I forget what I was searching for on “The Google” when I came across this menu. I stared at it for minutes on end.
The menu is from the Grand Central Terminal Restaurant in New York from around 1917. Diners had their choice of seafood starters, including fresh oysters, several types of soup, and fish, poultry or steak. Some of the dishes seem quite modern, while others would never be seen on a menu today. Planked sirloin steak, smoked salmon and fried chicken all sound quite tasty, but I have my doubts about stewed kidneys or calf’s head, vinaigrette. Also, why would you need three kinds of rarebit on the menu (Welsh, Yorkshire and Long island)? And imported frankfurters! Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?
I’m old enough to remember lunching at the Woolworth’s lunch counter and Horn & Hardhart’s automat back in the 60s and 70s. Some of these items were definitely on the menu. At the time, of course, I didn’t have any money (much less carry a wallet or purse) so I didn’t pay attention to the prices of any item on the menu.
To me, most of the menu items seem reasonably priced. You were probably considered well-to-do if you could afford a broiled lobster (not just the tail!) for $1.75, and forty cents for grilled sardines was budget-friendly. (Today, Leslie and I are probably in the minority; we like sardines. However, they come from a can, and they’re already skinless and boneless. I can’t imagine trying to eat grilled sardines a hundred years ago and having to pick through the little tiny bones.)
A few menu comments:
- A celery-fed duckling sounds interesting, and you can either get a lunch portion or a dinner portion. If a duckling wasn’t fed celery back in the early 20th century, what was it fed instead?
- The menu includes pricing for garnishes, and you have your choice of either fresh mushrooms or canned mushrooms. Was a restaurant proud to boast of serving canned vegetables?
- What are pickled walnuts? Count me in!
- What is chicken halibut? Can’t decide whether to cluck or swim?
I think I might have just found another rabbit hole to visit. Maybe add a Pinterest board called “olde tyme menus.” What do you think?