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Where’s The Butter?

butter or margarine

It’s not where you think it is. Not long ago, someone was treating me to breakfast and took me to I.H.O.P. I asked the waiter if he could bring me butter, and he brought me margarine.

“Excuse me,” I asked him politely, “but do you have any butter butter? Real butter, I mean, not margarine?” His momentarily confused expression quickly passed, and then he promised to go ask his manager.

Five minutes later, the manager came out and asked me what I wanted. I reiterated that I simply wanted some butter. I wasn’t trying to be a pain, but surely the restaurant had real butter somewhere back in the kitchen.

Five minutes later, he returned. “We don’t have any butter,” he said.

That big scoop of creamy, salty, yellow stuff on the pancakes you eat there? Margarine. The little single serving pats they bring out with your toast? Margarine. The “butter” you asked them to cook your eggs in instead of refined vegetable oil? Margarine.

Making this discovery started my quest. I wanted to see how many restaurants even had butter.

Nearly half a year later, and can you guess what I’ve discovered?

One. One restaurant out of dozens.

Over the past 6 months, I’ve eaten out more than I have at any other time in my life. I’ve been to small town cafes and expensive fine dining. I’ve been to the local, hip places serving grass-fed beef and the major restaraunts dishing up oysters and pate. These places all have their pitfalls — almost no restaurant serves the same food I eat when I’m at home. But you’d expect more of them to have butter, wouldn’t you?

I think butter has gone the way of broth. I’ll never forget the conversation I had a couple of years ago in a little Mexican taqueria near my house. Their rice had clearly been cooked in broth, so I asked if they made the broth themselves.

“Oh yes,” the head cook replied.

“So, you boil the chicken carcass to make your broth?”

“Oh no,” he said frowning. “We get our broth dehydrated, like a bullion, and add hot water.”

That taqueria cook was confused. So was the waiter at I.H.O.P.

If I’d ordered Coke, they wouldn’t just bring me a Pepsi without telling me first. Someone would say, “We don’t serve Coca Cola products here.”

Yet when I ask for butter, I get margarine. When I ask for butter again, I get confused looks. When I ask if a broth is homemade, I’m told yes. Since when is margarine butter? Or adding water to a mix “homemade”?

We’ve got a long way to go, people.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy when a place serves up grass-fed beef, or makes the switch to all organic dairy or locally-grown produce.

But when you can ask for butter and get margarine, over and over and over again, in restaurant after restaurant, you know we’ve got a long way to go.

“You teach. You teach. You teach.” Amen, Weston A. Price!

So, where can you find butter?

I suppose you could always make homemade butter. Or if you’re more of a slave to convenience than you’d like to admit, you can see where to find butter from grass-fed cows here.

(photo by ciana13)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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114 Responses to Where’s The Butter?
  1. Kelsey Byron
    December 17, 2010 | 1:35 pm

    So who IS serving real butter in our neck of the woods? I ate recently at Kirby Lane cafe. Their sausage was from Richardson’s Farms, but they still didn’t have butter. :(

    • KristenM
      December 17, 2010 | 1:37 pm

      The Monument Cafe in Georgetown. Places like Kerbey Lane were such a disappointment! I so expected them to have butter since they obviously go to great lengths to source other foods well.

      • KristenM
        December 17, 2010 | 2:40 pm

        P.S. Over on Facebook a reader commented that the same thing happens with cream. These days you’re as likely to get “creamer” or half and half when you ask for cream as you are to get margarine when you ask for butter.

        That said, The Monument Cafe *also* serves up real cream. It’s Horizon Organic. Not the best, but surely some of the best you can buy at a supermarket or through a distributor.

        • Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE
          December 18, 2010 | 9:48 am

          This is absolutely shocking to me.

          Kerbey Lane doesn’t have BUTTER??????

          When I come back to Austin, I am going to make it my mission to get them to bring butter back.

          PS: I booked our flight — we will be there the 28th-31st. If you are around, we’d love to meet up with you for a cup of decaf or even lunch if you can swing it.

          • KristenM
            December 18, 2010 | 11:38 am

            I’ll be out of town for the first part of your trip, but I could swing something on the 31st (or maybe the 30th, if you’re spending all day on the 31st traveling).

        • Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE
          December 18, 2010 | 9:51 am

          I can’t tell you how many airplanes I’ve been on where I ask for decaf with cream and they try to pawn that fake-a** non-dairy creamer on me. I’m always like, “Do you know what’s IN that?”

          Many airlines don’t even have MILK anymore. I often end up stealing some of my daughter’s raw milk out of her sippy cup.

  2. Sonja
    December 17, 2010 | 1:47 pm

    Bob Evans gives me real butter when I ask for it, although I doubt that the food was actually cooked in butter. The default is still margerine.

    Denny’s don´t have butter.

  3. Kathryn Richards via Facebook
    December 17, 2010 | 1:54 pm

    People don’t know the difference any more. It’s like using their, there, and they’re – they think it’s all the same.

  4. Natalie Rutledge via Facebook
    December 17, 2010 | 1:54 pm

    One of the many reasons I rarely if ever eat out. Margarine, gross!

  5. Tammy Lee Rodriguez via Facebook
    December 17, 2010 | 2:20 pm

    we eat at home only when it is impossible not to… you cannot expect to get what you want to eat, cooked the way you want it, unless you cook it yourself… or hire someone and provide all the stuff…. very few can afford that.

  6. Tamara
    December 17, 2010 | 2:24 pm

    :( Thas sad to hear about Kirby Lane…I havent been there yet, but i had been planning to stop by.

    • KristenM
      December 17, 2010 | 2:49 pm

      Well, it’s still a worthy restaurant to visit! They make some decent Migas. Oh, and I *love* their sweet potato fries, although I haven’t yet asked what they fry their fries in.

  7. Carla
    December 17, 2010 | 2:36 pm

    oh man! I never thought of that! Thanks for the heads up!

  8. Food Renegade via Facebook
    December 17, 2010 | 2:37 pm

    Jen, yes I’ve noticed that too. More than half the time I’m brought creamer or half and half. It’d be nice to get cream!

  9. Carolyn Kennedy
    December 17, 2010 | 2:39 pm

    FYI, here in the south if you DID ask for a Coke -or even a Pepsi- you’d get a cola, usually Coke-a-cola. :) Very things coke. :) You might even be asked “what flavor coke do you want? ie Sprite, Dr. Pepper, Diet, etc”

    But, anywho :) I agree about the “butter” thing. Makes me sick!

  10. Alice Sun via Facebook
    December 17, 2010 | 2:50 pm

    many places don’t have honey either. it’s always corn syrup with some honey flavoring.

  11. Jenn
    December 17, 2010 | 2:53 pm

    I have a story like that, only the opposite. My mom found me an eatery nearby after I discovered that switching to real food cleared up my frequent migraines where they claim to make all their soups in house from scratch. Needless to say, I was skeptical, but went for the free-range meat and organic veggies anyway. Well, I got up to the counter and saw they had a soup that sounded really good. There was snow on the ground outside. So I asked the chef behind the counter, “Excuse me, do you make you broth from scratch for the soup?” He said yes. “Like, by boiling actual bones.” There was a pause. “Yes. How else would you make broth?”

    Gold. Pure gold.

    • KristenM
      December 17, 2010 | 2:56 pm

      Awesome! Now that’s what I expect when I go to a real restaurant, with a real head cook and various chefs in the back who all went to cooking school. I was still surprised, though, that only one place like that in my area actually served butter!

      • Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE
        December 18, 2010 | 9:54 am

        Honestly this is why I tend to eat at either sushi restaurants or French restaurants when we go out. Either that or really high end places like Tavern or Lucques. No way in hell would Suzanne Goin ever use margarine. Real chefs hate margarine.

        When I do go to a local French place — we have 3 or 4 French restaurants close to our house — I ask them if their Hollandaise is made from scratch, made with egg yolks and butter, or is it the kind that comes premade. They always look at me like “Are you nuts, lady?” and they say, “But of course.”

        • KristenM
          December 18, 2010 | 11:30 am

          Well, I definitely *love* sushi. There are not many French restaurants near me. But there are a number of fairly upscale seafood places that have AMAZING food (and no butter).

