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.

Tupelo, MS

No thanks!

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.

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.

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)

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)

El Paso, Texas

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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.

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.

Lake Lure, North Carolina

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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.

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.)

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.”

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.

Tupelo, Mississippi

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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)


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.

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?

Lumberton, North Carolina

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It is the angle you can believe in.

Lumberton, North Carolina

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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

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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.

Natchez, Mississippi

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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

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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)

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.

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.

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.