Fish & chips & alligator steaks

The menu shown here caught my eye as I was browsing the internet. Of course, I wanted to know more about it. The first thing I discovered was that it is available as a reproduction.

Evidently the Trebor Dinner was a specialty menu for complete dinners of multiple courses. Three dollars was a steep price for the Depression when this menu was introduced, at least double what a comparable meal would have cost in a moderately-priced good restaurant then.

The illustrated menu shows 14 entrees. But the restaurant almost certainly did not have all the exotic items available at all times. Another fish & chips, inc. menu from 1937, for example, offered one appetizer, one soup, and only four entrees.

The menu could date any time from the opening of the restaurant in 1936 into the 1940s. Its clever design may have been due to owner Bob Winter’s background in advertising. Why the menu is named “Trebor Dinner” is a mystery. It’s possible that Trebor is a play on the owner’s name Robert.

Fish & chips, inc. was conveniently located in the Loop, across the street from the central Chicago library, now the Chicago Cultural Center. It was a handy location for a 1943 dinner of the literary members of the Boswell club, admirers of Doctor Samuel Johnson. In their honor the restaurant posted one of Johnson’s quotations over their table in which he criticized French menus, requesting “thy knaves to bring me a dish of hog’s pudding, a slice or two from the upper cut of a well roasted sirloin, and two apple dumplings.”

It was a popular restaurant, said to be especially well liked by male patrons. In 1944, during World War II, lines formed at the door. The following year it was enlarged to seat 300. [1949 advertisement shown]

With no meat on the menu, the restaurant would have had the advantage of escaping wartime food restrictions and shortages.

Advertising that it had 50 varieties of fish on hand daily, a lunch or dinner could include sunfish, crappies, smelts, cod, brook trout, sea bass, shrimp, and lobster among many others. The restaurant advertised heavily during the Lenten season.

Bob Winter died in 1953 and the entire contents of the restaurant were auctioned, including groceries.

© Jan Whitaker, 2021

15 Comments

Filed under alternative restaurants, food, menus, Offbeat places, patrons, popular restaurants

15 responses to “Fish & chips & alligator steaks

  1. This place looks amazing. I am sorry they closed. Good seafood is unusual in land-locked Chicago. I had a butcher that flew in fish from both coasts once a week when I lived there.

  2. Pada tanggal Min, 22 Agt 2021 10.21, Restaurant-ing through history menulis:

    > Jan Whitaker posted: ” The menu shown here caught my eye as I was browsing > the internet. Of course, I wanted to know more about it. The first thing I > discovered was that it is available as a reproduction. Evidently the Trebor > Dinner was a specialty menu for complete din” >

  3. As somebody else has commented…somehow the most shocking part of this post to me is that America has fish and chips!

  4. Fred

    “Court House Restaurant” Cambridge St. East Cambridge MA gets fresh fish delivered daily from local commercial fishermen and women. Nothing like fresh fish and chips.

  5. Janet

    The only thing that looks appealing on the menu is the fried catfish. Interesting to know that seafood wasn’t restricted during the war. Thanks for sharing this, Jan.

  6. I’d have to stay until I’d tried everything on the menu!

    >

  7. Fascinating in several ways.
    Firstly, I had been lead to believe that Fish ‘n Chips was a uniquely British thing – there are thousands of Fish & Chip shops in the UK from Lands End to John o’Groats. Every year many of them vie for the title of best F&C restaurant, competition is fierce. I live in a small fishing village (town?) on the East coast of Scotland. We have a working harbour with boats bringing in catches of Haddock, Crabs, Langoustine and Lobsters every day. We have 2 dedicated F&Chippies. So why do some of the residents of Pittenweem go a mile up coast to the F&Chippie in Anstruther? Its a mystery to me!
    I use a butcher in Stirling, a town about 1 hour’s drive away, as we no longer have a butcher in the village. Rendall’s are brilliant, their meat is superb and keenly priced. But what intrigues me is that they have a brisk trade in ‘Exotic Meat” — Crocodile, Ostrich, Horse, Zebra, Bison etc…how weird is that? However I have never seen turtle on any menu.

    • You’re right that it’s typically English — we say French fries, not chips and don’t have the shops. But there have been numerous fast food fish chains here. Turtle was quite a delicacy here in the 19th century, not now though. Exotic meat, no thanks!

  8. Thanks Jan…great find.
    Hard to keep so many fresh items ready to serve. Don’t know how they did it.
    Tom

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