Established in 1936, Chasen's was one of the most exclusive restaurants in Los Angeles, known for its celebrated film industry clientele and its chili. The chili was so famous that Elizabeth Taylor had it flown from Los Angeles to the set in Rome when she was filming Cleopatra.
Chasen's also served dignitaries and international royalty, as well as a succession of U.S. presidents. In 1995, after 60 years of service, Chasen's Restaurant closed its doors. During its final weeks of operation, regular customers (actors and producers), staff, and management were interviewed about Chasen's and its history.
Variety described the documentary as an entertaining history of "the glorious and sad death throes of one of the last vestiges of Hollywood's golden age." It observed that the film "is inadequately structured to fully realize its potential, but still serves up some delicious goodies that will be relished by showbiz connoisseurs." While acknowledging the number of Hollywood celebrities interviewed, Variety wrote "... the real stars of the docu are Chasen's longtime staff members, most of whom worked there for decades." It also noted that "Berman and Pulcini have taken full advantage of their privileged access and have not been shy with their camera, as it prowls around the jammed restaurant ever in search of anecdotes".
The New York Times praised the directors, writing that "their valuable, poignant and often funny film mingles behind-the-scenes views of the restaurant during its final week and interviews with, and reminiscences by, the dedicated core of its staff, as well as with the many luminaries who rushed back for a final visit." The review summarized the film as "generous in its appreciation of the staff that helped to make Chasen's so popular," and concluded that "Off the Menu is a poignant farewell."
Of the March 2004 DVD release, DVD Talk wrote that the film was "an engrossing though flawed documentary about the famous Beverly Hills eatery." In its analysis it observed that, "on the surface, the film appears little more than a wistful celebration, an elegiac tribute to what, in only a few more years, will be a completely extinct period of Hollywood history." It concluded that, "though it fails to live up to its potential, [the film] is a fun and sometimes insightful slice of Hollywood history, and a mediation on the nature of celebrity."
DVD Verdict makes note of the many celebrity interviews, but observe that "Most of the documentary is devoted to footage of and interviews with the Chasen's staff, many of whom worked there for decades and whose loyalty and devotion to the restaurant border on the fanatic," and offers that the film examines "the underlying theme of the cult of celebrity and the eagerness of people to debase themselves for the privilege of basking in reflected glamour." Noting further that the film "isn't so much a probing examination of Chasen's, as it is an affectionate, bittersweet farewell to an era and a culture that has long passed."
Patrons of Chasen's who were interviewed included:1997, won 'Best Documentary Feature' at the Hamptons International Film Festival
1998, won 'Special Jury Award' in the documentary competition at the Newport International Film Festival