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Dressing on the side?

I'm a restaurant professional and have for a long time been wondering about the reason so many diners order their salads SOS (thats shorthand for sauce, or in this case dressing, on the side). Personally, it offends me that my customers don't trust me to properly dress their salad. But there's the rub- what is a 'properly' dressed salad? I think it comes down to; does the customer think I'm going to put too much or too little dressing on the salad? So please, you know who you are. Do you ask for dressing on the side because you want more or less dressing than you think you will get if you order the salad dressed?

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  1. For myself, I cannot eat raw onion or cucumber or I get terrible heartburn. Rather than ask for certain items to be left off-which may or may not-be part of the dish, I find it easier just to ask for the dressing on the side and I can remove the offending items myself, . Once the dressing is on the salad, it is harder to see if these are on the salad. It just seems lower maintainence than requesting ingredients be excluded.

    3 Replies
    1. re: sherriberry

      Hey, thats not something I ever thought of. Good answer.

      1. re: chrisandbetsyc

        Amen to Sherribery. This is something that restaurant staffs are amazingly insensitive to--no, probably just not aware of. I have major sensitivity to onion/garlic/chives. Huge, all-night heartburn extending to upper throat. I've been questioned closely by waitstaff about my not wanting onions/garlic, as if I'm some dork who simply isn't familiar with garlic. NO, it's a health hazard for me, as I have a pre-cancerous esophageal condition. So thank you so much, chrisandbetcyc, for asking this question.

      2. re: sherriberry

        +1 for that response. That's how I approach it. I'm also a big salad dressing devotee, so I ask for extra...never seem to get enough, tho.

      3. Depends on your restaurant. Local favorite to fine dining of course not. Chain you bet, I travel a lot with work if I'm at any chain restaurant I always ask for dressing on the side. I have to travel with tight restrictions with work, I'm feeding other people with tight money and AMX card restrictions so I eat a lot of salad. On my own at a restaurant I'm seeking out of course not I'm in thier hands as far as I'm concerned...thats why I'm eating there.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chris2269

          So true! Depending on the type of restaurant I have been known to ask for SOS. I am also watching my weight for health reasons and use the fork dipping method for restaurants that may over sauce. Mostly though fine dining=chef's choice, chain=SOS.

          1. re: melpy

            I also will do this at chains or places were I don't believe the kitchen will have a lot of finesse. -This may explain why it offends you.
            Mostly, I do not want to be faced with an overdressed, sogged-out bed of greens with inferior dressing.
            I am often ordering a Ceaser with grilled chicken and dressing on the side in hopes of getting a passable meal at a place that doesn't really appeal to me. If I don't care for the dressing, I can ask for oil and vinegar and do my own thing. If the dressing is thick and goopy, but it tastes okay, I can use some, but thin it out a bit with a cruet of vinegar from the kitchen.
            I do this for my tastebuds and my waistline.
            If I am at a neighborhood joint I love and trust, I will not bother with SOS dressing. I will be bummed if it's overdressed though. So may cooks seem to err on the side of more dressing, it's a shame to overwhelm the beautiful greens we have available these days.
            At a palce of higher caliber I might send it back, depending on my mood and how overdressed it is.

        2. I usually ask for the dressing on the side because I only like a little on my salad so I figure I can add it myself but I can't take it off if there's too much. Also, I like to taste the other flavors of the salad if it contains creamy ingredients like avocado or goat cheese. Sometimes a menu doesn't include all of the salad ingredients so I agree with being able to pick out ones I don't like.

          1. It's an old dieting trick...put your fork in the dressing then the salad on the fork.

            You get the flavors but not all of the calories.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Cathy

              I found out about this and it works pretty well- if you want more you can make it happen, but otherwise you get a good balance. No reason why you shouldn't order it that way, so many salads I've ordered were grease bombs with gross artificial flavors, makes me sad to see a salad wasted like that.

              1. re: EWSflash

                Yep to Cathy & EWS...you mostly don't know how much oil or what KIND of oil is in the salad dressing, how much salt and other possibly nasty junk is added...sugar too!

              2. re: Cathy

                This is why I order on the side as well.

                1. re: Cathy

                  That's usually my reason, too. That and the fact that usually the salad is not really "dressed" -- it's slathered with dressing. If the dressing was created and layered into the salad, that would be a good reason to not order the dressing on the side. But even Caesar salads these days are often splashed with a prepared dressing.

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    Caesar salad is often the worst offender in the "slathered" category. I never order it, just for that reason. It's usually pre-made in a giant vat and you can never get the dressing on the side.

