Can't Top this Thanksgiving Menu!

Tired of the ‘same old, same old’? Serve a different entrée this year, one featured on a menu from one of the celebrated annual Thanksgiving Game Dinners at the Tremont House in Chicago. From 1855 to 1893, John B. Drake’s annual game dinner was a greatly anticipated event for nearly 500 guests. This Thanksgiving menu is an example of the excessive Victorian opulence available to a gentleman of means during the 19th century.

thanksgiving dessert

For over thirty years the great annual Thanksgiving game dinner was given by Chicago hotel man, John B. Drake, at the Tremont House and (after the Great Chicago Fire) at the Grand Pacific Hotel. He inaugurated this celebrated Chicago tradition in the fall of 1855.

Nearly every wild bird and animal that was fit to eat was on Mr. Drake's bill of fare. The number of guests was usually 500, and they were attended by one hundred waiters. For weeks and even months before the event measures were put in operation to get together every possible species of game; their successful outcome is highlighted in one of their game dinner menus from the 1880s.



Blue Point Oysters in Shell


Consommé de Vollaile au Praire         Game


Broiled Whitefish            Baked Red Snapper


Ham of Black Bear           Wild Turkey
Leg of Mountain Sheep           Buffalo Tongue
Venison Tongue


Saddle of Mountain Sheep         Leg of Black Tail Deer
Loin of Buffalo       Leg of Elk
Saddle of Antelope      Coon        Opossum
Loin of Venison     Jack Rabbit      Mountain Bison
Wild Turkey       Pin Tail Grouse       Ruffled Grouse
Virginia Partridge        Golden Plover
American Woodcock        Killdeer Plover

Sand Hill Crane      Wilson Snipe     Canada Goose
Mallard Duck     Pin Tail Duck     Gadwall Duck
American Widgeon       Blue-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal      Shoveler Duck     Wood Duck
Scaup Duck      Red Head Duck      Ruddy Duck
Woodchuck      Canvas-back Duck
Buffle-Head Duck     Cormorant Duck     Dusky Duck
Brant Quail      Red Bill Merganser Duck
Carolina Dove     Ring-necked Duck
Hooded Merganser Duck      Spruce Grouse
American Coot     Long Tail Duck     Partridge
Red-necked Grebe      Prairie Chicken     Pheasant
Butter-Ball Duck


Red-winged Starling    Reed Bird    Gray Snipe
Blue-winged Teal    Fox Squirrel
Gray Squirrel     Black Squirrel     Gray Rabbit
Jack Snipe      Golden Plover     Partridge Quail
Least Sandpiper     Butler-Ball Duck
Prairie chicken     Pheasant    Dunlin Sandpiper

Baked Sweet Potatoes     Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Corn     Green Peas    Celery   Plain Potatoes
Stewed Tomatoes


Pyramid of Game, en Bellevue
Red-winged Starling, au Natural
Aspic of Birds, a la Royale
Pattie of Liver, sur Socle
Boned Quail in Plumage
Galantine of Turkey with Jelly
Pin-Tail Grouse, in Feathers
Boned Snipe, with Truffles
Shrimp Salad


Buffalo Steak       Mushroom Sauce
Stuffed Venison, Hunter Style
Salmi of Grouse, Port Wine Sauce
Squirrel, Braise, Sauce Diable
Deer's Tongues, Boule, Caper Sauce
Frogs fried Camp Style
Pheasant, larded, aux Champignons
English Hare, with Dumplings

thanksgiving dessert


Charlotte Russe     Chocolate Éclairs
Chocolate a la Crème
Chantilly Cream, a la Printanière
Bonbons, assorted      Fancy Cake     Nougat Pyramids
Apples    Oranges     Pears     California Grapes
Concord Grapes    Catawba Grapes   Nuts   Figs
Raisins     Vanilla Ice Cream    Pineapple Sorbet
Sage Cheese     English Cheese    

[From: The Steward’s Handbook, 1887]