Let’s Read An Old Menu! Featuring: The Holding Company Mexican Food and Disco, Missoula, Montana 1977!

Hello, everyone and welcome to Let’s Read An Old Menu! This is another in a weekly series looking at restaurant, hotel kitchen, and lunch counter menus from the 19th and 20th centuries. Sometimes things will be familiar, sometimes they’ll be weird. But one thing you can count on is that they’ll almost always have cottage cheese on the menu, and they’ll almost never actually explain what’s in anything.

What’s For Lunch?

The Holding Company, in Missoula Montana, circa 1977. This menu comes courtesy of the Culinary Institute Of America’s archives.

Is The Restaurant Still There? If Not, What Can We Find Out About It?

The Holding Company is no longer in business! From what I could gather from my research, it changed its name sometime in 1979 or 1980 to Acapulco Mexican Restaurant. When it closed its doors for good I couldn’t say, but its location at 145 West Front Street is today the offices of LMG Security, a cybersecurity form. Its senior employees appear too young to have dined or danced there in its heyday.

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Based on this ad from a March 7, 1978 University of Montana Kaimain student newspaper, it would appear the disco was their primary stock in trade at the time. I’m going to guess the collapse of disco is what prompted the name change. It was apparently a fairly happening spot in its day, if this 2004 Missoulian article is any authority:

While the new nightclub is designed to reflect the modern environment of big-city dance-clubs, it is also modeled – at least in spirit – after two old Missoula nightclubs that Powell and Alonzo remember fondly, the Holding Company and the Rocking Horse.

“Back when we were in our dancing prime, in the late ’70s, the Holding Company was absolutely the place to be, the place where you always ended up your night,” recalls Powell of the nightclub, which has since closed. “It was really happening. That’s our goal – to create a great, fun social environment.”

The only other thing I was able to learn about it, sadly, is a less fun story– a 1977 sexual assault case involving an employee. That’s the disco scene for you, I suppose.
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So yeah, this menu’s got jokes! Corny ones that you’re not sure whether it’s okay to laugh at! Well I’m here to tell you that I, a Latina, laughed at them, though the chuckles were somewhat rough. It’s strange to think that not that long ago, Mexican food was still enough of an oddity to Americans outside of the Southwest that these dishes required any degree of explanation.
(I rather expect most of the dishes on this menu would have been only slightly spicier than ketchup.)
For inflationary purposes, $1 in 1977 is about $4.19 today.
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The scan is rather on the small side, but fortunately reddit user YouAgreeWithIt was kind enough to transcribe it for us.

Page 2:

“LOS APPETIZERS (Los A-pet-eye-zers)

Guacamole Dip (Guay-ka-mol-ey-deep) Looks like an avocado that was run over by a Mexican cab. Spiced with onions and tomatoes. Close eyes while eating. $2.05 Quesadilla (Kay-suh-de-ya) Two folded tortilla, smothered with cheese and topped with green or red chili. If you can’t pronounce it, just point. 1.95
Natchos (Nah-choz) Flat tostado shell with melted cheese and jalapeno peppers. Has looks and consistency of a frisbee. No tossing. $1.25
Cheese Crisps (Chez Krisps) Flat tostado shells with your choice of toppings. Like a midget pizza. Green Onion .95 Tomato .75 Chili Con Carne .95 Todo El Rancho (The whole ranch) 2.25
Los Freebie Appetizers These are the ones sitting on your table. They’re free, compliments of the cook. Try dipping them in the red sauce provided, or, if you’re brave, ask for a dish of our green (60 Octane) sauce. They’ll get your engine going.

LOS SALADS (Sah-lads)

Tossed Green Salad, What can we say? .75
Tossed Spinach Salad 2.70 Tossed from the kitchen to your table. A large pile of fresh spinach, heaped with sliced raw mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, chopped egg, crumbled bacon and croutons. With your choice of dressing. Eat it all, or we’ll toss it again – this time “out.”
Taco Salad 2.95 Imagine two or three tacos being empited into a bowl and served as a salad. Lettuce, onion, green pepper, tomato, cheese and taco beef. You call it salad, we call it leftovers.
145 W. Front Salad 2.80 Our house salad. Coarsely shredded lettuce, tomatoes, avodaco, bacon, chicken and our vinaigrette dressing, mixed with blue cheese chunks. Tossed, lightly…Regarded highly.
Chef’s Salad 3.10 It used to be his, now it’s yours. The tenderist lettuce, gracefully mixed with hunks of ham, crunchy chicken, creamy cheese and guacamole.

