The menu that started Roomservice

http://menus.nypl.org/menus/29976

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

First of all, it should be fairly obvious what comes to mind when the words Waldorf Astoria are uttered. The Waldorf Astoria is synonymous with wealth and had an old money aesthetic. Hotels back then were epicenters of social life and high society members of New York Society frequented the Waldorf Astoria. Surely, anyone who was anyone at the time has at least been there once. The amount of famous people throughout history who have frequented the Waldorf is astounding and this is a 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, which can be converted to today’s dollars. 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 $3.25. Although this may not seem like much now, in 2021 dollars adjusted for inflation, it comes out to over 40$ 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 and what is more private than having food delivered to your door as opposed to having to go out in public. It is likely that room service emerged from the Waldorf’s emphasis on creating a private environment for their rich and famous guests to enjoy. For the guests of the Waldorf “Privacy was a major concern for the new Waldorf Astoria, as it catered to a wealthy, fashionable, and socially-prominent set of celebrities and foreign visitors.”(Justluxe). Room service as we know it today emerged from the demand originated from these high class denizens. The architectural design of the building is even said to be constructed in such a way as to keep the eyes of the public away from peering at their well heeled patrons. When you order room service now, you may feel a little special knowing that less than a century ago it was a luxury only reserved for presidents and movie stars. It is also interesting to note that eggs benedict is another invention of the Waldorf as one of famous chefs created it when a retired wall street patron ordered an obscure order but the chef decided to tweak it and have it as a mainstay on the menu. From that point forward, the popularity of eggs benedict skyrocketed to the point of being able to be found all around the country. 

An interesting fact about this menu is that it represents some of the best dishes America had to offer at the time. 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.

Works cited: Works Cited: Kern, Merilee, et al. “The History of Room Service (and Some Great Spots to Find It).” JustLuxe, https://www.justluxe.com/community/the-history-of-room-service-and-some-great-spots-to-find-it_a_1960131.php. 

“History of New York City Drinking Water.” History of New York City’s Drinking Water – DEP, https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dep/water/history-of-new-york-citys-drinking-water.page.

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