Vintage 1986 Town Square Cafe Barbecue Menu

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Features, Imaginerding, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

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Published on April 14, 2014 at 2:00 am with 5 Comments

Thanks to a great friend, Todd at Disney Parks Earchives, I was able to pull some images from a 1986 Town Square Cafe Barbecue menu. It was called the Town Square Times and was sponsored by Hormel. In addition to being the lunch menu, the Town Square Times offered a brief history of Hormel and some fantastic advertisements for the shops of Main Street, USA at the Magic Kingdom.

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The restaurant that’s now known as Tony’s Town Square Restaurant was originally slated to be sponsored by a coffee company; original plans named it the “Coffee Mill Restaurant”. By opening day, it was simply “Town Square Cafe” and was sponsored by Oscar Mayer. One of the dishes served was a Monte Cristo ($1.75), which belies that it was more upscale than just hot dogs. In fact, Wieners A La Oscar ( two wieners with baked beans and cole slaw) was on the menu which is more plebeian than the name suggests. By 1981, Oscar Mayer dropped sponsorship and Hormel stepped in.

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Hormel sponsored the restaurant until 1989. I can’t find a reference to the Town Square Cafe Barbecue name outside of this menu, Does anyone know if this was just an appellation for the lunch menu as part of the theming? Any way, the menu offers some amazing advertisements for the other businesses and shops of Main Street, USA. Let’s take a look at them!

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The first set of ads refers to the Emporium, the Markethouse, the Tobacconist, the Clock Shop and the Greenhouse. The tag for the Greenhouse says, “Flowers for Cosey Bowers.” A bower is a shady place for trees and flowers where you would relax.

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The second ad shows the Daily Line of Coaches from the Main Street Transportation Co.

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The Chapeau offers the “GRANNY” COLLARETTE, just from Paris as well as Gentlemens’ Head-Pieces. The Camera Center and Portrait Studio sells stereoscopes.

The finest safety bicycle ever invented by man, the “EMPIRICAL” provides speedy transportation and beneficial exercise for all. A person of any height may now ride an “EMPIRICAL” with complete peace of mind, since the feet are close to the ground. Yet, reasonable speed may be easily obtained since this marvelous Machine can travel twice as fast as a man runs. Original steel from Birmingham, Alabama,
ensures the finest precision assembly and many have said that the “EMPIRICAL” is truly a marvel of modern manufacturing. Physicians with World-Wide reputation have testified to the particulars of exercise derived from bicycling This exercise enhances muscletone. invigorates the system and prevents stagnation of the liver. Bicycling isn also useful in promoting the physical development of young people and children. The “EMPIRICAL” provides an agreeable exercise without fatigue for those leading a sedentary life, and is enthusiastically recommended by Mr. John L. Sullivan. Intending Purchasers and others are invited to call and inspect the Machine at Kent & Tripodi, Ltd. Whenever practicable, opportunities for Free Trial will be gladly afforded to those who are riders. A Descriptive Circular with Testimonials (post free) my be obtained.

I’m assuming the Mr. John L. Sullivan (1858-1918) is a boxer known as being the world’s first gloved heavyweight champion. After his boxing career, he was a stage actor and a spokesperson. Kent & Tripoldi eluded me. Any thoughts?

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Crystal Arts: The Glass cutting factory still continues the glass cutting business in all its various branches, and has at his store, a very extensive assortment of all kinds of glass, cut, plain and pressed; of all kinds – Country Merchants and others are requested to call and examine previous to purchasing, as every article will be sold at low prices by our glass blowers and cutters at the Crystal Arts.

The ad also features the Bakeshop and lists other business that we’re likely to find: Gifts, the Shadow Box, Card Shop, Refreshment Corner, Confectionery, Toys & Novelties, Jewelry Shop, Holiday Corner, Ice Cream Shop and The Cup’N Saucer.

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Apparently, they auctioned horses at Town Hall on Saturdays. I wonder if we need to make a FastPass+ reservation?

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The Harmony House Barber Shop, House of Magic and the Cinema are all represented.

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I love the last ad on the page!

