Friday, 13 December 2013 22:07

Christmas Dinner at the Bon Ton - 1891

Contributed by
Rate this item
(6 votes)

Pictured above is the Bon Ton Hotel and Restaurant which was located on San Francisco Street just to the west of the Claire Hotel.  While the Claire was considered a first class establishment, the Bon Ton catered to a less affluent clientele.  

Nevertheless, in 1891 they offered a Christmas dinner far more elaborate than one would find today.

 Jan Whittaker blogged about the event in 2012.  

 Christmas dinner in a restaurant, again?

I suspect that a lot of people living in the Wild West in the 1880s and 1890s had little choice but to eat their holiday dinners in restaurants. The majority of the residents of western mining and ranching towns were males living in “hotels” which were nothing but crude rooming houses with a saloon, pool hall, and none-too-fine restaurant attached.

John W. Conway ran such a place in Santa Fe NM, but judging from the spread he laid out for Christmas in 1891, he was making a generous effort to please his guests with a delicious meal. On this particular day he served a genuine feast for only 25 cents, the price of an everyday dinner.

Conway’s Bon Ton Restaurant


Christmas Dinner


Clam Chowder             Chicken Giblet


Ham    Corned Beef    New England Boiled Dinner


Suckling Pig, Apple Sauce       Beef, Brown Gravy

Veal, Dressing             Turkey, Cranberry Sauce

Duck, Jelly       Chicken, Cream Gravy


Breaded Veal Cutlets, French Peas

Pork and Beans           Fricasseed Chicken, Dumplings

Quail on Toast             Lamb Chops, Tomato Sauce

Macaroni and Cheese             Irish Stew


Irish Potatoes, Mashed and Browned

Baked Sweet Potatoes      Green Peas      Corn     Beets

String Beans    Tomatoes        Celery


Worcestershire Sauce             Tomato Catsup

Chow Chow      White Onions              Horse Radish

German Pickles           Lettuce

Shrimp, Lobster and Potato Salad


English Plum, Brandy Sauce               Corn Starch

Nelly Bly, Nutmeg Sauce


Mince              Cranberry        Pumpkin          Custard


Gallagher’s Marble     White’s Jelly

Tea      Coffee              Chocolate        Milk

Nuts     Raisins             Oranges          Grapes

Wine List furnished by the waiter

 Dinner from 12 to 1 o’clock, 25 cents

Just down San Francisco Street, Will Burton offered a more refined, pared-down dinner. Judging from the menu, the 50-cent meal might well have equaled one served in more sophisticated big city restaurants. Unlike John Conway’s, his dinner began with oysters and featured fish and game courses. And there was no Pork and Beans or Cornstarch Pudding on Will’s menu.

Merry Christmas!


Billy’s New Restaurant

1 to 4 PM

Blue Point Oysters


Fresh Oyster


Red Snapper, Shrimp Sauce


Capon, Sauce Velouette


Turkey, Oyster Dressing, Cranberry Sauce

Loin of Kansas City Beef, Au Jus


Baked Loin of Elk, Orange Sauce, Currant Jelly


Brunswick Stew           Roast Quail


Fresh Shrimp               Potato


Browned Potatoes       Tomatoes La Royal     French Peas


Almonds          Nuts     Raisins             Apples


English Christmas, Brandy Sauce


Mince Pie        Apple Pie

 French A.D. Coffee      Cheese             Green Tea

 Dinner, 50¢

 Will C. Burton & Co., Props.

Will, aka Billy, had lived for a time in San Francisco where he may have acquired elite tastes. He hosted game dinners, kept vintage French wines in his cellar, and poured expensive Scotch whisky. He opened this restaurant in Santa Fe on Thanksgiving of 1891 but, alas, by the next spring he was ruined and reduced to running the short order department at Conway’s Bon Ton.

Regarding the first menu, I am left wondering what Nellie Bly pudding might be. Under Relishes on the same menu, German pickles were, I think, pickled green tomatoes with onions and green peppers. Chow Chow was a mixture of pickled vegetables. On Billy’s menu, Velouté Sauce, of meat stock, and creamed flour and butter, is incorrectly spelled. “A. D. Coffee” is short for after dinner coffee. Both menus use the French meaning of entree, a side dish usually of smaller cuts or chopped meat or fowl.

I find it interesting that Christmas dinner menus in most of the restaurants I looked at from the second half of the 20th century were far less elaborate than these.

© Jan Whitaker, 2012



Read 4286 times Last modified on Wednesday, 18 December 2013 02:48
Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.

More in this category: « San Isidro? Las Cabanuelas »

1 comment

Login to post comments

Additional information