The blue plate special, while not as widespread today, was once a staple on diner menus. Used to refer to a changing, affordable meal of the day, the blue plate special was most popular from the 1920s to the 1950s. It usually consisted of a “meat and three,” which meant a meat item and 3 sides or vegetables.
But where did the term blue plate special come from? Originally the meal was served on an inexpensive divided plate, which was blue or had some kind of blue pattern. The divided plate meant easier clean-up for the restaurant because they didn’t need to serve everything separately. The portions were smaller so the meal could be served and consumed quickly, allowing people to enjoy an affordable lunch and get back to work quickly. Blue plate specials typically cost around 50 to 60 cents.
While the price of the meal has certainly risen over the years, many diners still offer affordable daily specials, keeping the spirit of the blue plate alive.