Dinner in Miami, Dec. 25, 1936

Judging from the number of restaurants and hotel dining rooms advertising Christmas or Xmas dinner that year, there must have been quite a few prospective diners around. It was still the Depression but prohibition had ended several years earlier, tourism was well underway, and Art Deco buildings were going up all over.

The not-at-all modernistic Old Heidelberg shown above – which had opened in the unfortunate year of 1929 — gave no details about its offerings that day, other than to characterize it as an “Old-Fashioned Dinner.” That’s a fairly meaningless description if you ask me. Given that Germany had withdrawn citizenship from Jews in 1935, this probably was not a restaurant popular with Miami’s Jewish community.

Most of the advertisements mentioned price, not surprising since most people had to watch their spending. They ranged from a low of 50¢ per person to a high of $2.00 at a place called the Rose Bowl, a restaurant specializing in Southern dishes, with a woman serving bread dressed as a “mammy.” Like the Heidelberg, the Rose Bowl made no effort in its Christmas advertisements to tout its dinner or whatever other attractions it might have possessed.

Others went to great length to attract diners. The Big And Little Grill had no end of attractions, including music, “gifts to all,” free parking, a chef who had formerly worked at a New Hampshire resort hotel, and a Santa Claus who once appeared in Charlie Chaplin’s movie “Circus.” All dinners were 75¢. The list of comestibles filled ten wide lines of text. It contained 35 separate items, among them a “Big and Little Salad,” Boiled Lobster Stuffed with Oysters, Supreme of Sole Florentine, Sizzling Steak with Wine, and numerous vegetables and desserts.

The Big and Little offered an equally good deal for its New Year’s celebration, with a return performance of Charlie Little, now in the role of clown. As for its advertisement, as a New Englander I’m obligated to point out that there is no Dixieville in New Hampshire – it’s Dixville.

Attraction-wise, the Big and Little was hard to top. But George’s Restaurant tried hard, with even more inches of advertising, not to mention wine and bottled beer. Its 75¢ dinner comprised six courses: Cocktail (tomato juice, half grapefruit, etc.); a soup accompanied by olives and hearts of celery; a choice of five entrees that included Whole Broiled Lobster, Maitre d’Hotel (chances are these were clawless Florida lobsters, considered inferior to Maine’s); a salad; eight vegetables; choice of many desserts (six kinds of pie, a cake, a sundae, ice creams, jello, or stewed prunes). For those who didn’t have big appetites there was George’s Special 50¢ Dinner, which of course offered fewer choices and only half a lobster, but still looked like a bargain.

The Studio Grill’s turkey dinner included wine, which may have accounted for the $1.00 charge. Shortly after it opened a few years earlier, the suburban Miami curb service eatery had advertised for “Girls with Blonde Hair” who were 5’6″ tall, weighed 118 lbs., and had “striking” personalities. Undoubtedly reflecting Depression conditions, 800 showed up. The grill was owned by a magazine cover illustrator and was filled with his paintings of nude women.

The Laura Jacobsen Café, a high-class Chicago transplant, was located in a residential apartment hotel. Her Christmas dinner in the ritzy-looking Colonial Towers accommodating snowbirds from the North was $1.25.

Wherever and whatever you may eat, I hope you will enjoy your holiday dinner.

© Jan Whitaker, 2022

13 Comments

Filed under food, restaurant prices

13 responses to “Dinner in Miami, Dec. 25, 1936

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you as always very informative. Have you compiled a book yet?

  2. MarkinDC

    THANKS for this fascinating (as always) posting – long-running restaurants often become treasured holiday time destinations. Here in DC we have a Greman restaurant known as the Old Europe that has miraculously survived, and thrived, even. There’s also Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown. I try to visit both at some point during the holidays, preferably just before/after Christmas, when all the “transplants” are out of town…..

    Hope Santa was good to you, Jan, and Happy New Year!

  3. Matthew

    Loved reading this post today! Very much enjoyed everything you shared with us this year

  4. Marty Oppenheim

    Great post. Happy holidays and have a wonderful new year. Thank you for always brightening my day!

  5. Thank you for these posts, they are always so interesting! Happy Holidays!

  6. Seth Bramson

    As always, Jan, many thanks, and a couple of historical updates:

    Old Heidelberg, after many years on S. Federal Highway in Hallandale (now Hallandale Beach) moved to (if I remember correctly) either Hallandale Beach Blvd. or one of the other close to there east=west streets and was still in business until at least pre-covid, possibly still today. Perhaps one of our list members can update us.

    Second, George’s moved across the street to the north side of 5th Street on Miami Beach and became “George’s Fried Chicken,” directly across the street from dad’s sign shop, which was at 222-5th St. All of that now long gone.

    • Seth, that’s a long run for a restaurant!

      • Seth H. Bramson

        And as we would say Downeast, “ayyyyyy-YUP!” IF Old Heidelberg is still with us, I believe it would be one of six or seven oldest restaurants still alive in Florida: Columbia and Berns in Tampa and Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach being top three.

  7. Anonymous

    Thanks for all your wonderful posts through the year! I have fond memories of Christmas in Miami, a couple of times. It’s nice to see poinsettias in their natural habitat!

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