Prices

Restaurant prices in the 19th century (followed by 20th, below)

spanish-dollarNote: Until the mid-19th century prices were often quoted in shillings and pence, or in Spanish dollars. One Spanish bit = 12½¢; One penny (1d) = 1¢; One shilling (1s) = 12d, or 12¢. At all times, a fixed-price dinner costs less than ordering a la carte.

1833 A cheap NYC eating house on Maiden Lane: “The charge for a plate of fish, for a plate of roasted turkey, with a slice of ham, with vegetables, potatoes, beans, &c. and a plumb-pudding, or peach-pie, or apple-pie, is exactly one shilling Sterling.”

1834 A cheap eating house in Baltimore, for a price the diner considered “very moderate”: “I got my dinner there today for 15¾ cents; and it consisted of a plate of roast turkey, and vegetables, and an excellent tart …”

1838 The Rainbow, a NYC chop house: Beef Steak (25¢), Mutton Chops (18½¢), Welsh Rarebit (Ale included) (12½¢), Poached Eggs (12½¢), Sandwiches (6½¢).

1844 The Café Tortoni, NYC, for an “A-1 French family dinner”: Soup, Boiled Beef, Oyster Plants, Sheepshead, Stewed Beef with Macaroni, Roast Leg of Mutton, Salad, and “different sorts of vegetables,” followed by sweets, all for 50¢ (not including wine).

1845 Milliken’s Beefsteak & Coffee Room, a cheap “six-penny eating house” in NYC: Roast Beef, Lamb, or Veal (6d), Sirloin Steak, Boiled Salmon, or Fried Trout (1s), Cocoa Nut, Custard, Plum, Peach, Mince, Apple, Indian, or Rice Pie (3d).

1849 Gold rush prices at a fashionable eating house in San Francisco: Corned Beef & Cabbage (1.25), Sweet Potatoes (50¢), Apple Pie (75¢).

gloverscorner2151849 Sweeny’s House of Refreshments, another six-penny house in NYC: Corned Beef (6d), Ham & Eggs (1s/6d), Puddings and Pies (6d).

1850 Carr’s Eating House, a six-penny place in Boston: Roast Turkey (15¢), Roast Chicken (12½¢), Roast Pork, Veal, Lamb, or Beef (6 ¼ ¢), Broiled Beef Steak (6 ¼ ¢).

1860 The Globe, Salt Lake City: Porter House Steak (25¢), Ham & Eggs (37½¢), Bowl of Oyster Soup (1.00).

1865 The Pioneer Restaurant, Portland OR: Porter House Steak (20¢), Sirloin Steak (15¢), Ham & Eggs (25¢), Apple, Prune, or Pear Sauce (5¢), Cranberry, Apple, or Custard Pie (5¢).

1866 A Cincinnati coffee house sponsored by the Y.M.C.A.:

workingmens217

1876 Shorey’s, Haymarket Square, Boston: “Famous Boiled Dinner” (25¢), Soups (10¢), Chowders (10¢), Stews with Dumplings (15¢), Roast Beef (25¢), Sirloin Steak (35¢), Chicken Pie (25¢).

1877 “Cook’s Substantial Dinner,” Boston: 40¢ for a meal including Soups, Chowders, Fish, Meats, Poultry, Sauce, Vegetables, Puddings, Pies, Tea, Coffee, and Dessert. “No extra charges for second orders.”

1885 A cheap French restaurant in New Orleans: Soup (10¢), “Gombo” (15¢), four “Croakers” (20¢), Broiled Sheep Head (35¢), Roast Mutton (15¢), Stew (15¢), Custard or Pudding (10¢).

cupidsteak21611885 Brooklyn: “In most restaurants the charge for a dinner of roast meat, with bread and vegetables, is 15 cents … Two eggs, fried or boiled, accompanied by the invariable boiled potato, fetch from 10 to 15 cents; steak 15 cents; sirloin, 25 cents; plain omelet, 25 cents; tea or coffee, 5 cents; pies and puddings from 5 to 10 cents.”

1888 Rock-bottom prices at the New York Kitchen in Chicago: Small Beefsteak, Pork Chop, Ham, Liver & Bacon, Oatmeal & Milk, One-third of a Pie, Large Wheat Cakes with butter and syrup, Ham & Beans – each 5¢.

1893 French table d’hôte dinners in NYC “cost usually 50 cents and consist of relishes, soup, fish with potatoes, something like chicken fricassee, vegetables, a roast dish, lettuce salad, French pancakes, fruit and cheese, and coffee, along with a pint of California claret.”

winebottles1853

1894 The Louvre Saloon Chop House, Woodland CA: “Original Clam Chowder, with the Largest Glass of Beer for the sum of 10 cents. Egg Salad Served with Every Meal, Free. Ham and 4 eggs with beer or coffee (25¢), Oysters in every style with beer or coffee (25¢).”

