Here’s a California Zephyr lunch menu dated March, 1951, when the train was just two years old. The cover shows the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, but the menu inside looks nothing like what I would expect from a fine, Bay Area restaurant.
Click image to download a 1.2-MB PDF of this menu.
Entrées on both the a la carte and table d’hôte sides of the menu include Finnan haddie, ox joints a la jardiniere (roast ox with spring vegetables), and veal chops–fare more likely to be found in the gritty industrial Northeast than in the West. We know that, by 1955, the train’s dining car would offer the soon-to-be iconic Rocky Mountain trout instead of haddock and leg of lamb instead of ox joints, though veal chops would remain on the menu. Perhaps this menu was put together by the Burlington commissary, while menus with trout were from the Rio Grande commissary and menus with seafood were from the Western Pacific commissary.
At $1.60 (about $12 today) a la carte and $2.25 (about $17 today) as a complete meal, the veal chop is the most expensive entrée on the menu. The extra 65 cents includes potatoes, vegetable, dessert, and beverage, worth more than a dollar if ordered a la carte.