                    Once, about 15 years ago, I was in a restaurant in provincial PA and had the experience of getting the tableside-prepared Caesar salad, which of course builds the dressing right onto the romaine. I think that's the only time I actually enjoyed one. But that menu item (and preparation) has gone the way of oysters Rockefeller...

                    1. re: travelmad478

                      There are a few places that still do the tableside Caesar salad thing -- I believe the Dilworthtown Inn here in southeastern PA still does it -- so you can have it "customized" to your liking. Other than those rare exceptions, salad dressings generally are ladled out from a big vat.

                      1. re: travelmad478

                        Lemme guess..... the Victorian Manor?

                        1. re: linguafood

                          No, I have no recollection of the name of the place, or even the town, but we were staying in Ephrata at the time so it would have been somewhere in that vicinity. The whole thing was very "George Washington Slept Here" as I recall, but that's all I can remember!

                          1. re: travelmad478

                            Ah, well maybe it's not that uncommon...

                    2. Unless I am eating in a restaurant where I am confident in the chef I expect the salad to come out way overdressed. Almost every time I go to a new place and I let them dress the salad I get a soggy greasy mess. In a chain or inexpensive restaurant my salads are overdressed 100% of the time. I ate at Houston's last night and (not my choice) and I forgot to order dressing on the side, and it came dressed with twice as much dressing as any restaurant that most of us would consider 'hound worthy.

                      1. You may know how to properly dress a salad, but not everyone does.
                        Nothing worse than an "overdressed" salad, are you going to be offended if it's sent back?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: monku

                          In 15 years of cooking I have seen a lot of plates sent back for a lot of reasons but I have NEVER seen a salad sent back for being overdressed. That would be a memorable first.

                          1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                            I don't think I've ever sent a salad back because of too much dressing, for some reason....just eat the parts that aren't too gross and call it a day.

                            Unless it's a high-end restaurant, I ALWAYS ask for dressing on the side, and it's hardly a "secret" that the ramekin has too much dressing for the salad.

                            Occasionally, especially with cesear dressing, I might ask for the salad to be "lightly dressed" I'd really rather eat a dry salad than a gloppy one.

                        2. "Do you ask for dressing on the side because you want more or less dressing than you think you will get if you order the salad dressed?"

                          Because I want less. I have had way too many bad experiences of getting overdressed salads. And that's not just in chains. I've had the same thing happen in local favourites and in fine dining. I think that I personally just do not care for much dressing.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: decolady

                            Most of the restaurants that I have worked at for over 25 years have been very cost efficient. They put one small ladle of dressing on the salad and send it out. If someone wants "sos" they put one ladle of dressing into a small bowl and send it out. It was rare that the bowl came back with dressing still in it!

                          2. 1. I want to taste the dressing before it's added to my salad greens (I don't always like the "house blend".)
                            2. Usually I want less dressing than other diners.
                            3. Sometimes I use the dressing as a condiment for other parts of my meal (bread, veggies, etc.)

                            In other words, getting SOS allows more options and/or combinations of my food.

                            1. I started asking for dressing on the side after I was served a Caesar Salad that was literally a bunch of mixed salad greens sitting waist deep in horrible vinaigrette When I brought this horror to the attention of the server i was told (Well!!!!! That;s the way OUR chef makes it!).

                              More often than not, I only want a little and pepper, same grated cheese or even soy sauce, I do ask for them on the side.

                              And sometimes while I wouldn't want that excellent blue cheese on my said I do want it fro my baked pototo or fries,

                              1. "I think it comes down to; does the customer think I'm going to put too much or too little dressing on the salad"...Yes, both and that may be at a 2-top. Jfood likes a little more dressing than mrs jfood and the same salad may be too much for her and too little for jfood.

                                " it offends me that my customers don't trust me to properly dress their salad"...and now we add a third opinion...what is "properly dress?"

                                It comes down to poe-tay-toe vs poe-tah-toe. There is no "correct" or "proper" here, just a matter of opinion.

                                If it offends you try to think of the dressing in the same vein as the S&P shakers on the table or the pepper mill the server immediately brings over and asks, "pepper?" before you can even have a taste.

                                1. I find most waitstaff usually dress salads for their tables, IMO they generally put personal taste before common sense.

                                  1. Always ask for dressing in the side...................
                                    I want to be able to see the salad, not have a creamy dressing hiding bits of lettuce that have turned bad .

                                    Cynical, you bet I am, I've had too many past their prime food items covered up by dressings, sauces and gravy.

