The first salad bar I ever encountered was at a casual restaurant call Happy Steak, in my hometown of Antioch, California. I was about nine. I thought it was the next best thing to TV dinners. You could pick and choose, pile on your favorites, and even go back for more — before your actual meal arrived!
I don’t believe the lettuce selections at the time ventured much outside of iceberg, but all the accoutrements such as cherry tomatoes, black olives, shredded carrot and even sunflower seeds, not to mention a variety of thick dressings, had the ability to make it a true culinary masterpiece.
I don’t believe Ranch dressing was even invented yet. I was brought up loving the pungency of bleu cheese, so that is what I gravitated toward every time.
46 years later and I still get a bit excited about a good salad bar. I don’t really seek them out — haven’t stepped foot in a Souplantation in many years — but tonight the Boston Terrier Club (sans the dogs) is having their annual Christmas party at a Sizzler restaurant — not unlike the Happy Steak of decades past, and there just happens to be a salad bar there.
These days a salad bar consists of much more than I could have ever imagined. There is usually an all-inclusive soup bar nearby, and last I checked at this particular place, a crockpot-type vessel from which you served yourself mac-n-cheese.
My anticipation consists of both a love for food and feelings of nostalgia. I will top my creation with bleu cheese dressing, sunflower seeds, and whatever else entices me. Sometimes it’s just the simple things.