This isn’t a recipe article, although I will tell you how to make it before I’m done. Rather, this is a story about a restaurant, a salad dressing, and an historical time that has long since gone.
Ramon’s Steakhouse Restaurant sat at the corner of A1A and Atlantic Avenue, smack dab at the center of Cocoa Beach, Florida. It had fabulous steak. It had ambiance. Back in the 1960’s, astronauts threw parties there. Dignitaries ate there. Important businessmen took their clients there. There was many a marriage proposed there. Everybody went to Ramon’s, and I mean everybody. I think everyone who lived here between 1965 to 1985 has a Ramon’s story. Including myself.
And then there was the Caesar Salad Dressing. Not the whole salad, mind you. Just the dressing. The salad was good, as salads go – mixed greens with croutons and all – but it was the dressing that was special. So special, in fact, that it made the newspapers. It was legendary. Once you had Ramon’s Caesar Salad you had to have that dressing again. People drove an hour over from Orlando to get it. Ramon’s did a thriving business just from selling the dressing; I remember going to get my dressing and having to wait behind five people, all of us waiting for our little half-quart container of the good stuff.
It became a mystery and a local quest to figure out the ingredients. People all over Brevard County would compare notes, try ingredients, hold taste tests trying to duplicate it. Everyone knew someone who had a recipe that was “kinda” like it. Eventually someone had the idea to steal Ramon’s garbage. By counting the eggshells, the empty bottles, and smelling what had been thrown away, they came up with a recipe that is pretty darn close. The actual ingredients to Ramon’s Caesar Salad Dressing remain, to this day, a mystery – Ramon’s Steakhouse closed when the real estate it sat on became more valuable than the restaurant itself. But for us locals, this is the best we’ve got. It’s been passed around on scraps of paper, written on the backs of envelopes, left on answering machines.
Before I give you the recipe, a few notes. It contains raw eggs, so beware. Also, you must like curry. Most important – no substitutions. It’s been tried with diet mayonnaise, it’s been tried without the anchovy paste, it’s been tried with extra soup mix. Don’t bother; it simply won’t taste the same. And you may not even like this recipe; maybe it tastes so good to me because of the salt in our air, the memories of a time when Cocoa Beach was full of mostly locals instead of tourists, when we were more like Key West than Key West is now, and when you could walk into a restaurant and happen to run into an astronaut.
Ramon’s Caesar Salad Dressing
1 jar mayonnaise
1 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
3 tablespoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups Parmesan cheese (the type in the can)
Whisk the eggs then add all the ingredients. Mix well. Serve over romaine lettuce with garlic cheese croutons.
Source: Personal Experience
Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach and the Kennedy Space Center