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Why won't they put less dressing on my salad?

There are a couple of restaurants I like that tend to put too much dressing on their salads. I don't know about you, but I don't like getting my dressing on the side because it is almost impossible to get it distributed evenly over the salad. I don't want a dab of dressing with every bite, I want each leaf of my salad to be very lightly coated with dressing.

I have tried asking for my salad "lightly dressed", or "with half dressing", etc. Invariably the salad comes out with the dressing on the side. Is the kitchen unable to put half a dipper of dressing? Have I offended the salad chef? Or are they just too lazy to figure out what it is I'm asking for? I understand that asking for a light amount of dressing leaves things open to interpretation, but when I say 'half dressing', how complicated can that be?

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  1. I also like my salad lightly dressed--lettuce drowning in oil and vinegar is not appetizing to me.
    When I go to the make-your-own-salad place near my work, I've been saying "two teaspoons of dressing" and so far they have gotten it right. I've had one of the workers ask me "are you sure that's all you want?". Yes, I'm sure.

    1. ... Or are they just too lazy to figure out what it is I'm asking for?

      Bingo......or, I suspect the reason why they still send the dressing on the side is not to offend you or get it wrong as it relates to your personal preferences.

      1. For the same reason when you ask for just a half a cup of coffee you usually get a full one.I kow why, but one of my new years resolutions is to BE NICE!

        1. I'm with you on that. I hate an overdressed and soggy salad

          1. I asked a chef friend of mine this question and his reply was something along the lines of "It's the least risky proposal for the restaurant" and "you can't un-dress a salad"

            Essentially, if you ask for 'less dressing' and the salad still comes out with more dressing than you'd like, you may:
            1. Send it back
            2. Hate the salad

            Both of the above mean you don't like your meal and it's entirely the kitchen's fault.

            If, however, the kitchen gives you the dressing on the side, you control the amount of dressing. In this event:
            1. You probably won't send it back (underdressed > overdressed since dressing cannot be removed)
            2. Even though it requires work, you'll be more satisfied with the meal (you'll come closer to the amount you want)

            By sending you the dressing on the side, the kitchen gives you more control and reduces the amount of blame it can get for not satisfying your meal.

            13 Replies
            1. re: meatnveg

              I understand that, but it means the salad dressing won't be properly distributed. I can get a steak cooked to order, I can get an egg cooked to order, i can get extra, light or no mayo on my burger at a fast food restaurant, but I can't get a salad dressed to order? Bah Humbug.

              but thanks for the reply, i suspect its correct.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                Well, that's not really the same. There is a definition of a medium-rare steak. It's pretty universal. But if you asked for "light on the dressing", does that mean you want a teaspoon's worth? 2 teaspoons? 6 drops? There's no set definition for it. Unless you say "Can you toss my salad with just 1 teaspoon of dressing?", they won't know what you are expecting.

                1. re: boogiebaby

                  Just a hunch.....but I suspect he just wants he has his salad, he doesn't want the dressing pooling at the bottom of the plate or dripping down his chin.

                  True there's no definition, but the concept is not hard to understand or deliver when requested..

                  1. re: fourunder

                    meatnveg is right.

                    While it's easy to conceptualize "lightly dressed" it is much much more difficult to realize that concept with any degree of uniformity vis-a-vis a diner's expectations.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      no it's not...I've worked in many different places....when a salad was requested lightly dressed...it was done and sent out. Not once has one ever come back to kitchen for either being too lightly dressed...or not enough.

                          1. re: fourunder

                            It's because you're too persuasive.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Not least of all because they couldn't be bothered to screw around with salad dressing any longer....

                      1. re: fourunder

                        Yes,not exactly rocket science! For heavens sake, if you are paid to work in a restaurant and cook then you certainly can lightly dress a salad. I hate dressing on the side...I want my salad tossed,not tossed all over the table with my dressing on the side!