                                    Also, I want to taste the dressing before ruining an entire salad with a dressing I don't care for. I'd rather eat the salad plain.

                                    1. Also, everyone's taste is different. What you think is a properly dressed salad may not be what I think is a properly dressed salad. Take a quick look at any of the "competition" cooking shows on FNTV and you will see that any number of restaurant professionals get called on overdressing salads by the judges, most of whom are also food professionals.

                                      Even professionals can make mistakes. If I get too much dressing on the salad, I'm not going to send it back. If you have overdressed it, then there is a chance I might just ask for another.

                                      1. Very interesting replies. Some points I had not thought of. But here is the last little secret. For those of you who want dressing on the side because of fear of the kitchen over dressing (which on one level I can understand, I too eat out and have been served overdressed salad), the amount you get on the side is always twice as much as the salad needs (in my experience). So, unless you are using less than half of the ramekin of dressing, you are overdressing your salad (at least in my restaurant).
                                        But thank you all for the input. This is a good forum to get perspective on issues I can't get anywhere else.

                                        31 Replies
                                        1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                          I've never seen anyone who ordered dressing on the side use all that is delivered. I always send back at least 3/4 of it.

                                          Another data point for you - I often ask for the dressing on the side because I don't want any on the salad. It seems impossible to order the salad without dressing (trust me I've tried) so getting it on the side means that I can eat the salad without dressing.

                                          1. re: 512window

                                            I'm with you on this, I rarely use more than a fraction of the ramekin.

                                          2. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                            In your experience, do people use all the dressing that comes out in the separate ramekin? I don't. About 1/4 -1/3 is the norm for what I use and what I see others who also order it on the side use.

                                            1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                              Why would you think that the person who orders dressing on the side is going to use the whole ramekin of dressing that arrives with the salad? I generally use less than a quarter of it, and it irritates me that the restaurant wastes so much. I always order dressing on the side because in 99 cases out of 100, the restaurant will drown the salad in dressing. I want to taste the vegetables and/or eat light.

                                              1. re: travelmad478

                                                You're anomolies. Usually, the customer just takes the ramekin and dumps the full amount on top of the salad. I waited tables for a looong time; virtually no one has leftover dressing in the ramekin.

                                              2. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                                I've never ordered a salad with dressing on the side, but my dates usually do, and I assume it is because they are on a diet. Until I dated a girl who ordered TWO blue cheese dressings on the side.... she wanted more, and used all of it!

                                                1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                  Up until this point I have seen no replies that admit they want more dressing. After years of watching years of properly dressed salads go out and the waitstaff returning to the kitchen and asking for extra dressing, I know there is a large percentage of people that want their salads drowned in dressing. These people are probably less likely to participate in this disussion. But the fact is that there are a lot of them out there.

                                                  1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                                    You seem oddly unwilling to accept the answer to your own question. You asked "Do you ask for dressing on the side because you want more or less dressing than you think you will get if you order the salad dressed?" Unequivocally, the answer is "because we want less dressing than restaurant kitchens typically put on salads." Yet you still insist that some secret society of dressing-hogs is out there, refusing to acknowledge themselves. Why not stand in an empty room, ask your question aloud, and then answer it yourself? I think that's the only thing that will make you happy.

                                                    1. re: travelmad478

                                                      Wow. There is also the possiblity that Chris and/or Betsyc want us to admit that it is a control issue, not a portion issue.

                                                      1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                        I don't understand your comment. Control on the part of whom? I'm seeing a lot of control issues on the part of the OP here. Like this one: "Personally, it offends me that my customers don't trust me to properly dress their salad." The portion issue is pretty simple, as every respondent has said: restaurant dressing portions are usually too big (whether they come on top of the salad or next to it).

                                                        1. re: travelmad478

                                                          I would classify many instances of ordering dressing-on-the-side as a food control issue. Women in particular have so very few areas in life where they feel they can control things that happen to them. Cultural attitudes about weight and body size contribute to food issues. The culture tells her that if she is fat, she is unlovable, but if she is thin, she can pass for lovable. Food issues also are indicators of her struggle with anxiety, and her body becomes the battleground upon which these conflicts are enacted, the visible entity that she can focus on and attempt to achieve mastery over. So what I'm saying is if having control over your vinaigrette portion helps you reduce your general anxiety, go crazy.

                                                          1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                            > Women in particular have so very few areas in life where they feel they can control things that happen to them.

                                                            This is one of the more preposterous statements I've seen in a long time. Where exactly are you living? Afghanistan? The year 1825?

