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The Chilled Relish Tray...do they still exist?

Remember when you were a kid and they served the chilled relish tray with carrots, celery, radishes and maybe some olives at the restaurant?
This is way before 'Ranch' dressing..and there was no dip..maybe a little salt.
The 3 prong metal holder would sometimes have frost on the bottom...you could spell your name.
Durant's in Phoenix still does the tray..
We need to bring the relish tray back!

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  1. They do it in Vermont add cottage cheese with horseradish and carrots and crackers. It is wonderful! Fairhaven Inn.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nosey

      The Dog Team Tavern just outside of Middlebury VT was well known for its relish tray, which wasn't a tray but rather a spinning wheel (think captain's wheel of a ship, or a mini-windmill) that they'd roll over to the table. Made a mean sticky bun also.

      Alas, I think I heard that it burnt down a few years back.

    2. Restaurant at Mission Ranch Inn, Carmel CA

      1. Yes, I remember them well.
        IIRC, there were some issues with local health departments regarding relish trays, back in the late '70s, I believe the concern was that customers would handle the relish tray items or contaminate them in some manner and the restaurant would re-use the items, rather than tossing everything. Same with bread, butter and milk for coffee.
        I used to go to a "deli" style place in CT that served bowls of half sour pickles as a starter. We would pick them up from the bowl with our fingers. After the laws in CT were changed, the pickle bowls all came with small tongs perched on the top, like anyone would use the tongs, anyway.
        Anyway, that was CT and other states probably have different laws. I've never seen a relish tray-type setup in NYC, maybe just a few olives on a plate, some olive oil and roasted garlic for diping bread or butter, that's it. Too bad.

        7 Replies
        1. re: bushwickgirl

          I could practically make a meal of the pickle bowls at Rein's Deli in Vernon CT.

          My favorite deli ever.


          1. re: bushwickgirl

            Ooh, that' the deli I was writing about! Actually, there was a Rein's in the MeadowBrook Mall, just a strip mall, outside Willimantic; that's where I used to go. Same owners. Don't know if it's still there. That was my introduction to deli food, nothing else like it in that part of CT. Now I live in NYC, and it's everywhere.
            I used to have the borscht, and those great pickles and rye bread, a good cheap meal. And an iced tea, the real thing, not from a mix. Those were the days...fond memories.

            Edit: From the web link, it looks like the Willimantic store is gone, I think the strip mall might be gone now, too.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Do you men Eastbrook Mall, between Willi and Storrs? Yeah, the deli in there is gone. Good times. :)

              1. re: BabsW

                Yes, Eastbrook, I remembered later, after I couldn't edit. Used to go at least once a week.

                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  Do tell about this deli? My grandmother lives in storrs and i could easily make a side trip...

                  1. re: kubasd

                    The shop in the Storrs area is gone now. It was in the Eastbrook Mall, outside of Wilimantic, on Rt. 195. The sister deli is in Vernon CT, and is still open.
                    I haven't been to Storrs since 1985, how are things?

                    For you to get your deli fix on:

                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      aw, sad to hear it's gone already! Storrs itself isn't changed a lot, UConn has expanded greatly and is all new and shiny! Well, hasn't changed since i can remember, and i was born in '84, so my memory of '85 is somewhat fuzzy ;-) thanks for the point to the vernon one, next time i'm at my aunt's house or in that area i'll stop by for sure.

          2. Well, I sure wish someone would come up with something different from bread and butter...sheesh! I would LOVE to snack on carrots & pickled veggies before a meal at a restaurant...but even new, independently owned places opening here offer the same old, same old.

            1. Feel certain that today in a restaurant if you see raw veg it will be called a crudo and not a relish.

              1 Reply
              1. re: scubadoo97

                We recently had the relish dish at Billy's Tap Room and Grill in Ormond Beach, FL. It was a nice touch. Went well with cocktails before dinner.

              2. forgot to add those yummy sweet pickled red peppers..

                7 Replies
                1. re: Beach Chick

                  Yum! I've never had these, but they sound tasty. Are they something that's easy to find?

                  How about dilly beans? I LOVE these pickled green beans - the spicier the better. A friend cans them every year and I always look forward to my jar! A local restaurant here garnishes their Bloody Mary's with a dilly bean.

                  1. re: lynnlato

                    Dilly beans are good in a martini as well. Haven't seen them in years though

                    1. re: ChrisOC

                      I can usually find them at the grocery store, but they are substandard to my friend's version.

                      1. re: ChrisOC

                        You can find dilly beans in several nicer grocery stores here in NC - don't remember the brand but they are very good. Slightly costly but worth it..

                      2. re: lynnlato

                        Try Ricks Picks spicy pickled green beans! These are a new fave.

                        1. re: amanda3571

                          Amanda, what have you done?! I checked out this link and now I want to order like 5 different things, including the spicy beans. Damn! And they aren't cheap either!

                          (thanks for the link - I think I may place an order)

                          1. re: lynnlato

                            No, they're not cheap but they are SO good. Good for an occasional treat. We placed an order back in early December for Mean Beans, Phat Beets, The People's Pickle. & Heat Seekers. All are delishhh. If you have a WF near you, they might carry some of their products.

