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 At a cheap eating house in Baltimore, for a price the diner considers “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 Sky high “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 ¢).

1855 Those eating their mid-day dinner at Van Doren’s Commercial Oyster & Dining Saloon in Jersey City NJ can order a Plain Omelette for 12½ cents or, if they are feeling rich, a whole Broiled Chicken for 62½ cents. Vegetables available in March are Potatoes, Turnips, Celery, or Cabbage, each 6½ cents.

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


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.”


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.

1917 On August 27 a thrifty diner can order a complete dinner of Old Fashion Bean Soup, Roll & Butter, Hungarian Beef Goulash with Mashed Potatoes, Stewed Celery, and Cole Slaw, Cocoanut Pie, and Demi Tasse for only 50 cents at Green’s Restaurant in Philadelphia. Served a la carte, Beef Goulash alone costs 50 cents, but undoubtedly it is a larger portion.

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.”

pricesbostonoysterhouse1926 Business Men’s Lunch at the Boston Oyster House is 80 cents and consists of soup, a main dish such as Stuffed Pork Tenderloin or Corned Beef and Cabbage, potatoes, and pie.

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¢.

1930 A survey by the U.S. federal government determines that 38 cents is the average amount paid for lunch in big city commercial eating places across America.

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

pigNWhistle1932 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.

1934 On its August 15 menu Mary Elizabeth’s, a tea room on Fifth Avenue at 36th Street in New York City, offers a Tropical Chicken special with Orange Sections, Pineapple Hollandaise, and New Green Peas for $1.10. A Cream Cheese and Jelly Sandwich is 30 cents, while Iced Watermelon is 20 cents.

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¢.”

woolworthlunchcounter1939 Lunch at a Woolworth’s counter: “Today’s Feature Luncheon 25c – Cubed Minute Steak, Panned Gravy, Sliced Buttered Beets, French Fried Potatoes, Hot Cloverleaf Roll and Butter.”

1944 The Milan Cafeteria in San Antonio TX calls itself the home of “Old Fashioned Foods.” Thursday is Family Day with a steamtable of choices such as Roast Chicken with Cornbread Dressing (40 cents), Peas in Butter (15 cents), or a Tomato Stuffed with Shrimp Salad (23 cents).

1946 Evening Dinner on May 31 at the Bookshop Tearoom, Springfield MA, 65c for appetizer, entree, two vegetables, rolls, beverage, and dessert. The entree choices are: Broiled Fresh Halibut, Grilled Boneless Ham, Broiled Fresh Mackerel, Salmon and Celery Salad, or Chicken Fricassee in Pattie Shell. The light eater could choose a Marshmallow and Peanut Butter Sandwich for 15c.

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.”

pricesjacktar1949 Jack Tar Grill, in a Galveston TX motor court, 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¢. — At the Valley Ho restaurant in Van Nuys CA $1.70 buys a chicken dinner (pictured above).

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, is 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.”

pricesdohack's1974 Dohack’s in a suburb of St. Louis MO offers a carry-out menu with Bar B-Q Ribs accompanied by French Fries, Cole Slaw, and Bread for $2.90. A Large Chef Salad costs $1.75, and Onion Rings are 60 cents.

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.

1981 The chain restaurant TGI Friday’s charges $2.95 for its Plain Potato Skins appetizer, which comes with sour cream and chives for dipping, but $5.20 for Loaded Potato Skins which arrive with cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon.


1982 At The Old Spaghetti Factory, a chain restaurant popular with families, a spaghetti dinner runs from $1.95 for Spaghetti with Plain Tomato Sauce, up to $2.25 with Mushroom Sauce. The dinners come with green salad, sourdough bread with garlic butter, coffee, tea, or milk, and spumoni ice cream. A glass of wine (Mountain Burgundy, Rosé, or Chablis) costs 40 cents.

1982 Los Angeles’ Spago turns down 300 reservations a day, according to chef Wolfgang Puck. Specializing in pizza, it is a fashionable spot for celebrities. With lower prices than other “in” restaurants, dinner checks average about $30 with wine.

1987 A booklet of recommended restaurants put out by the San Francisco Chronicle advises that an inexpensive restaurant in that city is one that charges $10 or under for a meal, while a moderate-priced restaurant charges up to $25 and an expensive restaurant charges over $25. However, at a top restaurant such as Masa’s in San Francisco a fixed-price meal runs $48 (almost certainly excluding drinks and tip), while diners at Berkeley’s innovative Chez Panisse can expect to pay at least $45.

64 responses to “Prices

  1. Kay Reid

    Anyone in the UK remember how much a 3 course Chinese business man’s lunch was in the late 1980’s early 1990’s??