                                                            You are doing some serious over-analyzing. What about the simple fact that 99% of restaurants dump way too much dressing on salads, making them completely unappealing?

                                                            Does the fact that men are often very adamant about the level of doneness of their steaks also stem from the fact that "Men in particular have so very few areas in life where they feel they can control things that happen to them"? See this post if you'd like an example of men's need to control things: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7310...

                                                            1. re: travelmad478

                                                              Heh, well in James' defense, he does call himself a douche for insisting his steak is medium-rare.

                                                              I may be from Mars and will never fully understand Venusians, but at least I try. But this SOS situation is something that can't be rationally explained: I have had some overdressed salads, yes, but certainly not at 99% of establishments.

                                                              The keyword here is SALAD. Men eat salads but I've observed that THE BIG SALAD is certainly the domain of women.

                                                          2. re: travelmad478

                                                            I'm not sure about the other person's comment regarding control but...

                                                            For my mother, it is all about control. She was raised by an over-controlling parent who always used dessert as a bribe but never issued it because she and her sibling never did well enough in school. Straight A students, top of their class, top test scores, never missed summer school and on and on. If they did better in school, dessert was to be had. However, their father was so unbearably controlling that he never, ever let them have dessert. EVER. So, she needs to be in control and although she does not view the cooks or food preparers as trying to control her food intake, she still needs to "be the one in control of what she eats."

                                                            Hopefully that sheds a dash of light on how control can play a big role in dining out.

                                                            I'm not sure how my post wound up down here, it was supposed to be in response to TravelMad's post below:

                                                            I don't understand your comment. Control on the part of whom? I'm seeing a lot of control issues on the part of the OP here. Like this one: "Personally, it offends me that my customers don't trust me to properly dress their salad." The portion issue is pretty simple, as every respondent has said: restaurant dressing portions are usually too big (whether they come on top of the salad or next to it).

                                                            1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                              Yes, it's definitely interesting that the control issue on the part of the OP to make sure everyone eats a salad HIS way is overlooked but when a woman wants a salad the way she enjoys, it's her control issue. How is anyone wanting food the way he OR she enjoys it a control issue? What about the thread where the OP wants to order his steak by temperature--why aren't men attacked for that on control issues?

                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                how do we know the OP's not a woman?

                                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                                  Because out of the two peoples' names in the username, one is a chef, and it's the one with the male name.

                                                                  1. re: tommy

                                                                    And you know that how? (Sorry if I'm being a PITA, maybe you've been following this person more closely)

                                                                    1. re: tommy

                                                                      chris isn't exclusively a male name.

                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                        No, but in Chrisandbetsy, with an avatar picture of a male/female/small child, I assumed Chris was the male, betsy was the female. But, unless the OP comes back to verify, we wouldn't know for sure. In some post, maybe not in this thread, I had the feeling the OP was male.

                                                                    1. re: spinachandchocolate

                                                                      Did the OP say that it's a control issue when a woman orders a salad? I didn't see that.

                                                                      1. re: tommy

                                                                        It's part of this subthread in the post above by GraydonCarter.

                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                          But it wasn't the OP. Just want to be clear here.

                                                                          1. re: tommy

                                                                            Yes, that's why it's part of the subthread and not a response directly to the OP.

                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                              whoa..been busy for a while and haven't check this thread. I am Chris and I am male but I never mentioned or thought anything about this having gender issues. ya'll came up with that, I assure you

                                                            2. re: travelmad478

                                                              For what it's worth, I'm on his side of the issue; I've had more complaints of 'not enough dressing' than 'too much.' In my case, it's very, very rare to get a complaint about the dressing (thanks for teaching me right, Murray!) but usually when it happens, it's a server asking for extra dressing.

                                                            3. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                                              You seem to be more intent on proving you are the perfect salad dresser than learning from people on these boards. Jfood posted this on Saturday morning. Please read this time.

                                                              "I think it comes down to; does the customer think I'm going to put too much or too little dressing on the salad"...Yes, both and that may be at a 2-top. Jfood likes a little more dressing than mrs jfood and the same salad may be too much for her and too little for jfood.

                                                              Notice jfood likes more dressing than mrs jfood. and he has asked the server to ask the kitchen for more dressing for his chef assumed "perfectly dressed salad."

                                                              And if you think every salad you send out is perfectly dressed with no room for improvement, could you please post the name of your restaurant. Jfood is sure you will get some insight from people on these boards on this.

                                                              1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                                                Looks like most chowhounds who have answered don't mesh with your prior experience.