1897 Sunday dinner at The American House, Telluride CO: 50¢ for a 10-course meal which includes Caviar on Toast, Sliced Tomatoes, Broiled Salmon, Tenderloin of Beef aux Champignons, Coffee Jelly with Whipped Cream, and three wines (Niersteiner, Burgundy, Zinfandel).

1899 Sunday table d’hôte dinner at Café Boulevard, NYC: 75¢ dinner includes Blue Points, Consomme, Cold Salmon with Sauce Tartar, Sweetbread Patties, Long Island Duck, Spinach, Escarole Salad, Kaiser Pudding with Wine Sauce, Demi-Tasse.

Prices in the 20th century

1903 At The Palace or Johnny’s Place in Salt Lake City 10¢ buys a dinner of meat, vegetables, bread, butter and a cup of tea or coffee.

1906 “Poor Man’s Dinner” in Washington D.C.: 15¢ for Vegetable Soup, Country Sausage, Bread, and Coffee. “Rich Man’s Dinner”: $16.30 for Martini Cocktail, Lynnhaven Oysters, Celery, Stuffed Olives, Green Turtle Soup, Terrapin, Champagne, Canvasback Duck, Mushrooms in Cream, French Asparagus, French Peas, Squash, Appolinaris, Tutti Frutti Ice Cream, Assorted Cakes, Cordial, Camembert Cheese, and Café Ture.

serveself2181910 The Serveself Lunch, Majestic Building, Detroit: Few items are more than 10¢, including Soup, Corned Beef Hash, Pork & Beans, Macaroni & Cheese, Chicken Pie, Boiled Eggs, Sandwiches, Corn Flakes, Baked Apples, Griddle Cakes, or Pastry.

1912 A typical restaurant in San Francisco’s Little Italy: 50¢ for Soup, Fish, Entrée, Roast, Salad, Dessert, Fruit and a Demi-Tasse. “Here you get Italian pastes in perfection, ravioli, tagliarini, spaghetti, or green lasagne, and tempting fritto misto, each delicately fried tiny roll of batter containing a different surprise – an artichoke heart, a piece of chicken liver, a bit of brains, or some other tidbit. For dessert, zabaione and fried cream are their specialties.”

1914 Boulevard Café, Chicago: “Sunday Table d’Hôte consisting of Shell Oysters, Fish, Choice of Fowl, Filet of Beef, Fresh Vegetables, Strawberries, Cheese and Coffee, including full pint best California Claret, 75¢.”

1915 Frederick MD: “Light Lunches at Dutrow’s. Sandwiches, 5 to 15 cents; Chicken Noodle Soup, 10 cents; Pie, 5 cents; Coffee, 5 cents; Cocoa, 5 cents.”

allaires2191915 Concert and dinner at Allaire’s Scheffel Hall, NYC: 50¢ for dinner of Oysters, Bisque of Lobster, Baked Bluefish, Tenderloin of Beef with Mushroom Sauce & Green Peas, Baked Apple, Demi-Tasse.

1921 Advertisement, Littleton CO: “When in town Eat at The Home Café. Regular Dinner 35¢ and 40¢. Choice of 3 meats, soup, potatoes, 1 side dish, pudding, coffee or milk. Best coffee in the city 5¢ per cup. Try our regular Sunday chicken dinner, 60¢.”

1921 Huyler’s Tea Room, Fifth Avenue, NYC: Chicken Hash with Poached Egg, 85¢; Creamed Cheese and Chopped Walnut Sandwich, 40¢; Special Blend Coffee with Cream, 20¢.

1922 Cooper’s Cafeteria, Champaign IL: “Special 10 Cents, Saturday: Veal Loaf with Tomato Sauce – Sunday: Creamed Chicken on Toast – Every Day: Potatoes, mashed, fried or French fried, 5¢; Apple pie, 5¢; Potato or cabbage salad, 5¢; Second cup of coffee free.”

1923 De Croes’ French Restaurant, Indianapolis: “Delicious tee-bone steak. French fried potatoes, salad, hot biscuits and syrup, tea or coffee, all for 40 cents.”

1929 Alice Foote MacDougall’s Cortile, NYC: Chicken a la King, $1.00; Fresh Pear stuffed with Cream Cheese and Nut, 75¢; Hearts of Lettuce with French Dressing, 50¢.

1931 Schrafft’s, Flatbush Ave., NYC: Special Green Vegetable Dinner, 75¢; Minute Steak, $1.25; Chicken Salad, Home Style, 90¢.

1932 Pig ‘n Whistle, Los Angeles: 75¢ businessman’s lunch of Charcoal Broiled French Lamb Chops, New Peas, French Fried Potatoes, Fruit Salad, Hot Biscuits, and Coffee, Tea, Milk, or Tomato Juice.

