Standard Fare
November 18, 2008 1:41 PM   Subscribe

Here in northeast USA, salt, pepper and ketsup are the standard middle of the table condiments in cheap restaurants. What are they in other parts of the country and the rest of the world?
posted by Pennyblack to Food & Drink (66 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
United Kingdom: salt, pepper, malt vinegar, maybe olive oil, ketchup/mustard sachets in cheaper places.
posted by afx237vi at 1:48 PM on November 18, 2008

In parts of Texas -- and this is extremely regional -- you're likely to find Tabasco, as well as Louisiana Sport Peppers. (Can't remember the name of the most popular brand.) Of course, it depends on the kind of restaurant, just like you probably wouldn't find ketchup in EVERY northeastern restaurant, depending on what they serve.

Also, a big jar of sugar + a little boat of Sweet-n-Lo, because iced tea in Texas is usually served unsweetened.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:48 PM on November 18, 2008

For a photographic survey of table condiments in the cafs of Greater London, consult Eggs, Bacon, Chips and Beans.
posted by zamboni at 1:55 PM on November 18, 2008

in china i saw lots of soy sauce and peppers soaking in white vinegar (salt and pepper to be sure).

in bahamas, it was salt. just salt.

in UK, there's almost always HP sauce (like vinegary A1)

in portugal they have this really nice mild pepper sauce (a la tabasco) called piri piri (pronounce piti, piti)
posted by chasles at 1:58 PM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: In Argentina they always had packets of Salsa Golf everywhere along with Ketchup and Mustard. That stuff was good, think mayonaise+ketchup+something else I can't quite put my finger on.

posted by OuttaHere at 1:59 PM on November 18, 2008

UK: HP Sauce

There are two coloured squeezy plastic containers in the centre of every table - one red, for tomato ketchup, the other brown, for HP sauce. You know you're in the right place when both containers are tomato shaped

Pepper in UK cafés is almost always white ground pepper, rarely black.
posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 1:59 PM on November 18, 2008

In San Diego: Hot sauce, in the form of one or more of the following: Tapatio, Tabasco (green and red varieties), Cholula, Siriacha, or some other brand.
posted by LionIndex at 2:02 PM on November 18, 2008

afx237vi forgot brown sauce for the standard "caff". (Olive oil? Rare at best.)
posted by holgate at 2:02 PM on November 18, 2008

In Paris it's salt, pepper, and dijon mustard. Nothing more, nothing less.
posted by DefendBrooklyn at 2:02 PM on November 18, 2008

in Spain it's salt, pepper, Oil and vinegar, cos salad is a basic foodstuff with most meals.

In Ireland you're lucky if you get the salt & pepper (and don't expect a free Guinness with every meal!)
posted by Wilder at 2:03 PM on November 18, 2008

Malt vinegar is common on cafe tables in Britain as well. (mmm.... egg & chips with liberal sloshings of vinegar.)
posted by scody at 2:04 PM on November 18, 2008

In Mexico, it was salt, pepper & more or less homemade salsa.
posted by Wilder at 2:04 PM on November 18, 2008

I'm a big mustard fan so I've paid attention to this. In the Chicago area in the 80s and 90s it used to be salt/pepper/ketchup/yellow mustard. Some diner-type places would have creamer cups, various forms of sugars (white, raw, Nutrisweet), and jam. I noticed about 10 years ago that the yellow mustard was being replaced with brown or more spicy mustard and then it disappeared entirely, replaced with H1, hot sauce or something similar.

I had lunch in a Mexican restaurant in Chicago this weekend and the condiments were bowls of red salsa, green chili, and a bowl of green peppers and carrot slices.
posted by Bunglegirl at 2:07 PM on November 18, 2008

In Italy, olive oil + balsamic vinegar seems to be common (along with salt and black pepper)
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:08 PM on November 18, 2008

Small sachets available in pubs, in order of availability:
Tomato Ketchup
Salad cream
Brown sauce
English mustard
French mustard
Tartare sauce
Mint sauce
posted by Beautiful Screaming Lady at 2:11 PM on November 18, 2008

In South Texas, one often sees Cholula and Tabasco on the table.
posted by SNWidget at 2:16 PM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: In Thailand I think it's fish sauce.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:19 PM on November 18, 2008

In Costa Rica there is usually salt, pepper and Lizano traditional sauce.
posted by Brennus at 2:24 PM on November 18, 2008

you get ketchup and mayonnaise in germany at cheap places, which almost always means fries and curry sausage or burgers (the 24h diner isn't really a well-known gastronomic concept in germany but there are plenty of late night doner kebab* places). fries with ketchup and mayo is generally referred to as "pommes rot-weiss" (red-white).

