Menu of the Week: New York Zoological Park’s Rocking Stone, 1905

Lunchtime at the Bronx Zoo

While the Rocking Stone is still on the grounds of The Bronx Zoo, it no longer rocks.

On Nov. 8, 1899, The New York Zoological Park opened for business, on land sold to the city from Fordham University several years prior. Home to 843 animals in 22 exhibits, it was a series of Beaux-Arts pavilions designed by Heins & LaFarge (perhaps today best remembered for their design of the New York subway system) as part of the thriving "City Beautiful" movement, and centered around a large, circular sea lion pool. If you’re wondering what happened to this marvel of civic engineering, it’s still there, just with a different name: The Bronx Zoo, and today it’s home to about 4,000 animals representing some 650 species.

If you decided to take a jaunt up to the zoo on July 14, 1905 and found yourself getting a bit hungry come lunchtime, your best option would have been to stop into the park’s Rocking Stone Restaurant, named after one of the park’s most popular attractions, a 30-ton pink granite boulder that could be rocked slightly on its pivot by a couple strong people. The bill of fare, which we found on the New York Public Library’s online archive, was separated into cold meats, salads, sandwiches, desserts, and specials sections, and is about as simple as can be. A selection of cold cuts was about all that was offered, along with some simple salads (to think that there was a time when lobster salad cost as much as chicken salad!). The most striking option on the menu is probably the caviar sandwich, which was a very popular lunch back then (in fact, a lot of bars gave them away for free). That lobster salad sandwich would have cost about $12.50 in today’s money, and a roast beef sandwich would have cost about $3.75.

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As for the Rocking Stone, it’s still there, right by the entrance to the House of Darkness. Its base has been shored up, however, so it no longer rocks.