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Where Are You, Salt & Pepper?

Salt and pepper have been banished from San Diego restaurant tables and it’s a crime


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This is the first part in a serious, earth-shattering discussion about where the heck salt and pepper have gone in restaurants. Why are they not on our tables anymore? You can read the second part here and the third part here.


Salt and pepper may be wandering through Tibet on a spiritual quest. They may be drinking heavily and talking about the glory days. They’re out there somewhere, just not on your restaurant table. 

Salt and pepper were once essentials. A restaurant table without them was like a car without a cup holder: useless. Then, one by one, restaurants banished S&P. It started with the best restaurants, where phenomenal chefs were cooking perfectly seasoned food. Then lesser restaurants began adopting the trend. Now it’s rare to find S&P anywhere except low-rent joints whose principal seasoning is grease.

Diners have even started taking the matter into their own hands.

“I carry my own Maldon sea salt everywhere I go, they even make little pocket friendly tins for this purpose,” says Logan McIntyre Mitchell, chef and menu creator at Cellar Door.

Why the backlash against S&P? A few reasons.

Reason no. 1: Standard iodized salt is some paltry, tinny, sharp-tasting, one-dimensional crap. So is commercial pepper.

“Conventional iodized table salt along with pre-ground pepper have no justifiable reason to exist outside of props for sitcoms and Tarantino films when they go into some seedy diner to further a love plot, or murder plot,” says a chef friend, Chase Adam Meneely, who competed on Guy’s Grocery Games last year. “That being said, a nice little selection of Himalayan pink or freshly sourced sea salt in an open container with a tiny spoon is a lovely addition to a nuanced meal.”

At Eclipse Chocolate in South Park, chef Will Gustwiller doesn’t stop at sea salt. “Why use table salt when you can use lavender, serrano, hickory, merlot, or any number of other amazing salts?” he asks.

Okay, we’re all agreed. It needs to be sea salt, maybe even a couple different sea salts. And how about a tiny little pepper grinder? So that I can grind my own as I see fit?

Yes, I realize Himalayan sea salt costs a lot more than standard table salt. But that’s like saying a house with a roof costs more than a house without one. Probably better to spend the money.

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