Chez Panisse's rustic sans

Hi all,

I'm working with clients who want to recall the farmhouse (or is it mid-century Parisian?) aesthetic they get from the typography on the website for Alice Waters' restaurant, Chez Panisse:

Nothing on WhatTheFont quite matches the quirks of this one (the 'E' and 'P,' for instance). What are your best guesses? And how would you describe this aesthetic? We're shooting for something that "you would find on the side of a barn." Thank you all so much!


Not quite the right style, but Black Monday is a distressed face with alternate characters with "random" coding.

You should make this post in the Design forum, and enquire about faces with "random" coding in general, and distressed ones in particular. That would be an interesting thread.

Nick, thanks for the suggestion. Ironically, we're trying to get away from Neutraface, which Cheap Monday feels quite similar to.

I might add: I don't care about the font being distressed, I'm more after the letterforms/mood. Thanks again.

Black Monday is a distressed version of Eagle, a 1930s face, so yes, you're more after a mid-century look, which is less deco, more grotesque, 19th century retro. However, I do think that glyph alternates is a very important part of the Chez Panisse aesthetic.

Local Gothic has that, but the effect may be a bit too obvious for your needs.

Nick, thanks for coaching me along with this. "Less deco, more grotesque" is exactly it! But somehow this Chez Panisse font has them both: pretty geometric, except the E, A, V, etc.

So I'm after a mid-century grotesque who has eyes for fonts twenty years its junior. Or perhaps a straightforward 19th century sans. What do y'all think fits the bill?

Sleuthing update: through sIFR, they're using Nobel Bold for a header on the "Contact Us" page and, upon inspection, the navigation fonts are indeed heavily indebted to Nobel (but not completely – the 'A', for instance).

Nick, I'm also seeing the wisdom of your comment that glyph alternates are a big factor (there are both Nobel-esque and deco V's there). The plot thickens?

Chez Panisse pays a lot of attention to their typography. I was just at the Café the other day and was impressed with the menu that used proper optical sizes of Minion. They change often. I would not be surprised if this was a custom typeface.

I think "irregular industrial grotesque" is a good way to describe this. It’s also more European than American. Coldharbour Gothic is the closest thing I know in digital font form.

Brandon Grotesque might be what you're looking for, but probably too polished. Tempo is another option, but with contours based on the small sizes of metal type, probably doesn't cut it for headlines.

How about Rhode? Too regular?

A wood type sans like Toronto Gothic, Wilma, or this distressed fonts, perhaps.

Also Diecast

Stephen, those are fantastic and comprehensive suggestions. You're right that it's the combination of irregular/grotesque that I'm connecting with on the Chez Panisse website, which means Coldharbour feels nearly pitch perfect, but (on the irregular side) Toronto Gothic also suggests another direction, and Brandon Gothic nails the mood of the letterforms. I think I'll mock up all three – thanks and bravo.

I agree with you about the instinct that this is a custom font. It's no surprise, I guess - Alice Waters is very particular about everything at her restaurants. I love the idea that her tastes are so highly developed that not only does the food have to be top-notch, but she needs properly-set Myriad, or at least can discern the designers who are going to be able deliver it for her. There's something about aesthetics and auteurs there that I love. I got to eat at the Café a few years ago, but was too fixated on my nettle souffle to notice the typography (for once!).

Thanks again to everyone. I hope I can be as useful to you all one of these days!

I think it has to be more European and geometric in style. Nobel comes pretty close, I think.