The Walt Disney Story
Follow Walt Disney from his midwestern boyhood to the creation of dreams for Disneyland and Walt Disney World…
LISTEN as the “Showman of the World” recalls many of the milestones in Disney entertinment
SEE rare film footage and photographs from family archives
EXAMINE many of the awards and Oscars garnered over the past 50 years…many presented by kings, presidents and nations
PREVIEW Walt Disney’s dreams for the future
Admission Free

This is the header from the menu portion. Besides a glimpse of what a 1986 Walt Disney World vacation was like, the menu represents how different a Walt Disney World vacation has become. The amount of backstory used in the menu is unparalleled; you won’t find anything like it today. Now, everything is so generic and homogenized to the point that most merchandise is the same from coast to coast. I’d love to call for a return to the days when a Walt Disney World vacation was unique and offered a surprise or charming story around every corner.

And not just MagicBands.

Working at Town Square Cafe

Me at Disney's Town Square Cafe_edited

A reader sent me a photo of herself working at Town Square Cafe during the 1970s and 1980s. She offered the following about working at the Cafe:

The costume was full skirted and floor length. The gentlemen wore black slacks, white shirts, a matching green vest and a short green jacket. They looked good too. I remember some things about the menu. We served breakfast and there was a to-die-for Monte Christo sandwich that was very popular. Also, we served large salads and steaks.

Finding gems like the Town Square Times is pretty spectacular. As we work on documenting the history of Walt Disney World, things as ephemeral as menus become priceless. Not just for the food served and prices, but also because of the glimpse into how Walt Disney World presented it self across all media. Remember the days when napkins were branded and changed every so often? I’d love to see Disney return to this in so many forms and fashions.

Special thanks to Disney Park Earchives and Widen Your World for assistance with this article.

Did you ever get to experience the Town Square Cafe before 1989? Any special memories or stories to share?

Looking for a great look back at the first 15 years of Walt Disney World? Check out the Walt Disney World 15th Anniversary guidebook.


ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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5 Comments

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  1. [...] Taylor over at MiceChat was nice enough to mention this site in his article about the Town Square Cafe.  If you’re new to the site, feel free to explore and check out all the Disney park maps in [...]

  2. You know what I would love to see? An article in the Imaginerding series with an honest appraisal of both value engineering and “One Disney” cost cutting and generification (is that a word, if so it is now) of the parks. This involves things like cheaping out on the napkins and all the souvenirs being generic across all the parks and having WDW merchandise sold at Disneyland for bizarre reasons.

    I’d love to know the following:

    * when did the term “value engineering” begin to be so popular at Disney?

    * when did “One Disney” start?

    * when did the napkins become generic (and the cups and the bags and everything else)?

    * has Disney really benefited from all this?

    I know the “sharp pencil boys” will say that Disney saved a lot of money because guests don’t notice the little details, but I wonder if anyone could do an article that proved the sharp pencil boys wrong on this.

    Could anyone ever quantify what Disney has lost by cheaping out like this…in terms of how each little detail cut adds up to a some total net loss of Disney magic…and that lowers profits over all more than what is saved by making tiny cuts here and there.

    I think the sharp pencil boys are killing the parks one tiny cut at a time and would love Imaginerding to prove me right on that. So get to it! (JK) :)

    • I believe the One Disney campaign began in 2006, as they were transitioning out of the Happiest Homecomings on Earth to the Year of One Million Dreams. This was around the same time that the paper products and shopping bags began to match on both coasts, and the infamous “Disney Parks” apparel hit the shelves. I have no idea what (if any) tangible benefit has actually come from this

      The idea of “value engineering” is a old concept that’s hardly unique to Disney. It’s been around in the engineering world under that name for decades, and I would assume Disney’s been aware of it for at least as long. If it’s going to cost twice as much to make something 5% better, maybe it’s not really worth it; standard design practices can easily be translated into the theme park world

    • Yes
      I am pushing the “like” button.
      I remember getting small reusable plastic cups with the kids meals…they were different printing and scenes of Mickey and stuff on the cup from Epcot or Magic Kingdom or Disneyland. It was a “free” souvenir.
      Now the One Parks have regular old disposable paper cups.
      I believe you still get reusable plastic cups at some chain restaurants like Chili’s and Rain Forrest Cafe…but not Disney.

  3. Forget getting a FastPass+ to get into the horse auction. Where would you find a locker big enough to hold it?