I remember going to Panchos Mexican Buffet in Pasadena TX during the 1970s (Spencer Square Shopping Center). It was part of the buffet, so whatever that cost. If you came in and ordered a to go box for lunch, you could add scoops of guac for 5¢ a scoop. They didn’t include it in your filling up the to go box from the buffet line. Go figure.
Currently, the TexMex restaurant (Ted’s Escondido) I frequent will allow you to sub a small scoop of guac for the sour cream at no added cost, but if you want it as a side, it’s $3.95, the signature made at your table large bowl (good for a whole table of four) is $8.95.
I remember Panchos quite well from back in the day and I fairly certain that I went to their Pasadena, TX location. It wasn’t/isn’t fine Mexican food but it got the job done.
You are right though, the earliest price I remember for guacamole was ‘FREE’ or maybe a token charge. It usually wasn’t all that good and we didn’t think a lot about it but you could have as much as you wanted at several mid-range (for the time) Mexican restaurants. That was part of the deal just like free chips and salsa. You were lucky if you weren’t full already by the time it came to order.
I did know what good guacamole was though. My Texas mother can’t cook that well in general but she has always been able to make killer guacamole and salsa by any standard even in the 70’s. Even when we were flat broke, she made huge bowls of it at home like it was nothing of consequence.
I have been rather shocked recently about how much restaurants charge for the stuff. Even a tiny container at Chipotle costs $2 and change. I am not doing that for a $7 burrito. Even Subway wants to hit you with a hefty price increase for their substandard version. I am not sure what happened with the avocado market over the years but it is not favorable to consumers these days.
I worked at Taco Bueno in 1981. All food items were either .79 or 1.58 (that way we could quickly memorize the price of any combination of items and drinks). A guacamole salad was a “double” item, $1.58.
I have never once thought about the price I ever paid for guac. In a mexican restaurant, either we’re generally with people who say, “Guacamole?”, and it’s always “Yes”. “Wait, how much does it cost?”, has never been spoken by anyone I know. On the other hand, I make as good a guac as you are going to find in Southern California, the magic land of year-round, perfectly-ripe-the-day-you-buy-them grocery store avocados for one lousy dollar apiece. Sometimes less, sometimes more. But we got your avocados right here.