HOW EXPENSIVE WAS IT TO GO OUT TO EAT IN THE 1930S?
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.
Here are some examples of prices:
1931 Schrafft’s was a chain of moderately priced restaurants along the East Coast. This menu was for the one on Flatbush Ave., NYC: Special Green Vegetable Dinner, 75¢; Minute Steak, $1.25; Chicken Salad, Home Style, 90¢.
1932 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¢.”
1939 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.”
As you may notice, most of the foods served in these moderately priced restaurants are fairly standard American fare. French and Mexican cuisine was sparse. But I sure would not go out to a tea room in Manhattan to purchase a cream cheese and jelly sandwich!
So, when my heroines in my WIP go out to a diner for coffee (@ $.05) and a scone (@ $.10) and leave two quarters as payment, they left a big tip! 40%!
Even the high prices at the biggest dance studio/restaurant in Boston, the Cocoanut Grove, was a pittance at fifty cents a drink for a standard Manhattan or martini. Of course, the glasses were a little smaller back then. A steak dinner could be had, there, for just over a dollar. And that included sides.