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No salt on the restaurant table, again.

  • Teague Mar 22, 2014 09:23 PM
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I went on an outing with two close friends today, the water-plant/pond store in a nearby charming town, and we had lunch at one of the fancier places there. The food was good, but I wanted salt, and so did my friends. And they are very health conscious, so I take this as vindication. This request resulted in consternation, it took quite some time, and ultimately I got two finger bowls with salt and pepper respectively. Which I had to pinch up between thumb and forefinger. My food was cold by the time it finally arrived. WTH. how hard is it to give a diner some salt. I wanted it because I had a romaine salad dressed with a fried egg, and it was not seasoned, at all.

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  1. Indeed. There seems to be an increasing number of restaurants which do not have salt and pepper on the table. I suppose it's only an issue if you don't like the way the kitchen has prepared a dish.

    1. Think it's a bit snobby NOT to S&P on table. So WHAT if chef thinks food is already perfectly seasoned! Generally don't salt food before tasting... unless it's a steak that I KNOW I want salt on.

      4 Replies
      1. re: kseiverd

        Totally agree! I'm the customer, and if I'm paying for the food and it's not seasoned the way I want it, I should have the right to change it. Personally, I don't care about the chef's ego...

        1. re: jbsiegel

          Ditto. I don't care if it's at the French Laundry or the local taco stand.

          1. re: jbsiegel

            I've never held with the concept that the customer is always right. Very often, we're not.

            But, I agree, we have moved a long way since the 1980s when Michelin 3 star chef, Nico Landenis, would refuse a request for salt & pepper, suggesting if people didnt like his food, they could leave.

            1. re: Harters

              I worked in a consulting firm that always said "The customer isn't always right, but the customer is always the customer".

        2. I think that s&p should be on the table, and the pepper shouldn't be tasteless crap.
          If there are no shakers on the table, the restaurant should keep a few pairs on hand so that you don't have to use your hands and they don't need to make a big deal out of it.

          Taking that much time to get you your s&p seems a little passive aggressive to me.

          1. The time has come! Every Hound worth his salt (or pepper) should start carrying these. I've thought about it just because I've gotten very spoiled from using only Tellicherry pepper at home.
            http://www.grindpepper.com/products/7...

            1 Reply
            1. re: grampart

              Nifty!

            2. http://youtu.be/MixYRIUzVXs

              I like to see sriracha on the table at any restaurant I patronize. It has a certain sugary sweetness that compliments Everything it bathes.

              1. I don't think we diners can expect sriracha or Tapatio or whatever as our right, or any other bottled condiment, unless it's a diner or any burger joint that isn't Father's Office. But SALT and PEPPER?? Come on, you guys! If it's not in shakers on the table, it should be available immediately on demand, with no damn argument from any snobby waiter. Same with sweetening for coffee.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Will Owen

                  Will, you hit the nail on the head there. Thank you.

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    except it probably wasn't the staff's choice. they're getting it from both sides.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Is a diner a restaurant?

                    2. In American culture of the table, as an inheritance from European culture of the table, having salt and pepper at table part of basic hospitality. Restaurants that fail this fail in hospitality to that extent.

                      Chefs may season to their taste, but patrons may not taste as a the chef tastes (often for medical reasons - congestion (which can arise from divers causes, including not only allergies and chronic post-nasal congestion, but also prandial rhinorrhea) - or the dulling of senses with aging).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Karl S

                        There's such a range of taste (and smell) perceptions among people. A dish I consider perfectly seasoned will send Mrs. O into the kitchen for another pinch of salt or dash of vinegar, unless we have guests and are at the table, and then we'll have a salt bowl.

                      2. I do enjoy when they deliver sea salt in a little bowl with a spoon. Kind of the same thing as what you got, but much easier to apply! Plus...sea salt is so good on anything.

                        1. This is why I unashamedly carry Maldon sea salt and Sweet n Low in my bag...

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Hobbert

                            I carry Equal.

                            1. re: jbsiegel

                              Yes! I'm not alone. So frustrating to order a glass of iced tea and be faces with a sweetener you dislike.

                          2. If the salt shaker is on the table,I might use a small amount. But the pepper shaker. You have to shake the hell out of it to get a trace. I end up unscrewing the top and pouring some into the palm of my hand to season my food. And it's usually crappy pepper too. I don't really care if either is at the table.

                            1. I don't generally look for salt and rarely add salt to any prepared dish but when I bite into something and know it NEEDS salt I would expect that it could be provided rather quickly. If a restaurant is going to choose to not put salt and pepper on the table that's fine but they should provide it

                              I always find funny that my Texan friends when visiting the northeast generally wont even consider starting a meal until the hot sauce shows up - to them an essential condiment to any meal.

