I'm working on a Wikipedia article on the phrase "blue-plate special." Current version is at
special and current text is below.
Any comments would be very welcome. (Or, of course, you can edit the article yourself at Wikipedia).
I'm particularly interested in pinning down current usage. I believe that it is very rare for restaurants, even diners, to offer blue-plate specials under that name today. Is this right, or do they survive? If so is it a true tradition or is it deliberately "retro?"

Here's the current article:
Blue-plate special or blue plate special was a term used in the United States by restaurants, particularly (but not only) diners. It referred to a specially-low-priced meal, usually changing daily. It typically consisted of "meat-and-two-veg" presented on a single plate (rather than more elegantly on separate dishes). The term was very common in the 1920s through the 1950s. As of 2004 few restaurants actually offer blue-plate specials under that name, but is still a widely used colloquial English phrase.
The origin and explanation of the phrase are not clear. Kevin Reed says that "during the Depression, a manufacturer started making plates with separate sections for each part of a meal—like a frozen dinner tray—it seems that for whatever reason they were only available in the color blue." Michael Quinion suggests that the the blue plates were, more specifically, inexpensive divided plates that were made in an imitation of the familiar Wedgwood "blue willow" pattern. One of his correspondents says that the first known use of the term is on a October 22, 1892 Fred Harvey restaurant menu, and implies that blue-plate specials were regular features at Harvey houses.

The term became common starting in the late 1920s. A May 27, 1926 advertisement in the New York Times for "The Famous Old Sea Grill Lobster and Chop House" at 141 West 45th Street promises "A La Carte All Hours," "Moderate Prices," and "Blue Plate Specials." A December 2, 1928 article, lamenting the rise in prices that has made it difficult to "dine on a dime," praises an Ann Street establishment where you can still get "a steak-and-lots-of-onion" sandwich for a dime and a "big blue-plate special, with meat course and three vegetables, is purchasable for a quarter, just as it has been for the last ten years." The first book publication of Damon Runyon's story, Little Miss Marker, was in a 1934 collection entitled "Damon Runyon's Blue Plate Special."
A Hollywood columnist wrote in 1940, "Every time Spencer Tracy enters the Metro commissary, executives and minor geniuses look up from their blue plate specials to look at the actor and marvel."

"No substitutions" was a common policy on blue-plate specials. One late-1940s Candid Microphone episode features Allen Funt ordering a blue-plate special and trying to talk the waiter into making various changes, such as replacing one of the vegetables with soup, while the polite but increasingly annoyed waiter trys in vain to explain to Funt that "no substitutions" means what it says.
Road food experts Jane and Michael Stern entitled their 2001 guidebook "Blue Plate Specials and Blue Ribbon Chefs: The Heart And Soul Of America's Great Roadside Restaurants."In contemporary use a "blue-plate special" can be any inexpensive full meal, any daily selection, or merely a whimsical phrasing. A travel columnist says that a Portland, Maine eatery offers "budget blue-plate specials along with more refined fare." The Turner South cable channel calls a daily movie selection, scheduled at lunchtime, its "blue-plate special." Mystery writer Abigail Padgett's second novel about amateur sleuth Blue McCarron is entitled The Last Blue Plate Special; no meals here, the blue plates are part of the decor at a clinic where patients are dying mysteriously.

A reviewer uses the headline "The Red, White and Blue Plate Special" for a review of a book on "Diners, Bowling Alleys, and Trailer Parks." The Boston Childrens' Museum presents a participatory-theatre show, sponsored by health insurer Blue Cross, which teaches good nutrition; the show is called "Blue Plate Special."
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I'm working on a Wikipedia article on the phrase "blue-plate special." Current version is at special and current text ... of 2004 few restaurants actually offer blue-plate specials under that name, but is still a widely used colloquial English phrase.

When I was growing up in Brooklyn (FLCIA) in the '70s, there was a local place (it was a bona fide fish store coupled with a small restaurant) called Grillo's, in Newkirk Plaza, and we used to often get takeout "blue plate specials" from this place. This was a fixed meal. It was basically BrE-style fish 'n' chips of high quality, but you also got a little thing of cole slaw.

Steny '08!
I'm working on a Wikipedia article on the phrase "blue-plate special." Current version is at special and current text ... today. Is this right, or do they survive? If so is it a true tradition or is it deliberately "retro?"

How do you objectively determine the difference between "true tradition" and "deliberately retro". Must a restaurant trace continuously back to the 1950's for the term to be legitimate?
Don
Kansas City
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Daniel P. B. Smith filted:
Blue-plate special or blue plate special was a term used in the United States by restaurants, particularly (but not only) ... In contemporary use a "blue-plate special" can be any inexpensive full meal, any daily selection, or merely a whimsical phrasing.