  2. Love this blog.

    This caught my eye:
    > A booklet of recommended restaurants put out by the San Francisco Chronicle advises that an inexpensive restaurant in that city is one that charges $10 or under for a meal …

    The Chronicle is hoity-toity. I lived in San Francisco in the 1990s, and it was never hard to find a good meal for $6 or $7, and that included a couple of dollars for a tip.

    Of course, prices have gone way, way up since then.

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  5. Wanda Greer

    WOW it’s amazing how the cost of meals from breakfast to dinner has changed. This would be a really good history report for a student to do in school.

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  7. Anonymous

    How about: High School lunch ticket in Colorado, 1972: $2.00. Per week. Fiberglass compartmented tray ……

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  9. Don Greene Jr.

    My father, who I am writing this for, remembers going to the movies having a hamburger and pop for .25 cents. This was about 1938

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  11. Robert Darmody

    This site is probably as good as any or better to find anyone who’s ever seen or heard of a sign that allegedly hung in Brocato’s Steak House in Shreveport Louisiana.

    I worked Ernest’s Club in the 1960’s and remember sultry afternoons when locals bookies and other cronies had a favorite argument over the exact wording of the sign. Consensus was about so: “Its tough to pay 75 cents for a steak, but when you pay 25, its a lot tougher.”

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  14. Mitch

    I remember going to a restaurant in Detroit, Michigan with my dad in the 50s and they featured a $1.00 STEAK!!!! It certainly wasn’t great!! But did cost $1.00?

  15. Anonymous

    A group of friends went out for lunch. Four people ordered soup. Four people ordered sandwiches. Each sandwich costs twice as much as a bowl of soup. Three people ordered burgers. Each burger costs three times as much as a bowl of soup. The total cost for their lunch was less than ​$47.46. What was the price of a bowl of​ soup?

    • Anonymous

      Each soup is $2.26, each sandwich is $4.52, and each burger is $6.78 (Though I have to wonder: why would three of the four order a sandwich *and* a burger? 🙂 )

      • Anonymous

        You assumed that the total number of people was 4, that is not expressed, only the quantity and type of food ordered.

    • Anonymous

      This is why I hated high school math.

    • Gray Wanderer

      Unsolvable. You said the total price is ‘less than’ a given number.

      If it equaled the number then the other reply is correct (though no one mentioned ‘how many’ people went to lunch). 4x soups, 8x sandwiches plus 9x burgers. 47.46/(4+8+9) or 47.46/21=2.26

  16. Mary Dana

    I am trying to find out what year you could get 1/2 pint of clams for 40 cents and 1/2 pint of French fries for 20 cents?

    • I haven’t seen prices in restaurants given per pint or half pint, but I would say you could definitely find those prices in the 1940s and probably even into the early 1950s in some eating places. It would take quite a bit of research to nail down the modal prices considering there’s always quite a bit of variation.

  17. What year or decade was a cup of hot chocolate 25 cents?

    • Obviously prices vary quite a bit among different restaurants, but I’m going to say that in the average popular restaurant it wasn’t until the late 1960s or early 1970s that hot chocolate cost that much.