                                                            4. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                                              Just because it is given one the side, doesn't mean we have to eat it, duh. That is the whole point. I eat only what I need, which is usually far less than 114 of what I am given.

                                                              1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                                                I frequently only use 1/4 - 1/3, at most, of the dressing when I get it served on the side. I like my salads very light on dressing and want to keep salads a healthy choice when ordering them. It always seems like such a huge amount of dressing and gross to imagine it all mixed in with the greens.

                                                                That said, at fine dining restaurants I usually trust the chef to dress the salad well, and am only getting a salad as an appetizer in a small portion. It's when eating at a diner, chain or low-end "family" restaurant where I may get a salad as my main meal, that I absolutely want the dressing on the side. I usually just dip my fork in the dressing to get a little taste of it instead of actually mixing it in with the greens.

                                                              2. If it's a fine dining experience and the salad dressing is part of the item (i.e. you're not given a choice) I'll let the kitchen dress it/toss it. If it's your typical American dinner side salad with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, etc. and a choice of dressing is given, I'll order it on the side. The latter salad just has the dressing dumped on top anyway, so I'd rather do the dumping.

                                                                1. I barely use any dressing, preferring to actually taste the vegetables, so I'll give the restaurant a chance, but if the salad comes out overdressed you can be sure I'll be ordering on the side from there on out. There are only 2 restaurants in our immediate area where I don't order it on the side. I normally only use a small portion of the boat of dressing everyone sends out.

                                                                  1. HA- Chrisandbetsyc- I understand exactly where you are coming from. However, dressing a salad properly IS a big deal and isn't always done correctly, even in "fancy" restaurants. Honestly, it used to piss me off as well, as I had salads thrown away by my exec before leaving the kitchen because they were over-dressed.

                                                                    1. i'm usually on the go...and so are my salads. it's a pain dressing your salad, say, on the bus or train (although i usually take out for work/school), but i like saving the 3/4ths of my dressing i dont use for salads i do prepare at home. there's a place near where i live that make's their own dressing that they dare not tell me how they prepare...so, i just take it on the side and save what i dont use for future use!

                                                                      1. "But there's the rub- what is a 'properly' dressed salad?"

                                                                        Exactly. There is no definition of a properly dressed salad and most restaurants out there overdress theirs for my taste. I hate having a pool of dressing where there is more dressing than vegetable and that happens frequently. Even if you do properly dress a salad, people eat at many restaurants, 90% of which do it wrong so the natural assumption is that they will get under or overdressed salad. Don't take it personally--customers aren't mistrusting you specifically, but their poor experiences.

                                                                        As for overusing dressing, the typical diet trick is to dip the fork in the dressing and then pick up lettuce so you minimize the amount used.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                          As a professional and a food purist, I strongly believe there IS such a thing as a properly dressed salad. What is variable is people's tastes. Just as there is a properly seasoning to a finished soup; some people will still think it is undersalted because they want their food to taste salty. That does not mean they are right or that there is no 'correct' amount of dressing/saltiness. My problem is I can't keep these people from coming to my restaurant! Most of that last bit was satire, reallly

                                                                          1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                                                            You recognize that people's tastes are variable, which is a step in the right direction. Here's something you need to realize as a business owner: a "properly dressed salad" may appeal to, say, 30% of the guests who order it. Let's say that another 30% think it has too much dressing, and 30% think it has not enough dressing and 10% aren't going to be happy no matter what you do. But here's the key point: 100% of your guests want the salad the way they like to eat it. And unless you're employing mind-readers, you're never going to know which guest is which.

                                                                            There's the easy way to have a successful business: provide your customers with what they want, even if it means dressing on the side if that's what they prefer, and feel honored that people are choosing to spend their money with you.

                                                                            There's the hard way to have a successful business: be so good at what you do that people flock to your restaurant and eat whatever you serve them in exactly the way you choose to prepare it and feel honored to pay for the privilege of eating your food.

                                                                            While I think every restaurant owner would love to be in the latter category, the odds are much more in favor of success with the former method. Even if it means that you as a professional, chef, or food purist think they're doing it all wrong.

                                                                            1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                                                              The problem is, even if you dress it properly, you have to look at it from your customers' perspective that that rarely happens. So, they're not mistrusting you, they're mistrusting their experience. Don't take it personally, just as you shouldn't take it personally that you have to take off your shoes at the airport to go through security. TSA is specifically telling you that you're evil.

