Tea Menus
Crispy, creamy, dainty

Apart from those in hotels, tea rooms of the early twentieth century could not make a go of it serving only afternoon tea. Some did not serve tea at all, but when they did it was usually something very simple such as cinnamon toast or ice cream and cookies. Bigger meals brought better profits so tea rooms soon evolved into dainty lunch spots or special places to go for Sunday dinner. Usually they followed simple cooking methods found in the home. Salads held a place of reverence -- and stuffed tomatoes were once at the pinnacle on tea room menus.

Quinby Inn, Baltimore, 1920s

Inside this petite hand-colored menu are several pages of salads, sandwiches, and desserts. The Quinby Inn specialized in salads and listed 22 by number, many of them combining fruit, cheese and whipped cream.

1. Golden West Salad (50c) -- Chilled apricots filled with diced marshmallows, pecan meats & whipped cream.

3. Neopolitan Salad (45c) -- Diced apple, chopped celery, nuts and dates combined with mayonnaise & garnished with pimiento strips.

8. Shamrock Salad (45c) -- Rings of green peper stuffed with cream cheese, nuts, celery & stuffed olives. Served with mayonnaise.

Any wonder that many people reported still feeling hungry after lunch in a tea room?

Cakes, cakes, cakes -- a perennial feature of tea room cuisine, perhaps based on the belief that women preferred cake while pie was #1 with men.


Hartford Election Cake

Lady Baltimore Cake

Devil's Food Cake

Angel Food Cake

Toasted Sponge Cake

Orange Cream Cake

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

BUT WOE TO THOSE TEA ROOMS THAT SERVED stale or store-bought cake!

Ye Olde Stuffed Tomato


Marshall Field & Co., ca. 1915

French Peasant Chicken, Baked, with Spanish Onions -- 40c

Schrafft's, 181 Broadway, NYC, September 3, 1929*
Hot Waffle with Creamed Chicken -- 85c

Huyler's chain, ca. 1930
Afternoon Tea, #3 -- 65c
Toasted London Surprise, Hot Fudge Sundae, Tea, Coffee, or Chocolate

Polly's Cheerio Tea Room, Los Angeles, April 2, 1932
50c Luncheons: Vegetable Plate, Calf's Liver and Bacon, Veal Shortcake, Chicken Croquette with Cream Parsley Sauce, Tamale Pie, Vegetable Chop Suey, Roast Pork with Dressing and Apple Sauce, Baked Fresh Water Shad with Egg Sauce

Terrace Tea Room, The Wm. H. Block Co., August 3, 1944
A Chilled Tomato Filled with Cottage Cheese, Cucumber Mayonnaise, with Melba Toast -- 50c

Tea Room, Woodward & Lothrop, April 24, 1951
Hasty Tasty Luncheon 85c
A Tomato Aspic Ring Filled with Cole Slaw, Sour Cream Dressing, A Roll -- Choice of: Ice Cream or Apple Betty, Nutmeg Sauce -- Coffee, Tea, Milk, Buttermilk


In September of 1929 a propsective tea room owner visited Schrafft's and recorded detailed notes on her menu. Schrafft's was the queen of all tea rooms and a visit there was a lesson in meal planning. Here are the patron's crib notes regarding a 60c Afternoon Tea selection consisting of Toasted Mushroom Sandwich, Stuffed Celery, Ice Cream and Cocoanut Crisps ("cut crusts off 2 sl toast and 1/​2 inch off remaining 2 sides. Butter & cover w mushrooms & a nice piece of lettuce. Cover with another sl toast same size, spread with mayonnaise. Cut in 3 oblong pieces. Serve on a doily on a T. plate with 1 stalk of stuffed celery.")

Selected Works