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

Beach Chick Dec 6, 2009 04:08 PM

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. n
    nosey RE: Beach Chick Dec 6, 2009 04:10 PM

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

    1 Reply
    1. re: nosey
      Cachetes RE: nosey Dec 17, 2009 02:44 PM

      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. Stephanie Wong RE: Beach Chick Dec 6, 2009 05:58 PM

      Restaurant at Mission Ranch Inn, Carmel CA

      1. bushwickgirl RE: Beach Chick Dec 6, 2009 06:37 PM

        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
          BabsW RE: bushwickgirl Dec 17, 2009 03:15 AM

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

          My favorite deli ever.


          1. re: bushwickgirl
            bushwickgirl RE: bushwickgirl Dec 17, 2009 09:34 AM

            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
              BabsW RE: bushwickgirl Dec 17, 2009 02:29 PM

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

              1. re: BabsW
                bushwickgirl RE: BabsW Dec 18, 2009 09:03 AM

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

                1. re: bushwickgirl
                  kubasd RE: bushwickgirl Jan 3, 2010 02:25 PM

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

                  1. re: kubasd
                    bushwickgirl RE: kubasd Jan 3, 2010 04:05 PM

                    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
                      kubasd RE: bushwickgirl Jan 3, 2010 07:11 PM

                      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. v
            Val RE: Beach Chick Dec 7, 2009 02:58 AM

            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. scubadoo97 RE: Beach Chick Dec 7, 2009 07:50 AM

              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
                CocoDan RE: scubadoo97 Dec 7, 2009 08:11 AM

                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. Beach Chick RE: Beach Chick Dec 8, 2009 06:12 AM

                forgot to add those yummy sweet pickled red peppers..

                7 Replies
                1. re: Beach Chick
                  lynnlato RE: Beach Chick Dec 17, 2009 03:22 AM

                  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
                    ChrisOC RE: lynnlato Dec 17, 2009 06:41 AM

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

                    1. re: ChrisOC
                      lynnlato RE: ChrisOC Dec 17, 2009 12:12 PM

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

                      1. re: ChrisOC
                        Jeanne RE: ChrisOC Dec 17, 2009 12:44 PM

                        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
                        amanda3571 RE: lynnlato Dec 18, 2009 09:07 AM

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

                        1. re: amanda3571
                          lynnlato RE: amanda3571 Jan 3, 2010 01:51 PM

                          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
                            amanda3571 RE: lynnlato Jan 3, 2010 02:19 PM

                            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. r
                      ri_foodie RE: Beach Chick Dec 16, 2009 01:49 PM

                      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
                        Beach Chick RE: ri_foodie Dec 16, 2009 03:13 PM

                        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
                          tzurriz RE: Beach Chick Dec 16, 2009 06:46 PM

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

                        2. re: ri_foodie
                          scuzzo RE: ri_foodie Dec 16, 2009 08:02 PM

                          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. t
                          TomSwift RE: Beach Chick Dec 16, 2009 02:09 PM

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

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: TomSwift
                            bushwickgirl RE: TomSwift Dec 16, 2009 02:16 PM

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

                          2. k
                            Kathleen M RE: Beach Chick Dec 16, 2009 02:38 PM

                            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. l
                              laliz RE: Beach Chick Dec 16, 2009 03:42 PM

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


                              2 Replies
                              1. re: laliz
                                monku RE: laliz Dec 16, 2009 06:16 PM

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

                                1. re: laliz
                                  cosmogrrl RE: laliz Dec 22, 2012 11:25 PM

                                  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. pdxgastro RE: Beach Chick Dec 16, 2009 09:10 PM

                                  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. FoodFuser RE: Beach Chick Dec 17, 2009 04:29 AM

                                    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. l
                                      Linda VH RE: Beach Chick Dec 17, 2009 06:32 AM

                                      Fifth Avenue Grill in Delray!

                                      1. s
                                        southerna RE: Beach Chick Dec 17, 2009 09:43 AM

                                        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
                                          stephle RE: southerna Dec 17, 2009 04:40 PM

                                          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. l
                                          LikestoEatout RE: Beach Chick Dec 18, 2009 09:19 AM

                                          These are still pretty common in Northern Wisconsin supper clubs.

                                          1. tatamagouche RE: Beach Chick Jan 3, 2010 04:32 PM

                                            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. Beach Chick RE: Beach Chick Mar 8, 2011 08:50 AM

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

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Beach Chick
                                                Angela Roberta RE: Beach Chick Mar 8, 2011 11:25 AM

                                                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. FoodFuser RE: Beach Chick Mar 8, 2011 12:39 PM

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

                                                1. o
                                                  occula RE: Beach Chick Mar 8, 2011 01:55 PM

                                                  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
                                                    sandylc RE: occula Dec 22, 2012 09:28 PM

                                                    My mom still calls them relish trays.

                                                  2. w
                                                    willypete RE: Beach Chick Apr 20, 2013 01:41 PM

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

                                                    1. Bill Hunt RE: Beach Chick Apr 20, 2013 10:13 PM


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


                                                      1. s
                                                        sandylc RE: Beach Chick Apr 20, 2013 10:18 PM

                                                        Google images of "relish tray". What fun!

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