Salad bars have become so much more than salad stops. In many restaurants, the salad bar now includes the appetizer, entrée, AND dessert (if you count chocolate pudding like I do). As a child, I remember how excited I was when one restaurant’s “salad bar” introduced tortilla chips and hot nacho cheese. Ditching the greens, I would gleefully load my plate with nothing but chips and cheese. What’s more, the salad bar was all-you-can-eat!
Whether it’s a small, traditional salad bar or a full-on buffet, there are some dangers to be aware of when approaching the community trough. If you encounter any of the following red-flag situations, ditch the plate and make your way to your favorite drive through.
Red Flag #1, Flies
It should go without saying that flies buzzing around a salad bar is not a good thing. Regardless of whatever unsanitary food may be attracting them, the flies themselves carry an immense amount of bacteria. If insects are around, that means the restaurant isn’t doing a good enough job keeping things clean.
Red Flag #2, Bathrooms are not clean
You may be wondering, what a clean bathroom has to do with the quality of a salad bar. Here’s the simple truth: If a restaurant can’t keep up with maintaining a clean and sanitary public restroom, they probably aren’t doing a good job maintaining a clean and sanitary public salad bar.
Red Flag #3, Temperatures are not cold or hot enough
When dealing with food at the salad bar, your standard should be hot and cold, not warm and cool. If you don’t see steam coming from the warm items, then they are not hot enough to kill harmful bacteria. The same holds true with cold items. Think refrigerator cold, not picnic-cooler cold.
Red Flag #4, No splash guard
Salad bars are public and therefore . . . privy to the breathing and germs of the masses. It’s kind of gross if you think about it. Thankfully, though, salad bars are designed to include a plastic splash guard to protect the food from coughs, sneezes, stray hairs, etc. If for some strange reason you encounter a salad bar without a splash guard. Run! Run away and never return.
Red Flag #5, Unclean surfaces
Unclean surfaces aren’t necessarily a red flag, particularly if the spill is small and very recent. But, if the spill has dried and coagulated (gross), then you should probably consider fasting for dinner. However, if you’re like me . . . you might be more apt to soldier-on and pretend like you didn’t see the spill. Where I get more annoyed is when the surface of my dining table is unclean. For this reason, I always pack my own disposable Sol-U-Gard cleaning wipes from Melaleuca or simple baby wipes from Huggies.
As long as you keep these red flags in mind, you’ll be set for a safe trip (or in my case, trips) to the beloved salad bar. Enjoy and eat safely!