The Seventies Salad Bar

Salad can get a bad rap. People think of bland and watery iceberg lettuce, but in fact, salads are an art form, from the simplest rendition to a colorful kitchen-sink approach.~Marcus Samuelsson

One of the earliest and definitely the largest salad bars ever featured appeared regularly in an American food restaurant in Chicago called R J Grunts beginning in 1971. The restaurant boasted forty different ingredients in their salad bar at any one time. Inspired by the health food craze of the 1970s, it was a virtual self-serve farmer’s market on a plate with most ingredients presented in their rawest form. This restaurant sparked the salad bar trend that swept the nation. And oh how we Americans love a good salad bar, so much so,  that we have come to expect one in every restaurant and grocery store — the bigger the better; however, no one has done it as well as R J Grunts. Many small restaurants have tried to stay on trend by offering  run-of-the-mill iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, pickled beets, shredded carrots, boiled eggs, frozen peas, croutons and shredded cheese, but a great salad bar is what Americans have sought after for fifty years.  Sadly, covid19 has taken away the option of even eating out safely. One wonders if the American salad bar, as we have come to know it, will ever return.

Cookbook Lady’s Comments

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As a caterer, one of my underlying challenges was creating ways to jazz-up my salad bar offerings without breaking the bank or creating an overwhelming workload. I never came close to offering forty options, but I did come up with a variety of ways to add flavor and interest to a salad bar. Over the course of my next several posts, I will be sharing some of my most popular “salad bar” recipes that will also work well for jazzing-up family meals, so check back often. Enjoy!

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