The Caveteria: “Marvelous Food at Moderate Prices”

by Paula Bosse

caveteria_ebayThe finest in downtown basement dining (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

How could you NOT want to dine in a restaurant called a “Caveteria”? It was a cafeteria in the basement — the cave — of the swanky Baker Hotel, and it looks like it was a nice cheap place to grab a quick lunch downtown in the 1920s and 1930s.

caveteria_postcard_verso

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The Baker Hotel had “3 ways to eat”: one could eat cheap in the basement Caveteria (where, according to the Inflation Calculator, a 30-cent lunch in 1927 was the equivalent of about four bucks today), eat sort of cheap in the probably street-level coffee shop (lunch was about $6.75 there), and eat not cheap in the main hotel dining room (where lunch was over $10.00). (There was also the Peacock Terrace night club, well beyond reach of basement-dwelling diners.)

caveteria_dmn_120427

caveteria_dmn_120427-detDallas Morning News, Dec. 4, 1927

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The price actually went down to a quarter by 1931 and had a “State-wide reputation for excellence.”

caveteria_dmn_020131DMN, Feb. 1, 1931

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A year later the price was holding at 25 cents and it seems like a pretty good deal.

caveteria_dmn_021532DMN, Feb. 15, 1932

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“The Original ‘Caveteria'” — accept no imitations! At least one other hotel in the Baker chain — the Gunter, in San Antonio — had a “Caveteria,” but apparently Dallas’ was first. In fact, the word and the hotel made their way into H. L. Mencken’s The American Language, Supplement One (see here).

caveteria_corsicana-daily-sun_031632Corsicana Daily Sun, Mar. 16, 1932

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Oh yeah — live bands played while you ate your hearty meal of minced beef tenderloin. Even Lawrence Welk settled in for a stint as the “musical entree” in 1934.

caveteria_dmn_022234-lawrence-welkDMN, Feb. 22, 1934

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In 1942, the space once occupied by the Caveteria was turned over to the USO and was re-christened “The USO Club in the Cave.” (Click to read.)

caveteria_dmn_012742-USODMN, Jan. 27, 1942

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And there it is — another place I wish I’d been able to visit.

“Fine food. Splendid Service. Moderate prices.”

ad-baker-hotel-caveteria

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Color postcard found on eBay. Everything else from The Dallas Morning News, as noted, except for the last ad which was from a Dallas city directory.

The Baker Hotel opened in 1925 at Commerce & Akard on the site where the Oriental Hotel had previously stood, catty-corner from the Adolphus.

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Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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