                    2. re: KaimukiMan

                      You are asking for the impossible. Unless it's a caesar salad that is tossed in the kitchen and then plated, you are pretty much always going to get a salad with the drssing poured on top. No matter how much dressing you order, it will be on top and not distributed. The only solution I see is for you to bring your own larger stainless steel bowl, dump the salad and dressing in, toss to coat, and then put it back on the salad plate/ bowl. I'm not really trying to be a smart ass, but that's the only solution I can figure out. The only other solution is what I actually do. Get the dressing on the side, put a little on the salad and add more of the dressing as needed.

                      1. re: John E.

                        I have been served non-Caesar salads with the dressing tossed on many occasions.

                        1. re: CanadaGirl

                          Of course you have and so have I. I probably should have worded my post a little differently but I am sure you understand the point I was attempting to make.

                  2. I fiond that many places in Louisiana that serve ranch or blue cheese often don;t give enough to coat the entire salad and I need either to order another little cup of the stuff or help it along with oil-and-vinegar

                    1. Well, I suppose then, after years of trying to climb up the cliff, it may be easier to take the path around to the funicular and order it on the side.just ask for a double order and then you might be able to get it distributed as you want, staring with one side of the plate and workin toward the other. Noone says you can't "double-pour".you just can'tdouble dip

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                        Ha, clever FCF, but I don't want double dressing.

                        The issue is in the tossing. The reason to toss a salad is to get a uniform coating of dressing over the entire salad. I've never had a salad served in a bowl that would be large enough for me to properly toss the salad once I've added the amount of dressing I think is appropriate. Maybe what i need to do is ask for an oversized bowl when they bring me dressing on the side, along wtih an extra spoon and fork.

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          I hate overdressed salad, too.If I order a small garden salad, I always ask that it be served in a large bowl ( the kind they use with an entree salad)- and I ask for dressing on the side. This way, I can dress and toss my salad. Hate not being ablt to cut the greens and eat the salad without making a mess, and a large bowl solves it for me.

                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            I used to work in a Country Club restaurant where there was a constant battle between the membership and kitchen when ordering salads. Chopped salads had just become in vogue again and the membership would always request their salads that way.....but the kitchen refused accommodate their request, as it was not on the menu.

                            I would always have to get the large bowl and dump their plated salads into it and shred it with two knives at the table....then re portion it back out....usually for 4 people. After a while, they each started asking for different dressings...but I took the cue from the kitchen and refused. I told them if they wanted separate dressings....then they needed to learn how to use their own knife and fork.

                        2. I eat salads twice a day regardless if I'm eating in or out.
                          When I eat out I always ask for my salad to be served in a bowl...I don't care how big or small, just give it to me in a bowl.
                          I ask for dressing on the side and I toss it myself.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: latindancer

                            Then you are better at tossing than I am. when I have a bowl full of salad I am not able to toss it without about 15% of it ending up on the table. Most of the places I eat always serve in a bowl, not on a plate. And that bowl is usually quite full. The restaurant dosesn't want to give the impression that they are serving less than a full order.

                            I've never had a plated salad with the severe overabundance of dressing that many places have as it would be dripping down the server's arms on their way to the table.

                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              How about asking for an extra bowl?

                            2. re: latindancer

                              a couple of pictures of what i mean by filled to the brim with salad.

                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                I see what you mean :). That salad looks awesome.

                                Anyway, how about asking for 2 soup spoons and tossing, concentrating on short, low (to the bottom of the bowl) tosses....using the wrist only?...sort of like a 'fold'. That's what I do when I have your problem of having enough salad to feed an army.
                                It's highly annoying to have to drive home your request and then have them not do what you've asked.

                            3. I order dressing on the side, dip my fork in the dressing then into the salad. I get the flavor combination I want in each forkful; no tossing/no mess and not an excess of dressing.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: Cathy

                                And this is my favored approach as well. Works perfectly -- though it increases the odds of dripping dressing on your eating surface or your clothes if not careful.

                                Here in SF we have a tossed salad chain of lunch eateries called Mixt Greens. The salad chefs ask if you want light, medium, or heavy dressing. I always ask for medium, and it's never the right amount. The terms are just too subjective, and each customer's preference is particular, and personal.