Fun fact: The name of that salad was the only lead on where this restaurant even was.

EL SOUP (L-Supe)

Portuguese Bean and Sausage Soup Cup .75 Bowl .95 Tastes much better than it sounds. Kidney beans and sausage in a tomato base. Your only choice.

A LA CARTE (Named for a little table on wheels)

TACOS (Tah-Koz) Probably the most famous of Mexican foods around. But we’re trying to change that. Beef .85 Chicken or Guacamole .95

ENCHILADA (En-cha-la-da) Prompted the phrase “The Whole Enchilada,” which is what you get when you order it. Beef 1.15 Chicken 1.30 Cheese .95

TOSTADOS (Toes-ta-doez) Beef .90 Bean .80 Chicken 1.10 Guacamole 1.15

BURRITOS (Burr-ee-toz) Named after very small donkeys used by Mexican laborers to pack jumping beans to market. Bean 1.10 Beef 1.25 Chicken 1.40 Beef & Bean 1.25 Sour Cream .35 extra Smothered with Chili or Cheese .40 extra Kitchen Sink 125.00 extra

MEXICANA ESPECIALS

The Matador 2.70 Named after our butcher. Flour tortilla filled with beef, lettuce and onions. Then rolled and topped with our special matador sauce and melted cheese. The effect this one has on your breath tells why the matador always gets his bull.
The Crab Delight 3.50 It’ll delight you, but the crab’s not too happy about it. A guacamole tostada heaped with mounds of crab salad and surrounded by a posse of garden goodies.
The Enchilada de Sea 3.75 A delightful combination of crab and shrimp stuffed in a plump corn tortilla. Topped with our own special salsa. Accompanied by rice, refried beans, sliced avocado and the Norman Crabranacle Choir.
Leaning Tower of Tortillas 3.90 Named for a little-known Aztec wonder in downtown Sonora. Tortillas layered high with the spaces in between filled with about half our kitchen. For details, ask your waitress.

This kills the crab.

FAMOUS HOLDING COMPANY COMBINATIONS (Take your pick or use your hammer)

(Uno) 1. Chili Relleno, Smothered Burrito & Tostado 2.85 A favorite of Mexican firefighters.
(Dos) 2. Burrito, Enchilada & Beef Taco 2.95 All smothered in sour cream. Guess why the cream’s sour?
(Tres) 3. Beef Enchilada & Chili Relleno 2.60 Served with Rice and Refried Beans. It’s against the law to serve this combo prior to a Mexican wedding.
(Cuartro) 4. Smothered Beef Burrito, Beef Taco & Tostada 2.85 The Mexican version of hotdog, fries and a coke.
(Cinco) 5. Smothered Beef Burrito, Beef Enchilada, & Beef Taco 3.75 Served with rice, refried beans and sopaipilla. One of the main reasons Mexicans always take a nap after lunch.
(Seis) 6. Smothered Beef Burrito, Chili Relleno, & Cheese Enchilada 3.75 Served with rice, refried beans and sopaipilla. Ask about our complimentary anti-acids with this one.
(Siete) 7. Deep Fried Beef Burrito 3.50 Covered with our special sauce and garnished with sour cream and guacamole. Poncho Villa always ate this before going into battle. What do you think made him so mean?
(Acht) 8. Huevos Rancheros 2.45 Two eggs, rice, refried beans, green chili and two tortillas. Here’s the reason most Mexicans move so fast early in the morning.
(Nueve) 9. Mexican Cheese Omelette 2.85 Three eggs, mild chili peppers, green and red sauce, refried beans and two tortillas. Don’t take a Mexican cab ride for at least an hour after eating this one.
(Diez) 10. Vegetarian Plate 3.10 Bean Burrito, cheese enchilada, bean tostado, enchilada sauce, rice and refried beans. No Bull.

POR LOS MUNCHACHOS (For the Little Munchers Under 13)

Hamburger, Fries and Beans .95 Should keep him or her quiet for at least 15 minutes.
Taco with Rice and Beans .95 Cover it with hot sauce and really give the kid something to yell about.
Kentucky Fried Chicken 20.00 (Includes delivery)”

Best joke on the menu: Lapsing into German during the count, or offering to have KFC delivered for almost $85?

