El Capitan Dinner Menu

The all-coach El Capitan began running in 1938, and judging from the prices this menu can’t have been used much later than that. The table d’hôte side offers a charcoal broiled sirloin steak with appetizer, soup, potatoes (but strangely no vegetable), salad, rolls, dessert, and beverage for $1 (about $17 in today’s money). Considering that Union Pacific’s sirloin steak dinner cost $1.75 in 1935, $1 is indeed a bargain even for a train that was aimed at budget-minded passengers.

Click image to download a 1.3-MB PDF of this menu.

In fact, on the a la carte side of this menu, the sirloin steak all by itself was $1.50, which is more like the price that someone would expect in around 1938 to 1940 (it was $1.40 on the 1935 Union Pacific menu). Santa Fe chefs probably had that on the menu mainly to show what a bargain people could get with the steak and complete dinner for $1.

This menu came with a small paperclipped sheet of “a la carte specials.” These include appetizers, an “omelette parmesan,” a couple of sandwiches, and various fruits, desserts, and beverages. The most special item is the “El Capitan sandwich,” which consisted of “bacon, lettuce, tomato and peanut butter.” It must have been aimed for the kids.

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