Space permitting, you might also want to mention the equivalent in Japan's "kaitenzushi" places...typically, an assortment of plates circulates on some kind of conveyor system ("kaitenzushi" means "sushi that goes around")...each plate, regardless of its contents, sells for the same price...you take what interests you, and at the end of the meal someone counts up the number of empty plates you have and charges the appropriate multiple...occasionally an especially pricey item appears, more expensive than the rest, recognizable as such by being presented on a different color plate, often blue...if your stack of plates includes one or more of those, the cashier has to do a little more math..r
I'm working on a Wikipedia article on the phrase "blue-plate special." Current version is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue-plate special and current text ... usually changing daily. It typically consisted of "meat-and-two-veg" presented on a single plate (rather than more elegantly on separate dishes).

"Meat and two veg" is British slang, not used over here, so perhaps it's not totally appropriate in defining American slang. I don't know that we have an equivalent term, but I'm pretty sure mashed potatoes and gravy were almost invariably one of the "veg"es in an authentic blue plate special. The other might be canned green beans, corn, or peas. The entrée could be any hearty meat dish, especially meatloaf, but hot turkey, roast beef, even liver were common. No doubt chicken was a possibility, but I'm not sure how they would have prepared it. Fish was unlikely.
You might want to take a gander at another Jane & Michael Stern book, Square Meals (1984), which contains recipes for making diner delicacies at home. They say:
Lunch counter meals (not just the blue plate special JA) always fit on a single plate, sometimes a portioned plate to keep the lima bean juices from running into the mashed potatoes.... Roadside diners are home to a particular genre of hot lunch: meat loaf, liver and onions, and mountains of mashed potatoes.
The Sterns provide recipes for Highway Patrol Succotash, Mashed Potatoes with Crater Gravy, Creamed Spinach, Boston Cream Pie, etc. A fabulous cookbook, BTW.
I'm working on a Wikipedia article on the phrase "blue-platespecial." Current version is at special and current text is below. Any comments would be very welcome. (Or, of course, you can editthe article yourself at Wikipedia).

A couple of possibly controversial language points, if I may, and one uncontroversial factual one. Wikipedia is for an international readership, so:
restaurants, particularly (but not only) diners.

"Diner" isn't in my active vocabulary, except as a person who is having dinner: I know what it means there, but perhaps it needs inverted commas or a cross-reference symbol?
the 1920s through the 1950s.

Why not "from the 1920s to the end of the 1950s"? That way you'd exclude nobody.
As of 2004 few restaurants actually offer
"As of" makes me uncomfortable, too (I mean, what on earth does it mean?) How about "By 2004, few restaurants..."?
Michael Quinion suggests that the the blue plates were, more specifically, inexpensive divided plates that were made in an imitation of the familiar Wedgwood "blue willow" pattern.

Wedgwood didn't introduce the "willow pattern" (not "blue willow"). Their characteristic blue-and-white ware was "Jasper", with white figures in low relief on a blue background; there are other colours, too, but blue is typical.
Mike.
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A diner is a small eatery, usually with counter service only, still popular in New England and probably many other places as well. The prototypical diner is made from an old railroad car, bus, or streetcar, set on blocks, with skirting around the base. A door is cut in the side and wooden steps and porch are affixed under the door. The food is basic local cuisine and is generally good and fairly inexpensive. When I was in the Boston area years ago working on an extended project, I ate almost exclusively in diners.

dg (domain=ccwebster)
A couple of possibly controversial language points, if I may, ... but perhaps it needs inverted commas or a cross-reference symbol?

A diner is a small eatery, usually with counter service only, still popular in New England and probably many other places as well. The prototypical diner is

Sure. I meant it wasn't in the layer of vocabulary I use, and I have no doubt that many Wikipedia users worldwide are unfamiliar with it especially in the gloriously ethnic forms you describe with such evocative affection. (I've saved it alongside Tony's soul-food restaurant. If I had the drive, I could probabl;y make a very creditable book on eating out in America just by cutting and pasting from AUE.)
Mike.
"Diner" isn't in my active vocabulary, except as a person who is having dinner: I know what it means there, but perhaps it needs inverted commas or a cross-reference symbol?

"Diner", meaning a particular type of place where meals are served, is a fairly common AmE usage. I've recently written about practices at the Winter Park Diner.
I hesitate to describe what a diner is and what a restaurant is, and if there's a difference, where Areff is watching. I'm sure he has a set of rules for this. I'd be interested to see what they are, and fully expect to disagree with some or all of them.
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