1937 Toffenetti’s Triangle Restaurant in the Chicago Loop: “…lean, savory, juicy Hamburger sandwich, With a white crisp slice of Bermuda onion, With a beautiful slice of tomato, With a dessert, With a beverage … All for only 30¢.”

1947 Trefner’s, 619 Lexington at 53rd, NYC, a moderately priced restaurant with long-time patrons: “First there is fruit juice, then a choice of two soups. The main courses are fried chicken, steaks or some kind of fish. The chicken, which is $1, is one of the specialties of the house. Another is Hungarian goulash for 95 cents.”

1949 Jack Tar Grill, Galveston TX, open 24 hours: Steaming Hot Casserole of Home-Made Chicken and Dumplings, Hot Rolls, 55¢; Hot Casserole of Ming Toy Chop Suey with Steamed Rice, Hot Rolls, 75¢.

1951 Curly’s Chesterfield Club, Waterloo IA: Sunday Dinner, All You Can Eat, $1.50 – Fried Chicken served family style, with Tomato Juice, Shrimp or Fruit Cocktail, Relish Dish, Salad Bowl, Hot Biscuit, Mashed Potatoes, Cream Gravy, String Beans, Pie or Ice Cream, choice of drink (i.e., non-alcoholic beverage).

1952 Robin Hood Cafeteria, Corpus Christi TX: Meat Loaf with Tomato Sauce, 34¢; Snap Blackeyed Peas and Salt Pork, 15¢; Plain, Fruit or Nut Jello, 9¢.

1956 Sunday dinner at the Covered Wagon, Chicago: Prime Rib U.S. Choice Beef, $2.75, Roast Sirloin of Beef, $1.95, Seafoods, $1.85 to $3.00, Bar-B-Q Ribs, Fried Chicken, $2.25, Steaks from $3.00; served with Relish Tray, Baked Potato, Salad, Dessert, Soup, Vegetable, Beverage, Homemade Hot Rolls.

1960 Furr’s Cafeteria, Hobbs NM: Roast Loin of Pork with Candied Yams and Brown Gravy, 55¢; Apple Cabbage Slaw, 12¢; Chocolate Cream Pie, 15¢.

steakdinner60sla1961 The Quail, a “Gourmet Roadhouse” in N. Hollywood CA: “Filet Mignon Steak Dinner – 2 for 1 Price, Pay $3.75, 2nd One Free – Soup or Large Salad, Baked Potato, Sour Cream and Chives, Vegetable, Filet Mignon (charbroiled), Bread and Butter.”

1962 Le Pavillon, NYC, considered the best restaurant in America. Daily luncheon special: $7.50 per person.

HowardJohnson19641964 A one-plate turkey dinner at Howard Johnson’s.

1966 Christmas dinner at The Flamingo Prime Rib Room, Tucson: $2.25 for Roast Oregon Tom Turkey, Sage Dressing, Giblet Gravy, Fresh Cranberry Sauce, Christmas Salad or Chicken Gumbo Soup, Sweet Potatoes Soufflé, Whipped Potatoes, Brandy Sauce, Black Bottom Rum Pie, Hot Apple Pie with Melted Cheese, Coffee, Tea, or Milk.

1966 The Three Fountains, a pricey St. Louis restaurant: French Onion Soup, 50¢; Beef Stroganoff, $5.00; Chateaubriand for two, $14.00; Caesar Salad for two, $3.00; Cherries Jubilee for two, $3.50.

1970 The H&H Cafe, a soulfood restaurant on Chicago’s South Side: Breakfast served around the clock, $1.10 for two scrambled eggs and grits (or rice), an order of brains, and two buttermilk biscuits.

1971 Valley Squire, Van Nuys CA: “Gourmet Dinners for Two – 2 Lobster Brochette Dinners or 2 Filet Mignon Dinners or 2 Tournedos of Beef Dinners or 2 Prime Rib Dinners $7.25 Per Couple – Includes: Soup or salad, from our salad bar, Entree, potato, vegetable, hot bread PLUS Complimentary Wine.”

1976 The Aware Inn, a health food restaurant in West Hollywood: Chinese Salad with bean spouts, scallions, cucumber, green peppers, tomatoes and almonds in a tamarind-sesame oil dressing, $3.95; Chocolate Cream Supreme, $2.00.