                    2. Unless you're as old as I and grew up in the Chicago area as I did, you probably never experienced the true and original chilled relish trays. In the 1940s and '50s they were almost universal in what the Frugal Gourmet referred to in one of his books as "every decent restaurant" in Chicago and most suburbs. More specifically the relish tray, which usually appeared on your table almost before the menu did, was found in steakhouses like Miller's on Western Avenue and chains of quality "American" restaurants like Harding's and Tofinetti's, and the legendary Henrici's, also sometimes in Italian restaurants but never in high-end French or so-called "continental" restaurants. The beauty -- and deliciousness -- of the relish tray was its very simplicity. Almost always in a clear glass dish layered with cracked ice appeared huge meaty California black olives with the pits still in them (something almost unfindable today!), equally large green olives still with their pits and sometimes pimiento-stuffed olives. Lying next to them were celery sticks (sometimes but not always carrot sticks as well) and at the opposite end of the dish some small pickles, usually of the small gherkin variety. The glory of the relish tray was the way that the celery lent its aroma and flavor to the olives, especially the black ones; they must have bedded down in that ice for a long time to achieve that extraordinary quality. Long gone, and much missed, but easily duplicated at home even today if you can find quality big, black olives with the pits still in them (and I don't mean imported, marinated, or "gourmet" varieties, just top-notch California ripe olives like we used to get easily years ago

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ri_foodie

                        so eloquently stated ri foodie...
                        I remember them so well in the 60 and 70's when I was a mere child but they seemed to have vanished but I see them slowly coming back just like I remember...frozen glass relish tray with the olives, celery, carrots and pickled peppers.

                        1. re: Beach Chick

                          Bogarts Steakhouse in Homewood IL still does a relish tray, and it is excellent. :)

                        2. re: ri_foodie

                          This reminded me of something! A coworker used to make something for all the potlucks. The night before she would mix baby carrots, cauliflowerettes, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes and black olives. I think she drained most of the olive juice, but mixing everything and letting it sit in the fridge overnight mixed and married the flavors in the most delightful way! I still sometimes make a tupperware container of these mixed veggies and keep them in the fridge for days. (Avis Bodahl...you were the best!)

                        3. The Buellton Hitching Post (of Sideways fame) has a great relish tray.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: TomSwift

                            I love reading stories like ri foodie's and I really liked that film.

                          2. In Monte Rio, in west Sonoma County, CA, The Village Inn brings a lovely relish tray before dinner, with cornichons, baby corn, several types of pickled peppers, at least two kinds of olives, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some. I just love to munch on that with cocktails. My husband doesn't like anything pickled in brine, so I don't have to share at all! I agree, it's a lovely way to start the meal. They bring it along with the bread and butter. I do prefer that to bread and butter, and he loves bread and butter, so we're both happy!

                            1. The Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe, CA also serves an old fashioned relish tray


                              2 Replies
                              1. re: laliz

                                Must be a Central Coast thing....Jocko's too.

                                1. re: laliz

                                  FYI The Far Western moved to Orcutt recently. I will look for a relish tray next time I am down there visiting the in-laws.

                                2. It's are a great idea that should come back. I found a multi section glass tray that would be perfect for it. Munching on pickles and other vegetables seems sure a lot healthier than sharing a basket of french fries.

                                  1. Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus, and there are still lots of relish trays.

                                    Of the dishes I inherited from Mom, her relish tray is perhaps my most used and valued. It's made of heavy cut glass lead crystal, radiant like a diamond, and has sufficient mass that when pre-frozen it holds the cold for quite a while.

                                    It goes to almost every potluck I attend, with it's six radial compartments filled with many of the pickled items mentioned above.

                                    1. Fifth Avenue Grill in Delray!

                                      1. Every year at Thanksgiving I am tasked with the assembly of our relish tray. In a cut glass tray with compartments, I assemble dill pickles, gherkins, green olives with pimentos, black olives, and three kinds of celery - plain, stuffed with pimento cheese, and stuffed with pineapple cheese.
                                        This year was the first when we nixed it, as no one ever ate from it. I'm sure this explains the demise of relish trays all around.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: southerna

                                          My sister is a relish tray fan - yes, she makes one every year for Thanksigiving and most years it's left untouched.

                                          And, our favorite BBQ joint (Bear Bit in North Hills CA) still does the relish bowl of my childhood (a few carrots, sliced pickle, celery and hot peppers over a bowl of ice). This is the only place where I'll willingly eat raw carrots and celery in raw stick form.

                                        2. These are still pretty common in Northern Wisconsin supper clubs.

                                          1. I dunno if all branches do it, but the Oceanaire in Denver does it, with a little ramekin of pickled herring for good measure. Pretty cool. Only chain I can say I actively like.

                                            1. I hear that the beloved relish tray is becoming hip again..

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Beach Chick

                                                Celery and olives used to be an appetizer choice with the "complete dinner" at the neighborhood (Queens) restaurants my family would go to when I was a kid. I haven't seen one out for a long time. We have celery and olives at home for holidays.

                                                But I've enjoyed this thread so much, I'm going to make a retro relish tray one for my next dinner party.

                                              2. One cannot go wrong when brings relish to relish
                                                or lends zest to the unpickled cudite'.

                                                1. This must be why my in-laws refer to the cold raw veggie tray I'm assigned at holidays a "relish tray." To me relish is a chopped condiment missing from the veggie tray.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: occula

                                                    My mom still calls them relish trays.

                                                  2. My question as an oldster, is how come there are still the traditional

                                                    1. Yes.

                                                      Durant's, Phoenix, AZ (as mentioned)
                                                      Michael's, Las Vegas, NV (Southpoint)


                                                      1. Google images of "relish tray". What fun!