*you'd usually find tsatsiki sauce here but they handle that behind the counter.
posted by krautland at 2:28 PM on November 18, 2008

When I was traveling in Morocco, there'd always be two little dishes on the table: one of salt and one of cumin. Delicious!
posted by foodmapper at 2:28 PM on November 18, 2008

In AZ, lots of cheap burrito joints have a salsa bar with some combination of the following:
tomato-based red salsa
tomatillo-based green salsa
chipotle or roasted tomato-based smokey salsa
radish slices
lime wedges
pickled vegetable mix, which includes some combination of carrots, jalapenos, and/or cauliflower.

The tables usually have Tapatio or Cholula sauce.

Greasy spoons that serve breakfast usually have ketchup, salt, pepper, and a hot sauce which can be Tabasco, Tapatio, or Cholula.
posted by TungstenChef at 2:31 PM on November 18, 2008

Here in Savannah, Texas Pete hot sauce is often found on the table if restaurant has more than few items of barbecue. The stuff is GOOD.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:33 PM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: In Yucatan I remember most taco joints had salt, bottled hot sauce, and some sort of homemade tomato, cilantro, and habanero salsa which you ate at your own risk...often it would be left out for days until it became self-carbonated. Mmm, chips and fizzy salsa!
posted by TungstenChef at 2:33 PM on November 18, 2008

In Japan, at an izakaya, soy sauce, red chili pepper, and pepper. At a family restaurant, soy sauce, sweet brown sauce for things like tonkatsu, and maybe vinegar. Also probably salt and pepper.

In Bali, sambal. Maybe two or three different kinds of it, a tomato onion relish chunky style, and a red fire paste style. Sometimes a dark minced chili topped in oil.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:43 PM on November 18, 2008

Ontario has salt and pepper (maybe white vinegar) and in Toronto you usually have to ask the waitress for the ketchup.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:47 PM on November 18, 2008

Prague: salt, (black) pepper and Maggi sauce, which is brown and thin and salty like soy sauce, but also totally different and weird.
posted by DLWM at 2:48 PM on November 18, 2008

Nepal/India - there's always some kind of bottled hot sauce (typically green), usually with a very uninviting rusting metal cap. Rarely ever seen salt or pepper. Further south into India, there typically some kind of "chutney" on the table - usually pretty spicy and sweet.
posted by elendil71 at 2:51 PM on November 18, 2008

At lower-end Indian restaurants in NYC, you get a trio of chutneys with the papadum as well as a lentil-based butter-type sauce (for dipping naan in?) and some boiled buttered cabbage which I CRAVE.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 2:57 PM on November 18, 2008

I was surprised when I moved to Michigan to discover that there is always hot sauce (and not always ketchup) on restaurant tables. Not necessarily brand-specific -- although Frank's and Tabasco are probably the most common here in the Lansing area, I've also seen Tapatio and sriracha fairly frequently.
posted by obliquicity at 2:57 PM on November 18, 2008

In Hungary and parts of Romania, I often see paprika. In some parts of Romania, I've seen usturoi (garlic) sauce.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:58 PM on November 18, 2008

Korea - soy sauce, white vinegar, sometimes red pepper paste.