                                1. re: Cathy

                                  This -- it's an old Weight Watchers trick, but it also works well to get a little bit of dressing with each bite.

                                  I'm right there with you guys on hating a bowlful of limp lettuce bobbing in a pool of dressing.

                                  Salads get dressed in the bowl before serving at my house. (with a homemade dijon vinaigrette)

                                  1. re: Cathy


                                    I guess I'm going to have to accept this as the only reasonable approach. But are you honestly telling me that having a 'taste' of the dressing on each forkful is the same as a 'properly' dressed salad? Am I the only one who notices a difference? Or is it just not worth trying to fight it?

                                    Not that I don't appreciate everyone's suggestions.

                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                      I agree, it's not ideal. I wish all my salads could be prepared exactly to my standards. But it's the easiest way I know to get there (or close).

                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                        No, it's not an ideal solution -- but it's pretty much the only way, I've found, to end up with approximately the right amount of dressing on the salad.

                                        It seems to be a choice between drowning and none at all most places, so I opt for none at all with a quick dip.

                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                          I agree with you, KaimukiMan. I don't get what is so hard about your request. If you asked for light on the dressing, I can see that that is subjective. But you said that you ask for half the dressing, well, that sounds pretty definitive to me. If it's normally 2 ladles of dressing, just put on one. Done! No need for big bowls, dipping your fork in dressing, etc.

                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                            KaimukiMan - I know exactly how you feel and have the same issue at restaurants.

                                            Usually when this comes up, the people around me stare wondering why I'm too physically challenged to mix the salad myself. I've given up trying to explain the issue.

                                            As others have pointed out, the reason for the problem is the fact that most restaurants can't prepare a salad correctly. If they did I wouldn't make the request in the first place.

                                            If I were at French Laundry I wouldn't ask for light dressing because I would assume they know how to prepare a salad and not dump a mess of liquid on my plate.

                                            When I was in Italy they never dressed the salad but gave you separate bottles of oil and vinegar to do it yourself. Plus the bowl was bigger. That worked pretty well for me.

                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                              No kaimukiman, bt it's better than Salad Dressing Soup, IMHO. Some places just farking drown the damn salad (and i"ve noticed at the salad bar at work, a lot of people drown heir own damn salads) and that' gross to a big cross-section of us. Hence the dressing on the side. Nothing stops you from drizzling it over your salad to your specifications, I see where it may piss you off to have to do that yourself, but it's better than a drowned salad. At least to me.
                                              Dressing on the side, by the way, is a Weight Watchers' trick from way back, I think, for tte very reason we're discussing.

                                          2. I ask for dressing on the side, and dip my fork in it before I spear the salad. I admit I learned it from a diet site, but it works for me. You can always dredge your bite of salad in the dressing if you want a bolus of flavor. I have no problem with dressing on the side, because it gives me control over the amount of dressing I get. I don't think that waiters or somebody in the kitchen should have to gauge how much dressing I want (some people really like it slopped on, trust me) because frankly, it's one of those personal preferences and restaurants have to try to figure you out personally? Come on, order it on the side and take control of your proportions.

                                            1. Explain to them exactly how you did here. Say light dressing please, but still tossed with the dressing and not on the side as you don't like it on the side.

                                              As to why, they are many possible reasons, the waitress could just hit a dressing on the side button that is on the POS rather then explain you want light, the restaurant could have had many complains about incorrect amounts of dressing and so any request just becomes on the side, or the kitchen might just be lazy.

                                              I have worked in various kitchens, and while it generally has been no problem to lightly dress a salad whilst still tossing it, sometimes things happen and dressing gets put on the side. If it is a busy restaurant and they are making 6 of the same salads, rather then have to toss in many bowls, and have one designated for your light dressing, they just make all the salads in one bowl except yours and just stick your dressing on the side.

