arizona


Determination in pie format.

Chicago, Illinois

pilsen, chicago3

Surprisingly realistic banana split, the drips are working, and as we’ve discussed, they don’t always.

Faben, Texas


More from the same place, same strange shadow choice.  it’s like a shadow, but it doesn’t act like a shadow. Sorry about the glare, the rapture was just starting.


Faben, Texas


These appear to be cut-outs (which is a whole category of food signs) but they are not.  I wonder why the painter decided on that shadow; it represents light acting upon a form, but not the form that’s being represented.  Angle, angle, angle.  This place was covered in food paintings.

Carmel, New York



New Orleans, Louisiana

chartres, nola

That sandwich reaches the vanishing point.  I was giving a presentation about the Hand-Painted Food Signs Archive recently and my neighbor from across the street came to the talk.  He has a collection of photographs of signs using superlatives.  This one would work for both collections.

(Chartres Ave.)


Natchez, Mississippi


Hot dogs are so frequently painted at a lecherous angle.

Benson, Arizona


Cocktails are under-represented.  The occasional martini glass, but wine drinkers seem to keep their imagery mechanically-derived, maybe a social class distinction.  It is a fact that the wealthier a neighborhood, the fewer hand-painted food signs.  Yet, more art galleries.  Funny.

Ozona, Mississippi

Well, there are those asterisks again.  Why is that a go-to embellishment all over the country?  Where do we learn that?

Ozona, Mississippi

Popcorn, being brought to our attention by a pickle.  I enjoy how the original image has been preserved by whomever was rolling on a fresh coat of white paint.  This is begging for some popcorn to be spilt to complete the trompe l’oeil.

Ozona, Mississippi

Oh right, there are others from this Ozona concession stand.  Is that a cloud of coldness?

Baird, Texas


A lot of bravado for a rather bland and risk-averse painting of a cheeseburger.  And you’re missing an apostrophe.


Denver, Colorado

alameda.sheridan, denver, co

Now that takes the asterisks theme to a celestial level.

(Alameda & Sheridan)

Lumberton, North Carolina

lumberton, nc3

It is the angle you can believe in.

Lumberton, North Carolina

lumberton, nc1

The second panel of the triptych of the roadside trinity:  hamburger, fries, hotdog.  This food stand has a moral uprightness. You can build a bridge with these fries.

Lumberton, North Carolina

lumberton, nc2

Very definite shadow and light source. It has mass and takes up space. And you can sit in its shade during the long light of evening.  The most trustworthy hamburger in South-central North Carolina.

Chicago, Illinois

clark st., chicago4

Ah, yes see, there’s another incomplete sign.  Why not paint the onions?  Or, did they decide they would be white anyway?  No matter.  Bob Ross-ian corner-brushing happening on those trees back there.

(Clark Street)


Natchez, Mississippi

natchez09.08 (4)

That looks scary hot.  Even the improvised gold border can’t contain the steam.  This hotdog is very close to my heart; it is from my hometown and says something to me about that town.  Not sure what, but there it is.  Look, asterisks again.

(St. Catherine Street)

West Asheville, North Carolina

asheville, nc02

See, now that’s actually drippy, but accidentally.  Maybe this is the food sign painter who realized that paint is naturally drippy and instead of trying to represent drippy, you can just BE drippy.  I like the tomato seen from the side, a convincing reflection.

(Mama’s Soul Food, Haywood Road)

New York City, New York


This is technically “drippy”, so I will tag it as such, but I’m not convinced.  What kind of cake is that again?

(Jewish deli in Washington Heights)


Mt. Vernon, New York


The ubiquitous asterisk flourish.  Shows up a lot in taco shop signs, here it is more  a 50’s Americana reference.  The solid black shadows are notable.  If food has a shadow, the image has left the realm of food-as-concept and is meant to represent an actual food object.  Do certain areas of the country, or certain social classes consider food as object, while for others food is represented as a concept?  Maybe we can tell by tracking the presence of the shadow in food signs.  The lines here are those of a professional sign painter of the old school, confident and practiced.

