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salty restaurant food in the US compared to europe?

i'm just moving back to san francisco, after a couple year stint in europe.

i didn't have a lot of fine dining experience before moving to europe, but have been dining in many nice restaurants all over europe, especially in london, paris and spain.

upon coming back to san francisco (and a trip to seattle), and going to reputable restaurants, i've discovered that i find most of the food almost inedible... due to how salty they are.

so now, i'm curious... is this because nice restaurants in the US have always been salty and I just didn't get enough exposure before? or is american restaurant food just saltier than europe?

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  1. We travel domestically and internationally fairly often and I've not found that to be so. BTW, welcome to CH.

    1. We holidayed in America last year and didnt find the food generally salty. At home, I don't cook with salt, or add it to my plate, so I am usually very sensitive to over-salted restaurant food.

      1. We're just back a year after several years in Europe.

        We found exactly the same thing -- the levels of salt and sugar in most restaurant (and processed!) foods renders them nearly inedible.

        We asked ourselves the same question -- whether it was just us, but other expats have confirmed the same phenomenon.

        It's okay, actually -- we've kind of come to the conclusion that it's better that we not eat all that salt and sugar, anyway, so we just don't eat out much.

        9 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          Do you think it's more an issue in FL where you live and less an issue perhaps in places like CA, NYC, etc.?

          1. re: c oliver

            No, because as we've visited various regions around the country, it's pretty much the same (or worse....sweet tea? blergggh -- I didn't care for it before, now, I simply cannot drink it)

            It's much worse with the chains, as they aim for consistency regardless of location, and the same for processed

            1. re: sunshine842

              Except for fast food, we just don't 'do' chains anymore.

              1. re: c oliver

                we try not to...but it's not always that easy.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  Well, you have kids! When Bob's mother was alive, chains were honestly her favorite spots, so, yeah, I get what you're saying.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    and we live in an area with more chains than local places, so we're kinda SOL.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I was thinking about the fact that we eat out, usually for lunch, once maybe twice a week so we can rotate through our faves without repeating too often. So I'm probably not a real good judge.

          2. re: sunshine842

            I don't find it with salt but I certainly do with sugar when I come back to the US. Everything is so darn sweet.

            1. re: sunshine842

              Ah. Sugar is a very different question. Food in America is far sweeter than in the European countries where I either live or visit regularly.

              Part of that is American cuisine - mixing sweet and savoury. I find the concept of breakfast consisting of bacon, eggs, pancakes and maple syrup really weird. Not unpleasant by any means - but really weird. Weird can be one of the joys of travel -and I've often said I find America more "foreign" than many places I visit, even those where I don't speak the language.

              But the other part is more general - foodstuffs where, as a European, you don't really expect such sweetness - bread, for example.

            2. okay, a small modification... also please list where in the US you're comparing to and general type of cuisine. i recognize that the US is a vast place...

              but really, i would've expected SF to not be so salty. i went to american cuisine restaurants.

              7 Replies
                1. re: ameskay

                  When we're in SF, a couple of times a year, I don't find saltiness an issue. We live in Reno/Lake Tahoe and except for occasional 'fine dining' our usual meals out are Mexican, Chinese and pizza. Again, I don't find it an issue.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    hm, so maybe it's just an issue with the few places we went to so far. i really hope that's the case since i love eating out! (more like, can't cook...)

                    1. re: ameskay

                      What places in particular have you noticed this? Because of all the wonderful diversity in SF food, we generally don't do much 'fine dining' when there.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        I ate at Coi and State Bird Provisions. Both places are reputable places, i think, but man... About half tasted salty to me and i couldnt eat a couple dishes at all.

                        1. re: ameskay

                          I wonder if you'd want to post this on the SF board to see what the responses are. And then report back here.

                      2. re: ameskay

                        Next time you go out to eat just try asking when you order that they use very very little (or no) salt when making your meal- maybe that will be a solution.....? (Assuming you have not already done so)

                  2. If a person lives in the US and eats the food offered, how would they be able to compare weather the food is salty? It is normal in their mind.
                    I'm sure that is confusing but if you lived and ate in Europe for years, you likely be more sensitive to the change in salt usage in the US. Locals not so much.

                    May be you should post on the Europe boards and see what they feel.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: genoO

                      Well, I know when I've been in Europe, I've not noticed the food being under salted so I'm assuming it's comparable.

                      1. re: genoO

                        I think people can get a general feel if food is over-salty.

                        1. re: jarona

                          over salty is relative to what you are accustomed to.
                          Now ODing on salt, where it is the only thing you sense, yes I agree.