Every week, we tap into the deep recesses of the New York Public Library’s vast archive of old menus to take a look at the history of dining out. Click here for more Menus of the Week.
There are a few hotel chains that are basically synonymous with the 60s: Howard Johnson’s, for one, and Holiday Inn, with its famous “Great Sign,” for the other. Both of these chains not only offered lodging, but also a surprisingly vast menu of food served at in-house restaurants that have all basically disappeared (if anything, the chain is now renting the space out to independent eateries). This menu from July 1969 (Woodstock!) gives you a great snapshot of how people were eating back then: in a word, simply.
The menu begins with a selection of salads (including the Russian Salad, with ham, an unnamed cheese, iceberg lettuce, capers, pickled beets, and egg wedges), “Appeteasers” like shrimp cocktail and soup, and desserts like hot apple pie with a cheddar cheese crust, which was most likely delicious.
Not sure why the entrée page is titled “John Holiday Specials,” or why the chicken section has a long description of how man domesticated the fowl (to be funny, most likely), but the entrees are pretty straightforward: spaghetti with meat sauce, steaks, fried or broiled chicken, pork chops, hot sandwiches, liver, and a hilarious “Low Calorie Special” a nod to the health craze that was in its infancy then: a broiled beef burger, cottage cheese with a peach or pair, and a “cracker basket.” How times have changed!
On the last page is a selection of fried and broiled seafood, as well as some cold sandwiches, including the classic triple decker club.
Even though the menu is what most would consider “dated,” thousands of restaurants in the country still serve a bill of fare that’s most likely very similar to this (you’d still be surprised by what dome diners are calling a “low calorie special.”) And honestly, if we were looking for some room service after a long day, we’d consider ourselves lucky to have a selection like this.