Commenting on my post on main, the redoubtable Nancy Friedman commented on Twitter: “I’ve seen ‘afters’ on a menu in SF [San Francisco]. It’s right up there with ‘stockists‘ on the pretension index.” To which I replied (in so many words), “Do what now, Nancy?”
She explained that afters means “dessert,” and sure enough, the OED tracks it to a 1909 article in the (London) Daily Chronicle: “They could not all afford ‘dinner and afters’. Many had to be content with ‘afters’.” Interestingly, the word was still getting the quotation-marks treatment in Jennie Hawthorne’s 1958 The Mystery of the Blue Tomatoes: “For ‘afters’ to-day she made them all an apple crumble.” (Note to self: check how long the hyphenated “to-day” remained a thing.)
Fortunately, an admittedly less-than-comprehensive search suggests that the United States is still, for the most part, safe from afters. I went back three years on Google News and the only non-Commonwealth use of the term was from a January 2012 New York Times restaurant review (significantly, of a place specializing in Singaporean food): “For afters: sticky toffee pudding ($5).”
I have no doubt that Nancy has seen what she has seen in San Francisco, but the one afters-using restaurant I’ve been able to turn up is Moe’s, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, which affirms on its website: “The afters are listed on another chalkboard, this one on wheels so it can be rolled to your table in place of the ubiquitous dessert cart loaded with Madame Tussaud’s finest.” Worth a detour, I should say.