1978 Rio Grande Zephyr Dinner Menu

For more than a decade after Amtrak took over most passenger trains, the Rio Grande continued to serve passengers dinners in style, with cloth tablecloths (all marked California Zephyr), heavy china (made for the Rio Grande Zephyr, and silverware. This menu offered four table d’hôte entrées, a small a la carte section, two plate dinners, and two children’s dinners.

Click image to download a 1.2-MB PDF of this menu.

The entrées included mountain trout, of course; London broil; pork chops; and New York steak. The trout was $6.95 (about $26 in today’s dollars) while the steak was $9.95 (about $37 today). The plate dinners offered a choice of half a baked chicken or short ribs, while the a la carte menu included four sandwiches and two salads. Although there was only one kind of soup (du jour) and one kind of juice (tomato), there was otherwise plenty of choices for travelers eager to experience life in the Silver Age of passenger trains.

Click image to download a 258-KB PDF of this meal check.

Like most railroads, the Rio Grande maintained the tradition that passengers would write their own orders on a form like this one. As I’ve noted before, I suspect this tradition began when many waiters were illiterate. I’m sure that was no longer true by the 1970s, but for some reason even Amtrak maintained the tradition for many years.

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