Though upscale salad toppings such as ginger-miso dressing and Dijon vinaigrette are popular at area eateries, the enduring ranch dressing—a rich blend of buttermilk, sour cream, mayonnaise, herbs, and spices—somehow remains both classic and trendy.
Lovers of the creamy dressing owe it all to a cowboy named Steve Henson. While working as a contract plumber in Alaska in the early ’50s, Henson started serving ranch dressing to his crew. In 1954, he and his wife, Gayle, opened the Hidden Valley dude ranch near Santa Barbara, where they began selling the sauce. By the end of the ’60s, orders were being shipped to all 50 states—and around the world.
On a local level, Essex-based dressing company Tessemae’s continues Henson’s legacy with a healthy twist. Tessemae’s ranch dressings are organic and dairy-free and come in a variety of one-of-a-kind flavor profiles, from spicy habañero to the citrusy cilantro lime—and even everything bagel.
“We typically develop flavors based on what’s inspiring us, what we want to eat, and what we want to feed our families at home,” says Kristen Dittami, Tessemae’s executive chef and executive vice president of research and development. And while their fastest- growing flavor is avocado ranch, their most popular flavor, by far, is their classic, creamy version.
“Everyone grew up with some kind of ranch dressing,” Dittami says. “With our ranch dressing, we’re able to provide that same a flavor profile people love, but with organic, better-for-you ingredients.”
Head to these local hotspots to sample the delectable dressing on wings and other things:
BRD: Located inside R. House and in Federal Hill, this snack shop serves all things chicken, including tasty Alabama White and Sweet Thai Chili wings. 301 W. 29th St.
Ale Mary's: Ale Mary’s offers a pound of grilled wings with your choice of ranch or blue cheese on the side. For something smaller, try the cheesy tots, which are also served with ranch dressing. 1939 Fleet St.
Joe Squared: This popular Station North eatery offers everything from sweet pineapple jerk wings to “extremely hot” 18 pepper wings. 33 W. North St.
Kislings Tavern: For a dizzying selection of wing flavors, including mango habañero, buffalo Thai peanut, and chipotle BBQ, stop into this Canton favorite. 2100 Fleet St.
The Local Fry: This Hampden restaurant serves international eats and a variety of flavors of wings, like Kansas City BBQ and Carribbean Citrus, as well as ranch-topped chicken bacon fries. 711 W. 40th St.
In other ranch news: Last March, about 8,000 bottles of ranch dressing spilled from a truck after it crashed near Hagerstown. The product fell into the Little Conococheague Creek, where it floated downstream. At one point, workers cleaned up about 3,000 bottles of the creamy sauce that were pooled in a single area along the creek.