Fast Food Menus: A Look Back Slideshow
January 29, 2013
7) Dairy Queen
While not much has been removed from the Dairy Queen menu in the past 50 years, it has seen more additions than probably any chain. However, just about all the classics from this 1960s era menu, including the sundaes, D.Q. Sandwiches, Dilly Bars, and banana splits are still for sale at every Dairy Queen if you ask for them. And while savory additions like burgers, hot dogs, salads, and even quesadillas all grace DQ menus today, it’ll never shed its original reputation as a great place for a sweet treat.
6) Dunkin' Donuts
Another key example of a sweet destination gone savory, Dunkin’ Donuts got its start in 1950 in Quincy, Mass., selling — what else? — donuts. Those rings of fried goodness are still a major draw nationwide (for much of the country a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts is still the only option when a craving strikes), and certainly no elementary school birthday party is complete without a box of Munchkins, but those who stop at Dunkin’ on a daily basis tend to do so for the coffee. Another one of its original offerings (founder William Rosenberg bought higher-quality coffee beans than the competition and sold them for a then-pricey $0.10 per cup), coffee options have expanded to include flavored and iced options, as well as the slushy Coolatta. And even though a whole roster of savory items including bagels and breakfast sandwiches now grace the menu, "great tasting coffee continues to be the brand's number one priority," according to this press release. A small cup of black coffee sells today for $1.52.
The first outpost of A&W was opened in 1919, and by 1960 there were an astonishing 2,000-plus locations of the chain nationwide (and in Canada). As evidenced by this menu from that time period from an outpost in Clarkston, Wash., the offerings back then were quite eclectic. You could pick up a burger or hot dog, of course, but sandwiches including barbecue beef and fried ham were available, as well as a burrito. You could also get pork chops, "finger steak," and a burger called the Awful Awful! Nowadays there are a few holdovers from the '60s-era menu, namely the Papa Burger (once accompanied by a Mama, Teen, and Baby Burger), chili dog, and (obviously) root beer, but other than that not much is the same. While the double-decker Papa Burger sold for $0.65 back in the day, an outpost in Kentucky now sells it for $4.57.
4) Burger King
retroplanet.com, Wikimedia Commons/ Blueag9
Burger King traces its roots back to 1954 Miami, and by the time that this menu was published in 1959 it had expanded to about 30 stores. The menu took a rather lighthearted approach, and surprisingly, the Whopper was already on the menu and being advertised by then (an even larger option, the Jaw-Breaker, was offered for $0.75, and has since been obviously discontinued). The standard assortment of hot dogs, fries, and onion rings were also included, along with a couple of surprises including a barbecue beef and steak sandwich. In 1959 a Whopper sold for $0.40 and today it’ll cost you a flat $5.
3) Jack in the Box
This popular chain got its start in 1951 with one of the simplest fast-food menus imaginable. With barely more than 10 items, the focus was quite obviously on simplicity. The inclusion of tacos, however, was an indication of things to come. The Bonus Burger was added in the early 1970s in response to McDonald’s Big Mac, and over the years the menu grew to include a wide range of burgers, sandwiches, and desserts (the tacos have stuck around, and the Bonus Burger came back in 2010 after being gone for decades). The Bonus Burger, which originally sold for $0.37, now costs $3.23 in San Diego, Calif.
The classic McDonald’s menu is just that: classic. Its small menu of burgers, fries, shakes, and beverages remains the iconic fast-food menu, the basis on which all competitors drew their inspiration. Over the years, however, the menu expanded in legendary ways. The Big Mac was rolled out nationwide in 1968, the Happy Meal made its debut in 1979, and the Chicken McNugget followed in 1983. Since then, plenty of other options have joined the originals, including a wide variety of burgers, chicken sandwiches, snacks, salads, breakfast items, and, of course, a McRib. The original offerings, however, are still there, and haven’t changed much since their inception more than 50 years ago. The classic $0.15 hamburger now costs a very reasonable $1.62; $0.19 cheeseburgers now cost $1.65 (shockingly, the price difference between the two items has actually decreased over the years!)
1) Nathan's Famous
No fast-food chain has changed so much over the years as Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. It got its start in 1916 as a simple hot dog stand in Coney Island, and by the time it expanded out to Long Island in 1959, the menu included a mind-rattling assortment of items: pizza, corn on the cob, lobster and shrimp rolls, clams both on the half-shell and fried, burgers, soups, chow mein on a bun, and even frog’s legs. In the years that followed, as it enjoyed a national expansion, the menu evened out a bit, and while some of the more exotic offerings (like seafood including soft-shell crab) is still available at the original Coney Island location, the menu you’ll find today tends to stick to hot dogs, chicken, fries, and cheesesteaks. Back in 1916 a plain hot dog cost $0.05; today it’ll run you a whopping $3.42.
9) White Castle
A trip to White Castle these days generally means a sack of mini burgers, some fries, and a soda. While the menu now includes chicken and fish sliders, mozzarella sticks and onion rings, things havent changed too much over the years at the chain that started it all in 1921 in Wichita, Kan. This menu, from 1952, reveals that the mini hamburgers and cheeseburgers were only $0.05 and $0.06 respectively, back then cookies were on the menu, and one play on the jukebox cost $0.05. Nowadays, burgers and cheeseburgers cost $0.83 and $1.02, respectively.
8) Kentucky Fried Chicken
"Colonel" Harland Sanders perfected his Original Recipe of 11 herbs and spices in 1940, and by the early 1960s the buckets full of fried chicken we know and love today were commonplace on the chains menus. On this menu we can see that buckets of increasing size and variety were available back then, with sides including potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni salad, fries, mashed potatoes, gravy, and rolls. And even though the fried shrimp dinner has gone the way of the dodo (along with the chicken gizzards and livers), and new additions like chicken sandwiches and pot pies now grace the menu, not too much has changed in the intervening years. And while the nine-piece bucket, which sold back then for $2.25, no longer exists, its closest relative, the eight-piece bucket, now sells for $12.49 on average.