Lobster stew at the White Rabbit

On the menu shown here a bowl of lobster stew cost 70 cents and came with crackers, pickles, and chips. Oyster stew was 50 cents, while fried clams with french fries, cole slaw, and coffee cost 60 cents.

The menu is undated but is probably from the 1940s. Fried lobster was one of the White Rabbit’s most popular dishes, according to Duncan Hines’ 1947 guide book, Adventures in Good Eating. With a fruit cup, tomato, pineapple, french fries, rolls, dessert, and tea or coffee, it came to $1.35. And, of course, they threw in pickles and chips.

In addition to lobster fried, sautéed, or stewed, it was also available as a salad.

Admiring patrons quoted in the 1948 edition of Gourmet’s Guide to Good Eating explained that the reason the Rabbit was always mobbed with people on their way to and from Cape Cod was due to its high standards, excellent food, and, specifically, “plates of hot buttered rolls.”

On Saturday nights the White Rabbit offered a traditional Massachusetts dinner of baked beans for 50 cents. Other interesting dishes on the menu include a vegetable salad sandwich (35¢), a sardine and horseradish sandwich (25¢), and a side order of tomato and cucumbers (15¢).

The tea room got its start in 1931, in West Chatham on the Cape, about 37 miles from the Buzzards Bay location which became its long-term home. Prior to its beginning, owner Nate Nickerson was a taxi driver in Brockton MA, where co-owner Mildred Ring may have worked as a waitress.

Nickerson’s two sons were waiters at the restaurant which was open only from April through November.

In 1966, the final year in which I found advertisements for it, the White Rabbit had evidently abandoned the tea room theme. It then featured liquor and steaks. Nickerson had died in 1950 and it’s likely that it was under different management.

A few years ago I received a nice surprise when a stranger sent me this bowl by Syracuse china used in the tea room.

© Jan Whitaker, 2019


Filed under food, menus, popular restaurants, roadside restaurants, tea shops

10 responses to “Lobster stew at the White Rabbit

  1. Teresa Soares

    We just found 5 dinner plates in our basement. They are approx 9 inch divided plates. Exciting finding out the history.

  2. Anonymous

    My family would stop at the White Rabbit Restaurant on the way home from the Cape to Providence. My sisters and I loved it because of the huge lollipops we received when we were leaving. This was in the late 50’s.


    When I was a boy, summer time we stayed in Riverside on the bay. Nearby was Onset. We could walk to the White Rabbit as I recall. The food was very good. Better yet I used to go crabbing for blue crabs under the dummy bridge. My mother would steam them and make sandwiches.

  4. Janet Thomson

    So interesting to read!!! I’m from Chicago but my mom was from Boston,and she and I would go there every summer. My dad would join us there for the last month or so,and I remember going to The White Rabbit for lunch on our way to where we stayed at the Cape. It was really good!! Such a shame that so many good restaurants have closed,like Anthony’s Pier Four in Boston.

  5. Barbara M Waters

    This was so neat to read about. The White Rabbit was a favorite restaurant of my family’s. Every time I heat up my bread or rolls the way the White Rabbit did I am transported back. We were all sad when it closed.

  6. Anonymous

    Great post like always. Thanks for bringing this foodie back in time.

  7. Anonymous

    I am an historic restaurant and menu collector and I LOVE your website!

    We always delight in the cheap prices quoted on vintage menus … but lose sight of the changing value of the dollar. Before I wax nostalgic over a bowl of lobster stew costing 75 cents, I multiply that by 20 (give-or-take) to approximate current prices. This is my default equation and I believe fairly accurate (I’m in my 60’s: when I was a kid, a cup of coffee cost a dime … now: upwards from 2 dollars). What are your thoughts on this subject?

    Yours in Historic Restaurant-ing!
    Bill Savoy

    P.S.: When will you do a feature on ALICE FOOTE MAC DOUGAL?!

  8. Rebecca Leontiev

    One my favorite topmarked pieces of Syracuse restaurant ware and the matching grill plate to the fabulous bowl is great too! Thanks for another great article Jan, always enjoy your posts and insights and the look-back in history.

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