I haven’t operated my Yesteryear Time Machine lately so let me crank it up and take us on a voyage to 1908 in downtown Johnson City, a municipality of about 7500 inhabitants. The sole purpose of the trip is to dine at Pardue’s Quick Lunch Counter at 239 E. Main. Take your heavy coat along; you will need it.
I set the dial on the machine to noon, Thursday, Jan. 9, 1908 and off we go to that era. We disembark on Main Street, a two-lane newly bricked road with almost no vehicular traffic. This is nine months before the Model T automobile will be introduced to the public.
As we approach the “eating house,” as the are called, Henry Pardue, the proprietor, greets us at the front door. His customers are a mix of storeowners and shoppers. We learn that he also owns a wholesale distributor business selling groceries, fruits and bakery items. The food must be really good because the place is teeming with customers.
The lunch “Bill of Fare” contains a surprising 96 items subdivided into Meats, Dairy Dishes, Specials, Seasonable, Fruits, Relishes, Vegetables and Beverages. Prices vary from 5 to 25 cents. We casually glance over the menu to decide what to order.
The 19 meat choices and prices include ten sandwiches: liver .05, hamburg (yes, hamburg) .05, tongue .10 (no thanks), ham .10, chicken .10, turkey .10, cold beef .05, cold pork and sausage .05.
Other items are breakfast bacon .10, small steak .15, fried liver and onions .10, American sardines .10, French sardines .25, pickled pigs feet .10, pork chops .15, and oysters .25. My pick is liver and onions, but Henry is going to allow me to sample the hamburg beef because he says it contains coffee, brown sugar and sundry other ingredients.
The vegetable items are priced at a nickel each: Boston baked beans, soup beans, stewed corn, boiled cabbage, raw or cooked sauerkraut, butter beans, string beans, succotash, stewed tomatoes, fried sweet potatoes, greens, red kidney beans and a bowl of soup. For my sides, I want soup beans, boiled cabbage and stewed corn.
Also on the menu are 14 relishes: dill pickles .05, sour pickles .05, sweet mixed pickles .05, sweet plain pickles .05, sliced beets .05, sauerkraut .05, cold slaw .05, India relish .05, queen olives .10, celery .10, stuffed olives .10, and cucumbers .10. I believe I will try India relish and sauerkraut.
Looking over the fruits section, I notice they have 11 items: oranges .10, grapefruit .10, bananas and cream .10, peaches .15, pears .15, apricots .15, white cherries .15, rolly polly cherries .15, plums .15, pineapple .15 and baked apples .10. Give me the cherries.
Included among the 11 beverages on the menu are young (leaf) Hysop tea .05, ginger ale .15, buttermilk .05, and cocoa and crème .10. I understand the tea is quite refreshing so I will sample it.
The 20 dairy dishes consist of graham bread and milk .10, dip toast .10, corn or batter cakes .10, jelly roll .05, graham wafers .05, shredded wheat biscuit .10, force (whole meal biscuits) and milk .10, Malta Vita and milk .10, and Elijah’s Manna and milk. I definitely must try the last one because where in 2008 would I find that item on a menu?
The Bill of Fare also contains five seasonable choices: watermelon on ice .10, Rocky Ford cantaloupe .10, cantaloupe and cream, new peaches and cream and sliced tomatoes. I will go with the tomatoes.
After a leisurely enjoyable lunch, we pay our bill at an old fashioned cash register. My meal comes to .50 plus I added a .10 tip. We depart the eatery, board our time machine and return home. I hope you enjoyed our brief yet unique lunch excursion to 1908 to savor some gastronomic delights of yesteryear.