  18. James

    I love the comparison. But something happened from the early 60s, or there about, to the early 80s. Things, meaning food here, were about the same price from the 30s to the 60s. Things didn’t double or triple.
    But a spaghetti dinner in the early 80s (with mushroom) is almost $3.00 and spaghetti is dirt cheap.
    You can get a burger and the works for about 50 cents and 25 years later a roast pork dinner with the works for $1.75. But that is comparing chopped meat to a hearty meal. That spaghetti dinner in a chain restaurant almost doubled what a full meat dinner cost in the 60s and their is no meat or the works. That is a joke and if you had any professional career, even if it wasn’t the high paying ones, from 1900 to the 1960s, you could eat out with hardly eating at home and the food you bought at the grocery store was so cheap and rent too, that people were able to save money.
    Well, something went wrong after the 60s and people, unless you were lucky, have been struggling to get by ever since.
    Please note that this struggle for most people was without a depression like back in the day.
    I know people try to say there were some kind of depression when they were adults, but nothing compared to back in the day.
    Lastly, food is supposed to be very inexpensive, some how a lot of food, especially eating out, cost and arm and a leg.
    But what I don’t understand is you can go to a restaurant and order a shrimp cocktail and they charge 10 or 11 dollars. Then you go to an all you can eat restaurant and they charge 15 to 20 dollars but you can eat all the shrimp you want.
    Lastly, I mean it. Two things; In a Chinese restaurant in the middle of Jersey, about 60 miles from the nearest city, I ordered dumplings, 8 for $8.99.
    But in N.Y.C, I get 4 dumplings or buns for a dollar. You tell me how this is. And this happens when you compare almost any restaurant. Also, my friend went to Maine to get that great Maine lobster and he was charged like $15.00 each for him and his girl and they were in a cheap side of the road, recommended place (plus he didn’t like the food). He goes to his Chinese places (he is Chinese) and tells me he gets the same lobster for $4.00. And I have been there with him and it is so inexpensive.
    Point of all of this is, how can one establishment charge crazy prices and another not. I notice among these “white” communities, (and I mean where white people mostly eat) they over charge because they know they will pay and they want to get rich. They are, if they are friendly, phony friendly and are cheap with the food and never give anything on the house. I know some diners, and I go to them, I love them, will, if you are a regular customer, give things on the house, but they are a community and they are great people in most diners.
    Back in the day, you go to any “white” community and they weren’t trying to milk their customers. You became friends of the staff and owners. You see it with these food people on t.v. charging an arm and a leg for a shake or small sandwich.
    Well, I think these people are terrible and that’s why I go into the communities that serve their own people and I eat like it’s the 70s. Plus the food is authentic and the owners are so gracious, but genuinely gracious, meaning I order something, but it was wrong, they say oh sorry, well leave it there and I’ll get you what you ordered plus a little something extra because it was their mistake. That’s true loyalty to a customer and tells you how cheap food is.
    Well, there is so much more.
    Thanks for reading
    God Bless

    • As you have noticed pricing is a really complex subject. All kinds of things come into play such as location, quality of ingredients, how successful a place is, market positioning and strategy. Some dishes are priced not much over cost and others are priced high — even in the same restaurant. I don’t think most restaurants make huge profits, not even some of the top places that are far beyond the reach of most people.

    • Alma

      What is not being considered is rent for example. A restaurant in tourist Maine may well be paying more rent than your friend’s neighborhood restaurant. Also the wages may differ from area to area. Cost of living altogether varies from place to place. It is not entirely geared to rip you off.
      I work near a place where the best bus boy gets $20 an hour. Course he works as hard as two people, but still. Anyway, just to say you haven’t figured in all costs…

    • A Blessed Child of God

      Why say white community? How about affluent community. Seem like even when people make sense, they instantly lose your interest by some how pointing out race… I have traveled quite a bit, and have been fortunate to have a choice to eat in affluent communities. As long as the quality of the food is right, God has blessed me to make the price a secondary thought… FYI I have found lack of authentic genuinority, lack of appreciation in the less affluent community too… May God continue to bless us all and our communities.

  19. Bob Childs

    I remember the Ritz Old Poodle Dog, one of San Francisco’s oldest and best French Restaurant. In 1960, we took my wife’s best friend to dine there for her birthday, We all had a great dinner, and the service was the best. As I remember, dinner for 4, with tip, cost just a bit more than $30.00, And there was a little extra, at no extra charge, I mentioned to the head waiter that it was our friends birthday, so at the end of dinner, a waiter came out with a nice pastry with a sparkler in it, the lights were dimmed, and it was grandly served.

    • Michael E Schabow

      Do you remember “The Blue Fox”? My dad would take us there in the early ’60’s. It was a very elite restaurant with a front door in an alley across from the morgue! Can’t remember the prices.

  20. Daniel

    What were the typical drinks in a restaurant like during the 1930s?

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  22. Dewitt

    Oh my gosh, what a great site. I used to feed my family of 3 youngish kids, my wife and myself at, Johnny’s No Bone Steak House, for about $5.00. These were full meals, We ate there every once in a while. Fuel then was $0.25 per gallon, cheaper if a gas war was going on.
    I was born in 1934, I remember pumping gas into my moms car at $0.11 per gallon. It was pumped up into a glass container which measured the gas, then dumped through the hose by gravity. Interesting life….

  23. Andrea

    What were the prices of ice cream in America in the late 40’s and 50’s?

    • Generally a nickel a scoop, but the scoops were smaller than they are now.

      • albert miller

        In 1942 , when I was ten, a double scoop of ice cream cost 10 cents. The scoops were much larger than today’s scoop. Dad took us about once a week to Mooney’s (they made their own), in Saginaw Mich.

  24. Mike Hardwick

    What was the approximate cost of a plate lunch in the South in the late 1950’s?

  25. isabel bello

    love it

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  27. 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

  28. 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

  29. 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.

  30. 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!

  31. 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.

  32. 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, ….

  33. 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.

  34. Tom Byg

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


    • 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.

  35. 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”.

  36. 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.

  37. 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. 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.

  38. 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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