(Fruit and Vegetable Market.  Cedar Street & Fleetwood Avenue)

Mt. Vernon, New York


Geiger counter is going nuts.  Grand Cafe, Grand Street & Fleetwood Avenue.

Mahopac, New York


Now that’s a chocolate-vanilla swirl!  Well, actually, they still didn’t quite catch the form… still on the look out for the perfect ice cream swirl cone painting.  What this cone lacks in formal accuracy, it makes up for in confidence, enthusiasm and font choice.

Gary, Indiana

“Can I get some hot oysters please?  What do you mean you don’t have them they’re painted right there… oh sorry, I didn’t read the text.  Can I get some chips please?”


Lebanon, Tennessee

This shape definitely benefits from accompanying text.

Hope, Arkansas

The shyest watermelon in Arkansas.  This and the Pittsfield cone warrant a “Somewhat Hidden” category.  We’ll see if others fall into that category.

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

The chocolate-vanilla swirl presents a formal challenge.  So best to set back slightly, stay somewhat hidden.  Don’t want to draw too much attention.

Kalamazoo, Michigan

The cinderblocks drive me nuts sometimes.  The lettuce is commendable though, lettuce is often crazily represented in food signs (example).   The tangent where the hanging sausage gently meets the ham makes me nervous.

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

The strokes that make up the crustacea are well-practiced; the turn of each shrimp back is believable, not just a half-moon, but with shrimp-like inflection, and in a single stroke.  How did the painter learn that stroke, I wonder?  It’s so region-specific.  And the same facility is not apparent in the lettering.  Not a criticism, just pointing it out.

Calhoun City, Mississippi

On Hwy 9, just north of town.  I pulled over to take a photograph of this sign and as I was getting back in my car, a woman came running out to ask me what the hell I thought I was doing.  I said I was taking a photograph of the food sign.  She said:  “You’re not the guy from the insurance, are you?”  I looked at my old volvo full of art supplies and said “No ma’am, I’m not, I just like paintings.”  She looked at me like she was sure I was lying.

Coahona, Texas

One of the sadder food sign in the Archive.  The sesame seed bun and the red fries container indicate McDonalds.  I don’t think they sell food here.  I think it’s strictly a sun-bleached toy packaging and foresaken strollers kind of operation.

Greeley, Colorado


This is one of the strangest categories in the Archive:  The Incomplete Food Sign.  There are others that I will post.   Why did they stop painting?  Did a war break out?  Did the whole town run out of paint?  It appears everything was fine while all the cupcakes were evenly spaced, but when the pink one made contact with the yellow one, the painter freaked out and couldn’t finish it.

Beacon, New York

This is only interesting in the context of it being part of a pair of schematic ice creams.  In my opinion, schematic food signs are generally not very interesting. I don’t feel anything about ice cream looking at this.  Or its twin.  I think, yeah, I know what ice cream looks like, why are you wasting my time.



Ozona, Mississippi

In the context of the cinderblock concession stand, the text might not be necessary, though an act of generosity nonetheless.  The chips read visually as eggs, three-dimensional somehow, even though there is no modeling, maybe because they stand upright instead of stacked.  The actual drop of the white wall paint over the nachos means this painting has been preserved.  Just making an observation.

Baldwin, Georgia

This is one of the first photos I took back in 2004 for what would eventually become this Hand-Painted Food Signs Archive.  It is/was painted on a billboard on Interstate 985 near the Chattahoochee National Forest in North Georgia. An admirable shadow under the food block. The five-tined fork was thrust into that chunk of food cube and next will be forcefully jammed into a wide-open man mouth.

There are hundreds of food signs in this ever-growing Archive.  They have not been posted publicly or properly analyzed, but will be, starting… now.