                                                                              Here's a question--is every salad you order perfectly dressed at every restaurant? If so, you're very lucky. If not, you're either part of the problem, as you complain about your customers, or you could see it from the view of your customers.

                                                                              1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                                                                I guess what I don't understand is that if you know people's tastes are variable, where is the offense if customers ask for dressing on the side? All that indicates is that their taste may not be the same as your taste. Why is that offensive?

                                                                            2. In addition to what others have already added, some dressings have stronger flavors than others that may overpower a dish in quantities that may be perfect for lighter dressings. I'm not going to know what type of dressing I'm getting until the salad comes out, so I'd rather be able to taste it first and then apply it instead of ending up having a salad with such powerful dressing that I can't taste anything else on the salad.

                                                                              1. My 13 yr. old g-son has us take him to certain restaurants specifically for their salad dressing. He always waits until they deliver the salad and then asks for more on the side. He tried just asking for extra dressing but..... doesn't work very often. I always ask for my dressing on the side just like other people here because I only use a very little. Not a diet issue just a taste preference.

                                                                                1. I always ask for dressing on the side. I've sent back salads many times because they were overdressed. I want a pile of salad veggies, not a pool of dressing with some lettuce. You may know what a properly dressed salad is, but so many cooks/food prep people do not. 'Lightly dressed' to me may not mean the same thing to the person preparing my salad.

                                                                                  It also has to do with taste. The 'house balsamic vinaigrette' may not be the vinegar/oil combo I thought it would be... and then I'm stuck picking at a salad that's covered in a balsamic/mayo concoction. Easier to ask for dressing on the side and taste. If I don't like it, I can always ask for something else.

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                    On a similar front, I often find that the ratios of oil to vinegar are not what I'd prefer. I've gotten so many dressings where the ratio seems to be heavily balanced in favor of a strong tasting vinegar, and I just find the flavor to be overpowering unless it's in extremely small quantities.

                                                                                    1. re: queencru

                                                                                      One of my favorite restaurants brings dressings to the table when a house salad is ordered. They don't mix in the dressings unless asked. I like two or three of the dressings, so I can add a little bit of each to different parts of the salad.. and I don't have to ask the waiter several times for different dressings.

                                                                                      1. re: queencru

                                                                                        This is my problem w/ overdressed salads, too. If it's a vinaigrette type dressing, the vinegar overpowers it. If it's creamy, it overwhelms the delicate greens.

                                                                                    2. I have so, so, so many reasons to order SOS...
                                                                                      - food sensitivities - I want to see what's there before i dress it - would prefer not to die (or get really sick) because I was not paying attention.
                                                                                      - I generally want less dressing than what is usually put on by the preparer, and generally send most of the ramekin back... it's not that I don't think the preparer is capable... just that their tastes are not my tastes. :). and yes, I admit that in my pre-weight watchers days, I wanted MORE dressing that I usually got and always used the entire ramekin. now it's the fork dip then stab method for me. :)
                                                                                      - I have had too many bad experiences with less-than-fresh ingredients
                                                                                      I'm glad you asked this, because it means you are paying attention and caring what your customer is doing.

                                                                                      1. wow--you guys have such self control. I actually like lots of dressing on my salads. I have tried the dip the fork thing when dieting & it is miserable for me. Tasting dressing is a lot more interesting of a taste than lettuce. I realize that there are other tasty ingredients in the salad but usually it's mostly lettuce. I happen to love dressing.

                                                                                        1. I prefer a salad with a vinaigrette to be well tossed so every leaf is coated but not a pool in the bottom of the bowl. I don't mind tossing it myself so long as the bowl/plate is big enough. A pet peeve is if they are not careful putting the dressing on, you get all vinegar or all oil. If I am serving it at home for guests, I toss it all together but serve a little extra on the table for those who want extra.
                                                                                          For heavier dressing, I just ask for the dressing on the side so I can take a little with each bite.

                                                                                          1. Hello... On a similar note: here in Los Angeles, many (many) thai restaurants must deal with the issue of 'heat and spiciness', and have implemented a well-established mechanism (in theory, if not in actual practice) of asking the patron "medium spicy or extra spicy?" to determine each customers preference/tolerance level for chiles and spices. That, in addition to often having an additional aresenal of sauces and spicy condiments on the table for the customer to add. I don't believe the folks cooking in the kitchen are worried that the cusotmer is doubting their ability to 'properly spice' a bowl of soup. My point being, I suppose, that it became useful for the folks cooking to simply ask the patron - using simple categories such as medium or extra spicy - to aid in coming to some type of agreeable outcome, if possible. Perhaps the same simple solution can be implemented with salads and dressing, such as : "would you prefer that salad un-dressed, lightly dressed, or heavily dressed?". Seems fairly straightforward...