24 responses to “Prices

  1. isabel bello

    love it

  2. Pingback: Monday MMM… | Flapper Femme: what's Past is Prologue...

  3. Linda oppel

    I love this site — cool prices and great looking dishes that are still around plus my home town was mentioned — Baltimore and others in Maryland. thanks

  4. Jill Devins

    Jill March 19, 2013
    I found, in old family things, a very simple device to keep track of games & points. It was given “Compliments of Marston’s Restaurant”. Cardboard wheels on either side turn the numbers. On the back side it says 25 & 27 Brattle Street and 17 & 19 Hanover St in BOSTON. Anyone know anything about this?
    Thank You

  5. Mel

    Is there a market for menu’s from the 50′s and 60′s? If so, how does one find someone who might be interested in that sort of thing? I have several from all over the US. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    • There is, though any particular menu’s desirability hinges on condition, attractiveness, and where it is from. Most old menus are sold on e-Bay, at fleamarkets, and at antique shows. It’s possible a dealer would want to buy your menus as a lot.

      • Mel

        Thank you for your input. My favorite is the Davy Jones Seafood menu from Radio City New York, circa 1951. The Shore Platter consists of Maine lobster tail, crab cake, frog legs, jumbo shrimp, chicken breast, potato and salad. Price $6.50. Add a bottle of Chablis for $ 3.00. How amazing that is to me.

      • In 2011 dollars the $6.50 shore platter would cost somewhere between $56 and $86.

    • Anonymous

      I am looking for menus from the 50′s…60′s. I am always interested in that sort of thing! plus more…my cell ph. no. is 857>364>7252. Call anytime.

  6. Jamie

    1973 NYC, “The Pink Teacup”, was a soul food restaurant in the West Village. Breakfast special was strawberry pancakes, maple or berry syrup, 2 eggs, a smothered pork chop and a side of greens with coffee & biscuits included…$2.85. Filling to say the least!

  7. Scott

    I came across a token for the Admiral Grill and a search brought me to your website. While looking through your site I could not find any reference to it, although it’s quite possible I missed it. Printed on the token is “Admiral Grill 24 S. Dearborn St.” on one side, and “Good For 25 In Trade” on the other. Is this grill referenced on your site anywhere? Thanks!

    • No, I don’t know of it. I believe those tokens were given as change to patrons who had bought commutation tickets or some other prepaid, discounted form of payment.

  8. Rick Plattsmier

    Imagine surprise of seeing Furr’s Cafeteria in Hobbs! I grew up there & was 12-13 at the time of your price timeline. The pork loin was ok but nuttin’ like Momma’s!! The veal cutlet, on the other hand, ….

  9. Tsilloh

    Very interesting information! I work for an investment firm that is currently in the process of opening a restaurant chain and we’re looking for interesting photos of restaurants/dining from the 1930′s-1960′s. We’d like some of the photos to include images of patrons interacting, dining, etc. Can you recommend a good website or book that may contain some great images?

    • Closest to one-stop shopping would be searching on e-Bay, but other good sources are photo collections at the Museum of the City of New York, New York and San Francisco public libraries, and the Library of Congress.

  10. Tom Byg

    What precipitated the creation of this web site? …and how did your interest in this subject matter evolve?

    Tom

    • Hi Tom, Hard to answer that. Maybe it was because my parents took me out to eat fairly often when I was a child. Then I started collecting postcards of old restaurants. Then I wondered about their histories . . . and so on, down the rabbit hole. Not so much precipitated as percolated.

  11. Beverly

    Thank you for the information. I am teaching a class of children and we were discussing money and pieces of coins.
    I was so happy to see your “Note: Until the mid-19th century prices were often quoted in shillings and pence, or in Spanish dollars. One Spanish bit = 12½¢; One penny (1d) = 1¢; One shilling (1s) = 12d, or 12¢. . . ..” One part of the discussion was about “pieces of eight” and I told them about how American Colonist were not allowed to use British pounds. They were allowed to barter or use money from other countries: Spain, Holland, etc. They had a coin cutter similar to today’s paper cutter, and the merchant would cut the coins into eights. (I was told this on a Williamsburg tour) I wonder if a Spanish bit was similar to a “piece of eight”.

  12. VanessaBaker

    I found such great information on your site wanted to ask is it okay to use for my paper on pricing power. I’m a culinary student researching different sites, for valuable information hope you don’t mind.

  13. Bill Peck

    I agree, so interesting this information. Are you familiar with the Miss Frank E. Buttolph American Menu Collection, 1851-1930 in the New York Public Library? Thousands of menus. You can find this on line with fine colored images at the NYC Public Library website. NYPL.org It is interesting to convert 1835 dollar into 2008 dollar. Using Purchasing Power of Money in the United States from 1774 to 2009 at MEASURINGWORTH.COM, we find an 1835 $1 to be worth $25.20 in 2008. (using CPI, Consumer Price Index). Thanks for this website RESTAURANTING-ING through history.

  14. ashley

    Congratulations for the great site!
    i study Management of Tourism and i’ve found really interesting information here.
    Thank you!

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