Anyone for _surf and turf_?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Jan 4 05:40:52 UTC 2005

The combination of "surf" and "turf" may owe something to the Del Mar Turf
Club outside of San Diego, a racetrack opened by Bing Crosby in 1937.
Crosby commemorated the track's opening with the song "Where the Turf
Meets the Surf."  Press accounts of the club in the late '30s sometimes
referred to it as "The Turf and Surf Club" or "The Surf and Turf Club."
Also, the hotel near the club was known as the Del Mar Turf and Surf

As far as "surf and turf" (or "turf and surf") in the "lobster and steak"
sense goes, I doubt the coinage can be traced to one particular
restaurant. The earliest citations I've found are from 1961 in the Los
Angeles Times, referring to two different restaurants in L.A.  A review of
Bob Gaard's Dover House, a restaurant on the corner of La Cienega and
Santa Monica Blvds., mentions a "turf and surf" entree:

    Los Angeles Times, Aug 13, 1961, p. N7
    The "Turf and Surf" is an interesting combination: lobster tail
    and small beef tenderloin.

Later that year, a restaurant called Happy Hollow on Silver Lake Blvd.
advertised "surf and turf":

    Los Angeles Times, Dec 17, 1961, Calendar, p. 18 (advt.)
    Surf & Turf
    Australian Lobster Tail & Choice Top Sirloin Steak

By the mid-'60s the surf/turf combo had spread to the East Coast.  In the
Syracuse Post Standard of June 26, 1964, an advertisement for the Seneca
Manor restaurant includes: "Surf and Turf Plate - Broiled Lobster Tail and
a Petite Filet of Mignon on Toast."  But the "turf and surf" form also
circulated, as in a Washington Post article of July 3, 1966 reviewing the
Westside Room at the Century Plaza.  By the late '60s, "surf and turf" had
displaced "turf and surf" as the favored name for the lobster/steak

--Ben Zimmer

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