Not sure if it holds in Vietnam or not, but every pho counter in the US has the same little tray with hoisin sauce and sriracha or other garlicky hot sauce on every table.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:00 PM on November 18, 2008

In Costa Rica, there's always Chilera! I had a friend drink half a jar of it on a dare -- I wouldn't have wanted to join him in the bathroom.
posted by changeling at 3:05 PM on November 18, 2008

Pizza Huts in India have catsup bottles. It's surprisingly good on pizza!
posted by nitsuj at 3:05 PM on November 18, 2008

In GA, mostly standard fare of salt, pepper, ketchup, sugar/Sweet 'n' Low; and depending on the restaurant, mustard, Tabasco, that sauce that has the green chilies in the bottle, barbecue sauce, A1 steak sauce and malt vinegar.

In Japan, at places that serve donburi (popular with salarymen and those looking for a quick, cheap meal), soy sauce, low-sodium soy sauce, shōga (pickled ginger), and sanshō (sichuan pepper).
posted by fantastico at 3:12 PM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: When I lived in Idaho, there was one condiment to rule all condiments: Fry Sauce. A high-desert phenomenon of Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Washington, Western Montana, and Northern Utah, it's even often served in McDonald's and their ilk.
posted by zhivota at 3:17 PM on November 18, 2008

zhivota: I logged in specifically to add Fry Sauce to the pile, and you beat me to it. Now my thunder is stolen and I'm craving fry sauce in a fry-sauce-less land.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 3:23 PM on November 18, 2008

Germany: schmaltz.
posted by zippy at 3:28 PM on November 18, 2008

Chinese restaurants in India: Three condiments -- soy sauce, hot green chiles in vinegar and spicy grean sauce/spicy red sauce.
posted by peacheater at 3:29 PM on November 18, 2008

Southern California: in addition to the S&P & ketchup, a bottle of hot sauce is pretty common, often Tapatio brand.
posted by chez shoes at 3:31 PM on November 18, 2008

In the Netherlands there seemed to be a lot of the Maggi sauce, especially in the cafeteria at Electrabel.
posted by charlesv at 3:34 PM on November 18, 2008

In a deli, particular Jewish or Kosher delis, you are likely to get some brown deli mustard. This seems to be the case wherever you are in the US.

I would be interested to know what the norm would have been in a Jewish deli in Berlin in the 20s.
posted by charlesv at 3:36 PM on November 18, 2008

In Turkey, salt and black pepper are always there, but the rest depends on the type of the restaurant. If it is a fast-food, it's ketchup and mayonaise, if it's a more traditional restaurant you'll find red pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar or better, pomegranate vinegar (which goes great with salads).
posted by procrastinator at 3:40 PM on November 18, 2008

Best answer: In Russia a couple years ago, in small, cheap, nondescript restaurants, there's usually a bowl of salt (use your fingers to grab a pinch and sprinkle it around) and, if you're lucky, a couple of triangles of newsprint or napkins that have been separated to their thinnest state and cut into smaller pieces.

In Jiangsu province in China there's usually (what I would call) a tea kettle full of brown vinegar and sometimes there's soy sauce, too. In noodle shops and muslim restaurants, there's usually a bowl of finely, finely chopped hot red peppers with a spoon. It's usually pretty crusty. Muslim restaurants also often have individual unpeeled cloves of garlic laying around on the table, but I don't what they're for. Somebody told me they're used as a disinfectant.
posted by msbrauer at 3:52 PM on November 18, 2008

Further to Wilder'scomment about Ireland, I'd add that while Salt and Pepper are only sometimes to be found, when they are they will often be accompanied by ketchup. If the ketchup is in a serving bowl - beware. It will be cut with malt vinegar to make it last longer. Absolutely horrible. I've seen this in many a greasy spoon up and down the west cast of Ireland (and I confess, done it myself under instruction when I worked in chippers).

YR sauce (similar enough to HP or A1) is common for places that are serving shepherds pie. Also a little bowl with cubes of sugar - for the tea, like.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 3:54 PM on November 18, 2008

Bali: in addition to sambal, you often see delicious kecap manis.
posted by googly at 4:07 PM on November 18, 2008

Middle Eastern shawirma/gyros/falafel restaurants around here often have a bottle of off-brand "Louisiana hot sauce" on the table with the salt and pepper, but never a name brand like Tabasco or Crystal.