                              1. People have an incredible large spectrum when it comes to salt preferences. Any chef that bans salt shakers from the table based on the idea that his dishes are perfectly seasoned to his vision just makes him come across as a pretentious f*cking idiot.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: nocharge

                                  As I recollect and within my limited experience, every chef in France is a pfi. But what do the French know about food?

                                  1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                    Indeed. Salt shakers are available, but not automatically at the table.

                                    I'm the other way -- I'm usually the one gagging at the levels of salt at the food, wishing there was some way to UNsalt things.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      i've never had issues with salt or pepper in France. That said, French dishes tend to be a bit overseasoned for my tastes so i rarely ask for it

                                2. Would people's perspective change if the seasoning in question was sugar?

                                  Why not get indignant over not having tableside sugar cubes for your cocktail? Or a little dish of powdered sugar for your dessert (like that chocolate cake)?

                                  Who's to say that your Midori Sour is just the right balance of sour and sweet? Or that your chocolate cake is sweet enough for *me*?

                                  How is that any different?

                                  34 Replies
                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Very good point.

                                    I suspect most places don't have them on the tables in order to dissuade the diners who automatically salt anything put in front of them before tasting it (my father always did this).

                                    However, if it is under seasoned they should definitely correct the dish and do it pronto. Maybe its how we ask for it: "...its under seasoned I need to add more salt." rather than "wheres the salt and pepper - I need salt".

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Most places that serve coffee for your dessert will have plenty of options for sugar and similar products.

                                      1. re: nocharge

                                        Most places that serve coffee for your dessert will have plenty of options for sugar and similar products.
                                        __________________

                                        But not necessarily table-side, which is what we're talking about here, right?

                                        Because, after all, most places that serve food with your dinner will have plenty of options for salt and similar products.

                                        Just. Not. Table. Side.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          That is not my experience. Coffee is usually served with optional sugar plus a variety of chemical products.

                                          1. re: nocharge

                                            But I was talking about dessert, like chocolate cake.

                                            You get "optional sugar plus a variety of chemical products" served alongside your chocolate cake?

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              I was just talking coffee.

                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                        I add cracked black pepper to fruit salad, and a pinch of salt.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          "Why not get indignant over not having tableside sugar cubes for your cocktail? Or a little dish of powdered sugar for your dessert (like that chocolate cake)?"

                                          Because salt isn't sugar and sugar isn't salt.

                                          People's salt taste preferences are pretty wide. Having salt on the table allows diners to fine tune a dish.

                                          But you knew that already.

                                          You've got "provocative" down cold.

                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                            People's salt taste preferences are pretty wide. Having salt on the table allows diners to fine tune a dish.
                                            __________________

                                            Same is true for sugar.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Really?

                                              Point me at the multiple threads here where people complain that restaurants aren't putting sugar on the table. If you're right that should be easy for you.

                                              Edit - Sugar only gets put out when coffee is served. They don't maintain the fiction that the chef has sweetened the coffee perfectly and that the diner should drink it "as is."

                                              Other than that sugar doesn't sit on the table and no one expects it to.

                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                Exactly. There are no such threads (to my knowledge)

                                                My point was that preferences for sweetness in desserts vary as much as it does with salt in savory dishes.

                                                And if people are ok with eating desserts without the option of tableside sugar, then why doesn't the same hold true with savory dishes.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  not all. at all. i find some desserts too sweet. some not sweet enough. adding sugar over the top isn't what I would like.

                                                  same with salt. despite that I HATE using a salt shaker at a restaurant, the places that I frequent do not season their food at all. or not enough. so i destroy the plate with a shaker of salt.

                                                  i'm not ok with unseasoned food. i dine with some that are just ok with no salt in their food. some that dump salt over their food before tasting.

                                                  if I have to touch the salt shaker, the food ain't worth a shit

                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                    Well, obviously people's preferences for saltiness vary. You have a better way to address that than a salt shaker on the table?

                                                    1. re: nocharge

                                                      my only suggestion to anyone who cares would be food shouldn't be salty. it should be seasoned. adding salt over food makes the bland food salty on top. not a good solution.
                                                      i got a burger and fries at a joint a few weeks ago and I was shocked that the burger was seasoned nicely, not salty and the fries were lightly salted in the kitchen. in stark contrast to most places that do not season at all and leave it up to the shmuck at the table to dump it over the food, making it taste salty, instead of good.

                                                      note: i am talking about the local joints many people patronize, not the upper echelon of high end gastronomy that may be referenced by a few.

                                                      there may be exceptions, like that burger and fries i got at one place. YMMV

                                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                                        Salt on top of some foods taste great. There's an argument to not salt steak before, but after cooking.

                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                          YES! fries taste great with a liberal sprinkling of salt IN the kitchen.

                                                          YMMV

                                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                                            Better is in the mouth of the eater- even experts diverge on when to season.
                                                            http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/t...

                                                            Infinitely better? For you, it seems. Not for everyone.

