This menu says it was for the 20th Century Limited and the Commodore Vanderbilt. The latter was inaugurated as an all-Pullman train in 1938 and left New York/Chicago about 1-3/4 hours before the Century. Since it made a few more stops than the Century, which was essentially non-stop between New York and Chicago, the Commodore arrived just a few minutes before the Century.
By 1956, the Commodore lost its all-Pullman status with the addition of coaches, and in 1957 the two trains were combined much like the Santa Fe combined the Super Chief and El Capitan and the Union Pacific combined the City of Los Angeles and Challenger. One difference was that the two western roads offered completely different menus in separate dining cars of the trains, which were separated by a gate, while this menu shows that the New York Central used the same menu for both of its trains. By 1960, the railroad dropped the fiction that it was running two trains and the name Commodore Vanderbilt disappeared from the timetable.
Despite the decline in passenger patronage, the menu is still worthy of a first-class train like the Century. There are seven table d’hôte meals, including filet mignon, Chateaubriand; king crab and shrimp casserole; and veal cutlet with spiced pear. A la carte items include Beluga caviar, cold vichyssoise, and king crab and shrimp salad. The filet mignon dinner is $6.65, about $42 in today’s dollars. For just $3.15 (about $20 today), you could get an a la carte meal of smoked ham, spiced pear, green beans, au gratin potatoes, salad, relish, and roll and butter–which seems more like a complete meal than an a la carte item.
As shown in the above photo, this menu was used by Cary Grant aboard the 20th Century Limited in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, which was released in 1958. This movie (and today’s date) has special significance for me, as I tell in a story on my other blog.