The Menu that started Room Service

The Sert Room restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City,  America, Stock Photo, Picture And Rights Managed Image. Pic. MEV-10425552 |  agefotostock

The Waldorf Astoria is synonymous with wealth with its old money aesthetic and notoriety. Hotels were epicenters of social life during the mid 1800s, and high society members of New York Society frequented the Waldorf Astoria constantly. Surely, anyone who was anyone at that time had to have been there once. The amount of celebrities who frequented the Waldorf is an astounding feat the company openly flaunts.

On the Waldorf Towers company website, they proclaim that it is a home world leaders, royalty, movie stars and music legends, high rollers of all walks of life. According to justluxe:

“The biggest leap forward in in-room service, though, happened in New York City. The original was constructed in the final decade of the 19th century, and it soon stood a symbol of decadence and celebrity.”

The aristocratic flair of this menu is evident in the prices when converted to today’s dollar-value. A small serving of caviar from the menu, which is among some of the more expensive items on the menu, comes at a whopping price of $3.25. Although this may not seem like much now, in 2021 (with dollars adjusted for inflation), the total price comes out to over $40 which is a lot considering the whole order could probably be consumed in a single mouthful.

It is important to note how the Waldorf made sure privacy was top notch for their patrons — to the point that it’s likely that room service as we know it emerged from the Waldorf’s emphasis on providing an exclusive and nonpublic space for their patrons. In catering to “a wealthy, fashionable, and socially-prominent set of celebrities and foreign visitors”, the architectural design of the building was utilized in a way that hid guests away from the ever-constant public eye.

Interestingly enough, the popularization of the well-known recipe of eggs benedict can be attributed to the Waldorf’s specialized service. The story: a retired patron from wall street decided to stay at the Waldorf and utilize their primer room service. He decided to order a very obscure recipe — one that a talented chef was able to fulfill and serve the client. In doing so, this chef then decided to tweak it slightly before placing it on the menu. The recipe became a mainstay on the menu, and the popularity of eggs benedict skyrocketed… eventually becoming a meal that was cooked and enjoyed across the United States.

The Waldorf menu was comprised of some of the best dishes that America had to offer at the time, being the epitome of high class dining experiences with the expensive and luxurious foods offered on-demand. With the first implementation of modern day transportation technologies, delicacies could be transported from across the country, prepared by the skilled chefs at the Waldorf, and delivered in a discreet manner, making the hotel a truly unique culinary experience for socialites.

It was very expensive and represents the epitome of high class dining experiences. The extensiveness of the menu illustrates the high demand of luxury items that the diners had demand for. With modern day transportation technologies, delicacies could be transported from across the country and prepared by the skilled chefs at the Waldorf. Not only was it a unique culinary experience but it was place to be seen for socialites. The Waldorf was at the forefront of fine Dining experience and pioneered the wave for luxuries to emerge such as in room dining.

This invention could only from a place that combined privacy with top notch service and this is what the Waldorf sought to achieve. Some of the dishes on the menu include some exotic options such as lobster thermidor which is basically a split lobster cut into halves and cooked in a decadent butter sauce with a baked cheese crust. This is such a good dish and can still be found in high end restaurants around the country.

A notable detail on this menu is about the water shortage of New York City made it so water had to be ordered as opposed to it being considered customary to be served to everyone free of charge. It does not appear that the Waldorf Charged people for water but they were asking people to be mindful of the shortage and only order it if they wanted it. The menu emphasizes that it has been a “continued” shortage which means it had been reoccurring for awhile and they wanted to emphasize that. The city was rapidly expanding during this time because of a postwar boom and was a prelude to the Golden age in America that was the 1950’s. This practice persists to this day as there was a drought in California which led to restaurants only serving water upon request.

Written By: A. Morris

Originally Published: December 17th, 2021 || Last Updated: March 28th, 2020

A part of Doc Studio’s Menus from History Collection

Works cited:

  1. Works Cited: Kern, Merilee, et al. “The History of Room Service (and Some Great Spots to Find It).” JustLuxe,
  2. “History of New York City Drinking Water.” History of New York City’s Drinking Water – DEP,

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