                                                            1. re: monavano

                                                              sorry. i did not mean to offend you.

                                                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                My point is that it's subjective and people shouldn't be called derogatory names for adding salt on top of their food, and liking it.
                                                                It's just food!

                                                                1. re: monavano

                                                                  i did not mean to call you a "derogatory name"

                                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                    I didn't take it personally. You said that schmucks salt their food at the table and it sounded a bit elitist.
                                                                    I don't judge people's food choices, let alone how or when they salt their food.

                                                                    1. re: monavano

                                                                      i suppose you can choose to interpret it anyway you like, but my quote, "...and leave it up to the shmuck at the table..." means anyone at the table being served unseasoned food. anyone. not just those that LIKE to salt at the table, but even those, like me, that do not (but are forced to)
                                                                      please accept my apologies for my poor writing skills.

                                                        2. re: Gastronomos

                                                          Why should food be one or the other in terms of saltiness? I have my own preferences in terms of sodium but I recognize the fact that my personal preferences may not apply to every single person on Earth. Give guests the option of seasoning their food. If you are not, you are not running a good restaurant most likely the victim of a chef who's ego is about the same size as his obesity.

                                                          1. re: nocharge

                                                            i agree salt should be offered at the table without restraint.
                                                            i agree that food should be fully seasoned in the kitchen.
                                                            i agree that, as with any food allergy or dietary restriction, if one needs to tell the server about it, PIPE UP! SPEAK!
                                                            if it's gluten free, if it's sugar free, if it's salt free.
                                                            why should I have to suffer through a bland meal because of others sensitivities? I have no problem with a gluten free menu. nor a request for no salt. just not on my plate.

                                                            and let me not start on that vinegary hot sauce thing when the food served does NOT need vinegar at all, but a shaker of cayenne would do the job nicely! ;-)

                                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                                              There are so many issues when it comes to food allergies, etc. But just providing salt & pepper shakers is a pretty low-cost thing for a restaurant that might help customers stay in their comfort-zone in terms of seasoning.

                                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                                the majority wins. no salt IN the kitchen. salt at the table.
                                                                those of us that hate it will continue to hate it.

                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                      "Exactly. There are no such threads (to my knowledge)"

                                                      Are you switching positions? I ask because in an earlier post you said -
                                                      ---------------------------------------
                                                      Why not get indignant over not having tableside sugar cubes for your cocktail? Or a little dish of powdered sugar for your dessert (like that chocolate cake)?

                                                      Who's to say that your Midori Sour is just the right balance of sour and sweet? Or that your chocolate cake is sweet enough for *me*?

                                                      How is that any different?
                                                      ---------------------------------------

                                                      Now you're acknowledging that salt and sugar preferences *are*, in fact, different.

                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                        Exactly.

                                                        Why *not* get indignant over no tableside sugar for desserts when you do get indignant for the same situation for salt.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Because people's range of preferences for salt are wider that their preference for sugar.

                                                          Which is what I said in my initial post and which I backed up by citing the lack of "missing tableside sugar" threads. And you acknowledged that there are no such threads.

                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                            The lack of threads is not necessarily indicative that the preferences for sugar is more narrow than it is for salt.

                                                            It could just as well be that, despite a wide ranging preference for sugar, we have just become accustomed to accepting desserts for what they are -- regardless of their sweetness level.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              What is the problem here? If a customer wants additional sweeteners with whatever dish, why wouldn't a good restaurant give it to him unless the chef has way too much of an ego?

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                ROTFLMAO.

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                  At the risk of feeding a tendentious and poorly thought-through tangent, adding sugar doesn't work the same way in sweet things as adding salt. Sugar typically needs to be included within desserts as they are made, and can't as readily added topically (the subset of things for which they can is much smaller than in the world of savories). This tangent is lightly tethered to reality.

                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                    No sh*t. What if I want to add salt to my dessert?

                                                                    Slightly salt-dusted caramel ice cream.

                                                2. What I find odd is that the request for S&P caused "consternation" and took that long to fulfill.

                                                  I can understand if they choose a philosophy not to have S&P on the table, but they should not be flummoxed by the request and apparently have to scramble and improvise to get it on the table. Weird.

                                                  1. I have a friend who carries her own tiny shakers with her. I do a lot of sewing, so she had me make her a nice little faux suede bag to carry them in.

                                                    1. one of the james beard winners i worked for was a krazee control freak and when a guest requested salt we had to ask him for it. he'd ask what they wanted to salt and it often became a tirade. finally had a light bulb moment and always then told him the butter (for bread)! he was fine with that, lol.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                        'Ello gov'nor. That was smart of you.

                                                      2. I have a small Perfex pepper grinder I often take along in my purse. You might consider a small shaker. There are some in plastic with a cap meant for taking along on picnics. You also might keep an eye out for some of those little packets of salt in take out places.