                                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: silence9

                                                                                              "Perhaps the same simple solution can be implemented with salads and dressing, such as : "would you prefer that salad un-dressed, lightly dressed, or heavily dressed?". Seems fairly straightforward..."

                                                                                              I don't think so.
                                                                                              Most non-fast food restaurants that serve hamburgers don't even ask you how you want it cooked.

                                                                                              1. re: monku

                                                                                                i dont think i've ever not been asked how i want my burger.

                                                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                                                  at a fast food resto? puh-lease. med-rare, huh? you've got to be kidding.

                                                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                                                    that breaks my heart. you gotta go to better restaurants.

                                                                                                    1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                                                                                      read it again -ive never NOT been asked. monku said most non-fast food places do not ask. i never go to fast food places, and i'm always asked. wait - are you agreeing with monku, that good places don;t ask? or did you misread my post? I go to many many many great restaurants - here in NYC and around the world. they always ask how i want my burger cooked.

                                                                                                2. I always ask for SOS. If I don't I find the salad is DRENCHED in dressing w/ a puddle at the bottom of it. However, I've eaten out w/ DS and according to him, the salad never has ENOUGH dressing.

                                                                                                  The other issue that I've seen often enough to make me wary is what if the dressing sucks? (What exactly IS 'house dressing'?) Then my lovely salad may be ruined w/ a dressing I cannot remove. In that case, would I / should I ask for a new salad w/ the dressing changed?

                                                                                                  To each their own. I don't think it's about trusting the chef, it's to each individual's taste and obviously, that can vary.

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: JerryMe

                                                                                                    What if the dressing sucks? That's my issue!! I would rather taste and add a dressing that I like rather than have to eat something that doesn't appeal to me.

                                                                                                  2. I ask for dressing on the side. It is a calorie issue. I don't care for low fat dressing , I like the full fat versions, so I eat less. I do find that when I get a dressed salad its floating in dressing.

                                                                                                    1. I ALWAYS order dressing on the side. I'm a former Weight Watcher, and ever since that time (8 years now) I have become very conscious of my caloric intake. I eat my salads with very little dressing, and prefer to manage my own portions, thank you.

                                                                                                      1. >>>
                                                                                                        Personally, it offends me that my customers don't trust me to properly dress their salad.

                                                                                                        As the chef/owner I worked for many years ago would say, "If you offend that easily, you're in the wrong business."

                                                                                                        As one who normally asks for dressing on the side, I decided to trust my server when DW and I ate out last week. My salad was drowned...and this from someone who likes his dressing. So it's back to, "Dressing on the side, please."

                                                                                                        1. Dressing on the side because most kitchens are incompetent and overdress greens.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: tommy

                                                                                                            I wonder if it isn't also something else, that they don't want to appear "stingy."

                                                                                                            Like how restaurants serve coffee way too strong. It appears that they are generous, and if you like it weaker, you can just add water. Not sure how you could dilute the salad dressing after it is already applied.

                                                                                                          2. I know of several reasons.

                                                                                                            For myself, I love salad just the way it is and don't need salt, sugar or oil to make it better. I also have a sodium issue and avoid dressing for that reason. Lastly, I hate mayo or whipped oil so, since many dressings have mayo or oil in them, I just avoid the issue and ask for it on the side.

                                                                                                            My dad orders it on the side because he is a diabetic and has heart issues. One table spoon of olive oil is one thing, an unknown amount of "dressing" could be full of sugar and oil. Not all dressings are made in-house and with olive oil. Even nice or "fine" restaurants use pre-made dressings or make their own with corn oil.

                                                                                                            My mom orders it on the side not because she doesn't trust that the person preparing the salad knows how to dress it but because she has leftover food issues from her childhood and likes to be in control of what she eats. She wants to be the one to put the dressing on her food. She wants the extra thousand island because she likes it. She'll have as much as she likes, no matter what. Seriously.

                                                                                                            My guy orders dressing on the side because he is on a diet and is prone to gain weight, quickly and easily. He knows how many calories are in just about anything and everything. If there is any room, he will add the right amount of dressing or none at all. A little lemon juice or vinegar goes a long way.

                                                                                                            I hope that helps!