From back in the day, I have fond childhood memories of the "syrup caddy" that pancake restaurants would keep around, with all the different flavors of syrup in it: strawberry, blueberry, peach, maple, etc. They were probably all artificially-flavored corn syrups, but at age seven it was pretty cool. They still have smaller versions of this at Denny's or Perkins-style chain restaurants that they'll carry out to the table for you if you order something syrup-related, but I haven't seen a fiver or more in years. (Disclaimer: I don't live close to an IHOP, no Waffle Houses in these parts.)
posted by gimonca at 4:14 PM on November 18, 2008

Schwartz's Deli
Cristal No. 1 Vietnamese cafe
Decarie Hot Dog
posted by zadcat at 4:30 PM on November 18, 2008

In Northern California (Humboldt Nation, not Bay Area) local places all seem to do salt, pepper, hot sauce. "Chain" places do the standard salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard.

Oh, and a sweetener basket. Sugar (plus Raw Sugar if the place is fancy), Sweet'n Low, Equal, Splenda. Everybody does that.
posted by blackunicorn at 4:31 PM on November 18, 2008

Restaurants serving Indian food in India: pickled onions, lime pickle and green chiles.
posted by peacheater at 4:40 PM on November 18, 2008

Pacific Northwest places used to have packets of tartar sauce (which is the True Seattle way to eat french fries) but this is not very common any more.
posted by litlnemo at 5:05 PM on November 18, 2008

Italy- salt, pepper and a thing of grated parmesan cheese.
posted by Zambrano at 5:07 PM on November 18, 2008

In Ecuador they have a little bowl of aji sauce on almost every restaurant table and a jar in every home - it's a delicious spicy sauce made from aji peppers that you put on just about everything.
posted by dithmer at 5:17 PM on November 18, 2008

When I was a kid, there was a wonderful barbecue restaurant in Miami that would place a big bowl of hamburger-dill pickle slices on the table when you sat down, alongside all their different barbecue sauces in plastic squeeze bottles. Needless to say, this was my favorite restaurant. It was indoors but all the seating was at picnic tables. It was awesome.

Also, I went to college in Gainesville, FL, where there was a 24-hour breakfast place, Skeeters, that was famous for its "big biscuits." On the tables there they had more sweet syrups than you could ever imagine existed, for biscuits and pancakes and the like. The flavors were mostly things like blueberry and other fruity stuff, but I can't remember any specifics about what they were supposed to be except that you'd have to open each one and pass it around the table for everyone to sniff. 99% of them were unbelievably disgusting.

On an unrelated noted, Skeeter's also had a Chinese menu (!), with items like "pork balls" for college kids to snicker over, and I think live music at odd hours. I don't know anyone who ever tried any of the Chinese cuisine there.
posted by isogloss at 5:25 PM on November 18, 2008

When I did a Tiger Cruise with my sister a few years ago, the tables in the mess hall had metal baskets with ketchup, mustard, two or three types of hot sauce (original Tabasco, green Tabasco, maybe Frank's Red Hot or Cholula or something), Worcestershire sauce, A-1 Sauce, salt and pepper.

Given the variety of backgrounds on any given Naval ship, I think they nailed it pretty well. Also, the food kind of needed it.
posted by padraigin at 5:35 PM on November 18, 2008

In New Mexican restaurants, honey is a table condiment (along with the usual salt, pepper, and hot sauce). You're supposed to drizzle it inside your sopaipillas.
posted by wanderingmind at 5:36 PM on November 18, 2008


When I lived in Idaho, there was one condiment to rule all condiments: Fry Sauce. A high-desert phenomenon of Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Washington, Western Montana, and Northern Utah, it's even often served in McDonald's and their ilk.

What? I have lived in north Idaho, bordering Eastern Washington, for 18 years and I have never even heard of this. What is it?
posted by HotToddy at 7:01 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: What a wonderful bunch of answers! Thanks everybody. Malt vinegar, Maggi (yeast and soy?), tartar packets for french fries, white powder pepper--mmmmm.
posted by Pennyblack at 7:13 PM on November 18, 2008

In Chile: oil, vinegar, salt, lemon juice are usually sitting out.
after ordering, likely the ketchup, mustard, chili sauce, pebre (onion/tomato/chili/coriander/parsley sauce) for bread, and perhaps mayonnaise will show up, unless you order something that wouldn't ever need them or just get drinks etc.
posted by nzydarkxj at 7:21 PM on November 18, 2008

In Ukrainian cafe/bars: Salt, pepper, and white vinegar (for boiled dumplings).