“EATING AND DRINKING HINTS

On Eating…
1. Tacos and a few other foods are properly eaten with the hands. But, be careful! A taco bitten on one end can often lead to a loss of stuffing on the other. Eat over your plate!
2. Most other Mexican dishes need the services of a fork or large spoon. Use your own judgement. But, remember! We’re trying to run a classy joint here. Be neat.

On drinking…
1. Beer…Most properly is guzzled between piping hot bites. Especially necessary with green chili items. Mild belching tolerated.
2. Margaritas…Sipping is the watchword here. Sip one after another for best effect. Have enough and all foreign languages, including Pig Latin, are a snap.
3. Tequila…”Shooting” is the only recognized manner of imbibing this popular Mexican spirit. Salt the area between thumb and forefinger first. Then lick salt, “shoot” tequila and finish off with a wedge of lemon. If it’s your first time, you may like to “shoot” the bartender next.

On Swearing.
O.K., if in Spanish. Ask your waitress for a few choice words before sampling our green chili sauce.

On Bull Fighting.
Talk to Knuckles Verdoo, our night manager and bouncer. He’ll set you up in the alley.

LOS HICCUPS

La Margarita Named after a lady who once owned a cactus ranch and worm farm near Guadalajara. A little Tequila, a little Triple Sec, a little Sweet and Sour. And, if you like, fresh strawberries. All blended. EPA rated at 20 giggles an hour. Glass 1.25 Half Liter 3.00 Full Liter 5.00
La Sangria Like a bottle of red wine packed with a basket of fruit inside. Have a liter with lunch and take the rest of the day off. Glass 1.00 Half Liter 3.00 Full Liter 5.00
Daiquiri Strawberry or Banana, Rum, Lime juice and sweets. All blended together with fresh strawberries or bananas. A half dozen will make you talk funny. Glass 1.25
Spanish Fly 1.00 A most pleasing blend of Tequila and Amaretto. Named for the Mexican Air Force’s secret aviation fuel additive. What did you think?
Imported Mexican Beer Carta Blanca or Indio 1.25 Other Imports Heineken 1.50 Lowenbrau 1.50 Volkswagen $3,895.00

Chingado!

GRINGO DELIGHTS For the unsure, easily freightened and those under a doctor’s care.

Sandwiches
Sloppy Jose 1.85 Swiss cheese, lettuce and ham on a rye twist. Named after our manager, but he thought it was a compliment.
Ortega Special 2.35 Grilled Jalapeno pepper cheese with fresh, sliced avocado. Guaranteed to neutralize the leading mouthwash.
Club 2.50 Turkey, ham, bacon, american cheese, tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise. A three decker just like Shea Stadium.
Rueben Sanchez 1.85 Corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and 1,000 island sauce on grilled rye bread. Named for the 2nd Infantry’s mess cook during the Spanish-German War on Thursday, Oct. 22, 1766.
French Dip 1.95 Thin-sliced beef on a French roll, served au jus or au shucks. From a slightly different original Spanish herdsman recipe known as a sheep dip. After you dip it, it’s extremely difficult to tell if the bread was fresh.

Burgers (All burgers served with french fries.)
Sour Cream and Mushroom 2.40 Choice ground longhorn, grilled to taste and smothered in sauteed mushrooms with a heap of sour cream. Tastes almost as good as it sounds.
All American 1.95 The same ground beef with lettuce, tomato, onion and no imagination.
All Mexican 2.25 Smothered with chili relleno, chopped onion and a variety of hot stuff. Helps cut our heating bill.

Entrees (Served with soup or salad, roll and potato.)
New York Cut 6.50 Grilled to taste. Served with an almost unnecessary knife. Priced to match the budget of the city by the same name.
Prawns 5.85 Steamed in beer and served with cocktail sauce or french fried southern style. Boneless.
Top Sirloin Sandwich 3.75 Grilled to your liking and served with salad, fries and Garlic Bread. Complimentary cowboy hat $20 extra.

Desserts
Baked Bananas with Rum Sauce over Ice Cream .90 Recipe discovered by Hector Lopez, well known banana plantation owner and distiller missing since eruption of active volcano in late 1800’s.
Ice Cream or Sherbert with Fresh Fruit .50 Served fresh frozen from our freezer. Helps cut the grease.
Sopaipilla and Honey .40 Deep fried bread dough rolled in powdered sugar. Extremely popular while Honey still worked here.

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Again, that’s a $26 steak, in 2019. Bit above everything else in terms of pay grade, no?

Next Time: We’ll go way, way further back in time. Not sure how far yet, possibly during a World War.