                                                                                                            1. People are paying good money for the food, so they should receive their salads or dishes how they want.

                                                                                                              Personally, I get dressing on the side for numerous reasons. Sometimes places overdress or underdress, yes, but I don't like all the added calories from the pre-dressed salads. Almost always I will eat less of the dressing if I do the fork dip. Also, if I'm getting a salad as an entree and want to take home the part I didn't eat, the dressed salad will get way too soggy to consume.

                                                                                                              1. DH always gets his on the side. He likes a 1 each of french and thousand Island and sometimes he mixes the two and sometimes just one kind on each half. Depends on his mood. That is not something a server could determine. Me? I'm fine with how they dress the salad. I don't usually eat that much anyway.

                                                                                                                1. For me of course it IS a control issue. I know for a fact that the "head chef" sure isn't dressing my salad. And there is quite a possibility that whoever is is either a) rushing or b) doesn't care or c) doesn't have a clue. Are you willing to take that risk when you are spending your money on a meal out? I have ordered the same salad as my bf only to see my salad drowning in dressing and his lacking. I suppose we could just request a mixing bowl and combine our salads in hopes of evening out the dressing. I have actually been in restaurants where when ordering dressing on the side they tell me yes that is how all of our salads come. BRAVO for recognizing that is what "the general dining public" wants.

                                                                                                                  And in ALL honesty - this "I am offended" that people don't trust me to dress their salad is a little egotistical don't you think? Salad aside, I have gotten cold sauces on entree's, over cooked meat, frigid pasta... I can have FAITH that the kitchen staff knows what they are doing, but TRUST that you can read my mind and know exactly what I want, especially when the wait staff rolls their eyes at you when you make changes to your order? Naaa. I would rather take a little of my dining fate into my own hands.

                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: BodaciousGirl

                                                                                                                    obviously I overdid it with the 'being offended' comment. just being dramatic I guess. Seems to me that most chowhounds like a lightly dressed salad and are wary of restaurants they have less faith in being able to dress their salad properly. I can even admit that unless you are a regular customer at my restaurant it would look like the kind of place that you wouldn't have faith in the kitchen (small, locally owned brewpub in the booneys of western ma). However, chowhounds are not the general public. I noticed a waitstaff comment that he/she has never seen anyone not use all the dressing provided. All the waitstaff here say the same thing. So I'm not convinced that MOST people ask for SOS because they want less. And all that stuff about women and control issues..wow. I'll have to read that more carefully later. Now I gotta get back on the line.

                                                                                                                    1. re: chrisandbetsyc

                                                                                                                      This whole thread shows that one has to be a brave soul to run a restaurant! There's no pleasing everyone, is there?

                                                                                                                      I, too, prefer light dressing, but I also prefer for the salad to be tossed in it before being put on my plate. Otherwise I find it hard to mix the salad properly. So I simply ask for "light on the dressing." It usually works.

                                                                                                                  2. Anne Burrell says the same thing. On her show "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" she has said that is her pet peeve, diners asking for their dressing on the side. She says for salad greens to be properly dressed they should be done in the kitchen as the salad is being assembled.
                                                                                                                    I guess a properly dressed salad is one where all the components are lightly covered.

                                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Sensuous

                                                                                                                      I think the question shouldn't be why customers ask for dressing on the side but why so many restaurants improperly dress their salads that force customers to ask for it on the side. Personally, I love a properly dressed salad, every leaf just coated and asking for it on the side doesn't compare. You can't toss a salad at the table w/out losing a good part of it. But, the majority of restaurants don't do it the right way.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Sensuous

                                                                                                                        if you ever watched her show you would think otherwise on your last point. jfood turns it off about 75% of the time.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Sensuous

                                                                                                                          Anne Burrell is talking about a different calibre of place than a lot of people visit. If the dressing is being spooned on top, which is it at probably 95% of restaurants, it doesn't matter if it's done in the kitchen.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Sensuous

                                                                                                                            That still doesn't solve the problem with dressings that have really strong flavors and may still be too much if each item is lightly coated. I might just want a little dip with that type so it doesn't overpower the flavor of the salad itself.

                                                                                                                            1. re: queencru

                                                                                                                              That's why I like dressing on the side. I like lots of dressing and I usually end up using all that is given, but even on a salad that's 'properly dressed' there is dressing coating every bit. I like my dressing more blobby. A blob here, a blob there, some bites with none.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Sooeygun

                                                                                                                                It occurs to me that lately at the restaurants where I eat (although I'm eating at diners, not haute cuisine) they always automatically bring the dressing on the side, I don't ask and they don't ask; it is just assumed.

                                                                                                                                So I think you control people may have already won.
                                                                                                                                (Heh, I'm just kidding.)