                                              If you are polite about it, and simply say light dressing but still tossed please, I can't see any reason why they can't do this. I am not saying they will do it, every restaurant has its own policies and reactions to requests, but it might help.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: TeRReT

                                                There are also a lot of places that serve a composed salad -- it's supposed to look a certain way when it's served...and tossing would screw that all up. (think the humongous salads where they throw an entire chicken breast on top...and they might slice it, but it's still too big to toss.

                                                Then there's the places that make the main-dish salads in advance, so all they have to do is take the plastic wrap off and dump the salad and garnishes on...

                                                They're not going to toss it, either.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  Yes I suppose it depends on the type of salad and type of restaurant. I have never worked at one that premakes salads or predresses them, but I am sure those places exist. Any composed salad I have made always has a base vinaigrette that I toss the greens in, and then components like grilled prosciutto wrapped peaches or balsamic glazed figs and other garnishes get added on top and around the salad, so it is easy to control dressing. Not all restaurants function this way.

                                                  1. re: TeRReT

                                                    I didn't say predressed...

                                                    and no, most restaurants *don't* function that way....grilled prosciutto-wrapped peaches are just not an option on a huge number of restaurant menus.

                                                    (they sound delectable....but that's an entirely different level of restaurant than most people eat at on a regular basis)

                                              2. I think part of the reason why restaurants over-dress their prepared salads - regardless of whether it's requested to be "lightly dressed" - is the general feeling that most diners do not like the taste of greens, especially raw greens, and people are ordering and eating salads only because it is supposed to be healthy and "good for them".

                                                Because of that, there's a tendency to over-dress a salad to placate both of those competing ends - the desire to eat more healthy greens but not to actually taste those greens while eating them.

                                                So even when someone requests a lightly dressed salad there's this innate reflex to toss just a bit more dressing in the mix to protect the diner from those nasty bitter greens even when the diner believes that they actually want something else.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  What is your manner like,as a customer, when you make this request? Sometimes the kitchen will go out of their way not to give you what you want.

                                                2. If you are ordering a dinner salad, I think you are asking too much. If you are ordering a salad at the main dish--Cobb, Chopped etc--the places I have seen this offer to toss the salad before serving, so in that case I would ask for them to toss with half the standard amount and provide the rest on the side. If that doesn't work for you, then I think you are just too picky and need to skip dressed salad out.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                    While not specific to KaimukiMan for his concerns.....this is a reasonable request that should be able to be fulfilled and accepted by all....but I still think they should be able to dress and toss a dinner salad, or main course salad.

                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                      Compared to some people I've dined with, over the years, and their request for detailed explanations of how their food will be prepared, the ingredients used to prepare and everything else a waiter can offer, I think asking to prepare a salad the way I want it is not unreasonable, at all.
                                                      I'm the least *picky* person I know when it comes to dining out.

                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                        You are not picky. It's just that American restaurants tend to have awful salad dressing skills compared to those in, say, France.

                                                    2. Lightly dressed is relative. What may be lightly dressed to me may be overly dressed to you. When someone has a request about the amount of dressing it is safer to just put it on the side.

                                                      1. I feel your pain, KaimukiMan, but I do have a piece of advice to help you get the dressing from being 'on the side' to 'in the salad' in a better way. I bring a salad to work every day in a tupperware so I never have the space to toss it - I just drizzle a third of my dressing on top, then use my fork to drag the dressed leaves to one side and drizzle another third over the newly exposed salad - then I drag a bunch of the salad over to the other side and dress what's left, then bring everything back into the middle. By the time you've done it in three steps most of the leaves are perfectly dressed, and you don't have to spend your whole evening dipping a fork into a tiny jug.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Elster

                                                          While it's not what KaimukiMan was asking for (salads eaten at restaurants), for your situation (work salads), I just pour on a relatively small amount and put the Rubbermaid or Tupperware top back on and shake it to dress the salad. If it's not enough I add a bit more and re-seal and re-shake.

