A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 10, 2019
Graveyard Stew (milk toast)

"Graveyard stew” is lunch counter slang for “milk toast”—something easily eaten by someone who is sick (and, possibly, headed for the graveyard).  “A graveyard stew means milk toast” was printed in the San Francisco (CA) Chronicle on June 20, 1885. A “tombstone” was a single piece of toast.

Lunch counter slang became mostly historical by the 1950s and 1960s, and the term “graveyard stew” is rarely used today.


20 June 1885, San Francisco (CA) Chronicle, pg. 2, col. 6:
A MONTANA WAITER.
Frightening Customers by His Wild Western Humor.
Butte Inter-Mountain.

One morning recently a hungry pilgrim went into Pat Conlon’s restaurant and ordered some milk toast, boiled potatoes, poached eggs, a rare steak and some hot cakes. The waiter, “Professor” Harris, went to the kitchen and roared out to the Chinaman: “Gimme a graveyard stew, potatoes in the dark, two men a-horseback, a moonlight on the lake and a flambeau.”
(...)
“A graveyard stew means milk toast, potatoes in the dark is boiled potatoes; eggs circus style means scrambled eggs; rough and ready means pork and beans; a flambeau is light, hot cakes, and moonlight on the lake is rare beefsteak.”

15 March 1887, Atlanta (GA) Constitution, “Died With His Boots On” (from the Denver News), pg. 4, col. 6:
During this raid Coulter walked into a small eating saloon, frequented by railway men, as a young consumptive was eating a “graveyard stew,” as milk toast is called in that section.

27 August 1887, Wichita (KS) Daily Beacon, “Told to a Lounger,” pg. 4, col. 4:
A WAITER—(...) “Beefsteak is ‘leather belt,’ pork, ‘sheeney’s funeral’; oatmeal, ‘angel’s food’; milk toast, ‘graveyard stew’; biscuits, ‘boot heels’ and ‘corner lots’; potatoes, ‘spuds’; sweet potatoes, ‘sweet Murphys.’”

22 January 1888, Omaha (NE) Daily Bee, pg. 3, col. 5:
IN AN UNKNOWN TONGUE.
Waiters Who Serve Customers in a Mysterious Manner.
(...)
Milk Toast—“Graveyard stew.”

22 March 1891, Sunday World Herald (Omaha, NE), pg. 6, col. 7:
SLANG OF THE CHOP HOUSE
Wonderful and Puzzling Phrase-
ology of the Cheap
Restaurant.

How the Waiters Make the Cooks Understand
What Their Customers Really Want—
Samples of Fearful Slang.


There is no better illustration of the push and rustle in western business than in the modern chop house, which has of late years become a great institution. The chop house, of course, originated in the east, but it has been more universally adopted in western cities and receives a much larger patronage.
(...)
Milk toast is very seldom ordered, except by the sick or weakly, and many a consumptive individual calling for it has almost fallen from his chair on hearing the “hasher” shout at the top of his lungs, “A graveyard stew for a stiff.” Then comes the muffled answer of the cook in the kitchen, and the sick man is vividly impressed with the idea that he is in close proximity to a burying ground.

27 April 1894, Washington Standard (Olympia, WA), pg. 1, col. 5:
HASH-HOUSE PHRASES.
Olympia Waiters May Get a Few Pointers From the “Profesh.”
(...)
Methodist Parson—“Waiter, I am not feeling very well and I think I will take a little milk toast, and have the toast well browned, but not too brown.”

Waiter, yelling—“Graveyard stew for a stiff! Make the tombstones brown!”

10 March 1901, St. Joseph (MO Daily Gazette-Herald, pg. 5, col. 5:
SHIPWRECK ADAM AND EVE
PECULIAR VERNACULAR OF ST. JOSEPH SHORT ORDER WAITERS.
GRAVEYARD STEWS NOT BAD.
Tombstones with a Little Salve are Comforting to the Inner Man, While Dyspepsia in a Snow Storm is Fine.
(...)
If you wait a few minutes you will see the waiter come out with a steaming bowl of milk and toast. that is a “graveyard stew.”
(...)
A dry toast is a “tombstone” and if a person should change his mind and want a little butter on the toast the waiter would say “a little salve on that tombstone.”

March 1938, The Caterer and Liquor Retailer, pg. 22, col. 2:
QUICKIE LUNCH SLANGUAGE
(...)
Graveyard stew—Milk toast.

3 September 1951, Boston (MA) Daily Globe, “Car Hop Slanguage” by Marie Ellery, pg. 51, col. 1:
Milk toast became “graveyard stew.”

Google Books
War Slang:
Fighting words and phrases of Americans from the Civil War to the Gulf War

By Paul Dickson
New York, NY: Pocket Books
1994
Pg. 168:
graveyard stew, (l) Milk toast. (2) A weak stew consisting mostly of bones (like slumgullion without body — see slum / slumgullion, under the Civil War)

Google Books
Sundae Best:
A History of Soda Fountains

By Anne Cooper Funderburg
Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press
2002
Pg. 167:
GRAVEYARD STEW: Milk toast.

ID Reporter
Confederate Hospital TOAST SOUP Civil War Recipe | HARD TIMES - food in times of scarcity
emmymadeinjapanemmymadeinjapan
13 Jan 2019
(...)
COMMENTS
indiakantBulan Yang lalu
Called “Milk Toast” or “Graveyard Stew.” Heat milk til hot, make 2 toasts and butter it..cut in half..lay in bowl of hot milk!

Diner Lingo
Q:What does “Graveyard stew” mean?
A: If you hear a waitress say “Graveyard stew” at a diner or restaurant, it’s just another way to say “Buttered toast with sugar and cinnamon, served in a bowl of warm milk.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Sunday, March 10, 2019 • Permalink