HotToddy, fry sauce is mayonnaise and ketchup, one or two parts mayonnaise to one part ketchup, plus maybe some other ingredients. The original Arctic Circle fry sauce included pickle juice. I like to include a few drops of garlic vinegar and a few of Tabasco. You'd see it more if you lived in south Idaho, where there are/were Arctic Circles.
posted by eritain at 7:51 PM on November 18, 2008

In Singapore, it depends on the kind of food you're eating. Just about every kind of food will come with some kind of chilli-based sauce though.

"Western" food (chops, fish and chips, etc.) usually comes with ketchup, chilli sauce (sweet/spicy sauce made from cayenne peppers), salt and ground white pepper. I don't know why most places don't give black pepper, which is really more suitable for the kind of food.

Chicken rice always comes with a thick dark soy sauce, a slight sourish chilli sauce and minced ginger.

Nasi lemak is served with a sweet sambal that is generally regarded as a crucial component of the dish.

Come to think of it, except for the aforementioned western food, most cheap fare has its own particular kind of condiment, so its hard to actually name one particular sauce that's always present. The chilli sauces all differ substantially from each other depending on the dish. The only other thing I can think of that is quite universal is that most Chinese places will provide light soy sauce with sliced red chillies (usually chilli padi, bird's eye chilli pepper), green chillies in a brine solution, and sometimes black vinegar.
posted by destrius at 8:53 PM on November 18, 2008

In the greatest of roadside cafes in the UK the ketchup will be in one of these.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 11:05 PM on November 18, 2008

In Juneau, AK, it isn't unusual to have Sriracha. I think this is due partially to the longevity and popularity of pel meni (dumplings ONLY) and the large Philipino population. At Pel Meni, you can have meat or potato dumplings. They put in a piece of white bread then the dumplings. Madras Curry Powder, Sriracha, butter, and cilantro go over. Hand over takeout container, head back to the bar.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:25 AM on November 19, 2008

@Foam Pants -- it's Filipino, not Philippino

Speaking of the Philippines, we have fish sauce as well (we call it patis). Also, due to economic constraints many Filipino households will have ketchup -- not the one made out of tomatoes, but bananas. After that, it's soy sauce and vinegar.

In many high-end restaurants you usually have to request for the fish sauce, and/or banana ketchup. Soy sauce and vinegar are also more readily available in those ubiquitous roadside eateries that specialize in grilling meat.
posted by drea at 2:03 AM on November 19, 2008

São Paulo, Brazil: In simple restaurants called PF (Prato Feito, meaning "ready dish" — the meal comes already assembled on a plate) you'll find:

Oil (usually soy oil)
sometimes pepper sauce à la Tabasco
Toothpicks (not a condiment, but always there next to them)

Ask the waiter for (cheap, crappy, not always available) mustard and ketchup
posted by Tom-B at 4:29 AM on November 19, 2008

In Maryland they often have Old Bay (a crab seasoning). It's GREAT on fries! Even my high school cafeteria had it. Oh man seeing that yellow tin takes me back!

I don't know about Spain having salt and pepper. When I was an exchange student there in high school, I vividly remember a meal with my host family comprised entirely of meat. When I asked for salt and pepper, the host mom looked at me like I was crazy. She gave me a container of salt in its original packaging (like, the Morton's salt container- not a salt shaker or cellar or anything), and then we had a language barrier over the pepper. She had no idea what I was talking about. She brought out several different containers of spices before figuring out I meant black pepper.

For some reason I think if salt and pepper were common in Spanish restaurants my host mom would've known what I was talking about (and had salt and pepper shakers).
posted by thejrae at 9:12 AM on November 19, 2008

In the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China, you usually see salt, a variety of ground dry peppers (white, black, etc.), and, intriguingly, MSG, each in their own little pots.
posted by elizardbits at 9:14 AM on November 19, 2008

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