On the menu at my local Gordon Biersch restaurant: housemade pretzels.

Housemade for older home-made (or homemade) seems to be sweeping U.S. restaurant menus, though it doesn’t seem to have made it into any of the standard dictionaries yet; and if you search for it, Google suggests you meant homemade; and the site flatly labels it as an error in English grammar.

Literalists have long complained about home-made on menus, on the grounds that it means ‘made at home, made in someone’s home’ and so shouldn’t be used for food that is prepared in a restaurant’s kitchens (much less for something brought in from elsewhere, made it a factory, or bought in a store); this is the meaning given in most dictionaries. Nonetheless, an extended use for ‘made in-house’ has been around for some time.

The innovation housemade serves to convey this meaning clearly. But it also provides a cachet lacking in the homely and amateur-sounding home-made. So, despite the fact that a fair number of people find it pretentious (to judge from comments on the web), housemade is steadily advancing.

Andrew Romano looked at the word for Newsweek this spring (“House Sweet House”, on-line on May 22, in the magazine on June 1) and reported:

Behold “housemade”: the artisanal adjective that has yet to appear in Merriam-Webster but is suddenly materializing on menus across the nation, often where a humble “home-made” used to be. In Brooklyn, restaurants such as the Michelin-starred Dressler rarely deign to serve dishes not described as housemade: housemade gnocchi with morel ragout ($15); cheddar burger with housemade pickles ($13.50); housemade pecan sticky buns ($4); and, lest the liquor feel left out, a cocktail with house-infused orange vodka ($11). According to, 244 New York restaurants now boast housemade (or “house-made”) fare, and the eateries of Los Angeles (118), Washington, D.C. (112), Chicago (79), South Florida (62), Boston (57) and Philadelphia (56) don’t lag by much. In San Francisco, the term has nearly outpaced homemade (192 to 176).

Home-made is of course still available for a contrast with store-bought, especially with reference to non-food items: homemade soap, laundry detergent, garden sprays, weed killer, solar power, wind generators, stun guns, and much more.

5 Responses to “housemade”

  1. mollymooly Says:

    Moving against the prevailing house>home trend.

  2. m Says:

    I have the opposite of a recency illusion: it seems to me I’ve been seeing “house made” for decades.

  3. Ned Deily Says:

    This could be a borrowing from the German “hausgemacht”, also used in such restaurant contexts: “hausgemachte Nudeln” usw. In this case, it’s especially fitting but still might be accidental.

  4. Food and drink postings « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] housemade (link) […]

  5. ho made « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] than in a store or factory’. In fact, it has long been extended in ordinary usage, and (from a posting on house-made): Literalists have long complained about home-made on menus, on the grounds that it […]

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