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            visions of a restaurant full of people shaking their own salads. love it! (I know, that is not what you said)

                                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                              The next thing we know, we'll be asking the restaurants to provide us with appropriate-sized Tupperware so we can dress our own salads. :-)

                                                        2. All comments much appreciated. The issue is mostly about entree salads, not so much side or dinner salads as those aren't the primary focus of the meal. And I think most of you folks are right. Try to be as specific as possible and accept that a high proportion of the time I'm gonna end up with a ramekin of dressing on the side and do my best to distribute it.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                            Oh crap- I forgot I already replied. Hopefully the second post is more explanatory than the first

                                                          2. Ask for the dressing on the side, please, with a smile.

                                                            They might forget the "on the side " but it's hard to forget the smile and the please request.

                                                            It usually will then be served to you as you politely requested.

                                                            If it is not, you can either politely refuse it, or draw and quarter the waiter immediately on the tablecloth.

                                                            The choice is ours.

                                                            1. Y'Know, you are right. I can't get places to use 1/2 of the usual dressing either. I ask for it on the side, but most salad dressing used in restaurants is the consistency of Elmer's glue (tm) and it doesn't mix into the salad well when the salad is in a small bowl. You could dip each bite into the side dressing. Other than that, I don't know of a solution.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                                I would prefer to dip my salad into dressing served on the side, but it is usually served in a container too small for me to dip in more than just an edge of lettuce.

                                                              2. I have a sort-of solution for having to toss my own salad with side dressing. I dress just a small portion of the salad, eat a few bites to clear up some room in the plate , and then dress and toss the rest . Not perfect, but less salad ends up on the table and goes in my mouth, and most of it is dressed to my liking.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Justpaula

                                                                  This is what I do too. Mix in a little at a time.

                                                                  1. re: Justpaula

                                                                    yes JP, i find that works as well as anything, and i try not to let it become a distraction. and i think the people who have said to work with it rather than expecting the restaurant to deal with it are right. bah humbug ;-)

                                                                  2. Agreed, agreed, agreed, boy do I agree! And no solutions over several decades. It is difficult enough to get them to _toss_ the salad in the dressing rather than just pouring it over. Much less get an amount of dressing that lightly covers each leaf, but leaves the bottom of the plate/bowl nearly dry. Only answer is 'Ummm..I'll have the soup.' Which presents its own problems.

                                                                    1. The OP's expectations are too high, I think, although it depends on what level of restaurant is being referred to (unspecified here).

                                                                      Many years ago I worked in a restaurant which was considered decent by small town standards. The greens for the standard side salad were prepared in large batches by whoever did prep (anyone from the bus boy to a cook). There was no salad chef — the server would assemble a side salad in seconds and dump a glop of dressing on top. The customer had an option of dressing on the side, oil and vinegar (always on the side), or no dressing. No one would toss a salad to order and I doubt anyone would have asked.

                                                                      Today, salad standards are higher and better (and more expensive) restaurants offer more service. But I'll bet most moderately priced restaurants prepare a side salad more or less similarly. Now there is often a small Caesar as a side salad option, however, at extra cost. This is almost always my choice when available. A Caesar must be tossed, or it isn't properly made, but most likely restaurants take a shortcut here as well by preparing a large batch of dressing in advance, then just mixing it up to serve. At some high-end restaurants they will send out someone with a cart of ingredients to assemble a Caesar salad at tableside to prove that they are doing it correctly. I don't know what that costs, as I never eat in such places. Do they do that for a small side Caesar as well? Probably not, but such a place might toss a salad to order. You are paying for a higher level service, after all.

                                                                      However it turns out, I would never complain about a side salad. It isn't important. If it isn't acceptable, I won't order it again, or more likely I won't be eating in that restaurant much anyway. I certainly wouldn't think I offended whoever it was that prepared the salad, or think that they were being lazy. This seems to me to indicate an unwarranted sense of entitlement. If I made a (rare) special request for something of minor importance, and it didn't turn out quite right, I would just assume that either it got overlooked or the kitchen was too busy to accommodate it. I would just forget about it. Restaurants are low margin businesses, and the employees work hard for not that much money. Sometimes they have to deal with high-maintenance customers. I've been on that side and my sympathies are with the restaurant, not the customer, at least for such a petty complaint as this.