          The Monument Cafe has a lovely Hollandaise sauce. Ever since I had it, I haven’t eaten anything else there for breakfast!

        • Michele @ Frugal Granola
          December 18, 2010 | 5:02 pm

          I love it- “Real chefs hate margarine.” :) I think I need that in a bumper sticker.

          I just finished our new bed & breakfast/tea room open house today, serving two Christmas Teas full of real butter & cream! (Well, not *raw;* we’re not allowed to serve that, but organic, whole fat dairy goodness.) It’s so fun cooking & serving real, sustainable food… of course. :)

    • mary light
      December 4, 2012 | 11:59 am

      True enough (about the broth), but the next question might be “do you add bullion cubes to the broth, too, in preparation?” Many do.

  12. Sarah Faith Hodges via Facebook
    December 17, 2010 | 2:54 pm

    shocking and depressing.

  13. Mary P.
    December 17, 2010 | 3:08 pm

    No butter, no broth, no cream, no maple syrup either, and guess what they are frying the fries in? I went to one of the best restaurants in Houston who boasted their great ‘frites’ but when I asked they said they were fried in I was shown the label and it’s one of the cheapest hydrogenated oils you can get.

    • KristenM
      December 17, 2010 | 3:10 pm

      There’s a new burger place on Westheimer that fries their fries in duck fat. I think they’re called “The Burger Guys” or something like that. Their beef is also some old Japanese breed that eats a grass/grain combo but has a nutrient profile like 100% grass-fed beef (CLA, extra Omega-3s, and everything).

      • KristenM
        December 17, 2010 | 3:12 pm

        P.S. Yep, it’s The Burger Guys.

        • Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE
          December 18, 2010 | 9:55 am

          I went to a place in Chicago that did duck fat fries. Sadly they only soaked the potatoes in duck fat, then fried them in soybean oil. They said it would be too expensive for them to use all duck fat in their fryers.

          • KristenM
            December 18, 2010 | 11:32 am

            Oh that’s sad. All you Houstonites need to ask if The Burger Guys actually FRIES their fries in duck fat. That’s really the only reason to go there. (I’ve been there once, and their fries REALLY stood out. The burger was okay, but not as awesome as everyone claims.)

          • Catherine
            February 10, 2012 | 4:06 pm

            Are you talking Doug’s? Cause yes they taste wonderful but wow I never knew that!

  14. Tim
    December 17, 2010 | 3:11 pm

    No Butter?! That is craziness!

  15. Brittany
    December 17, 2010 | 3:23 pm

    That is crazy that people are totally taken aback. Growing up we always had margarine, and called it butter though, so I guess I can’t be too shocked.

    I know actual butter still exists in some restaurants. A few days ago we went to Cracker Barrel (not healthy fare, I know) and they had packages of butter–ingredients listed as cream and salt. I’m sure it wasn’t the grass-fed variety, but props for having real butter. We also have a local Italian restaurant chain that serves real butter with their bread. I checked the ingredient list before cutting some into chunks for my 8 month old to pick at while we were there. (Since we’re delaying grains for a year, there’s not much at a pasta joint he can have and I forgot to bring a snack.)

  16. The Tiny Homestead
    December 17, 2010 | 3:29 pm

    funny story, but very annoying too. I love diner food- it’s my favorite “treat” meal, but I too wish I could at least get butter, cream, maple syrup. I sympathize with them though, because at a mainstream place virtually zero customers would want butter and would actually probably be pissed about the cholesterol, you know because they’re “watching their heart”.

    • Cecilia Long
      December 17, 2010 | 5:52 pm

      I wish people would understand that margarine and such is WORSE for their heart then butter.

  17. Lindsey Nelson via Facebook
    December 17, 2010 | 3:43 pm

    Bleh. I really would have thought more than one! Was it a chain or individual cafe that won your heart?

  18. Jean Bowen Finch via Facebook
    December 17, 2010 | 4:10 pm

    The more you know about real food the less you enjoy eating out!

    • Paul
      February 10, 2012 | 5:34 pm

      This is why I so seldom eat out anymore and why when I do I often feel a bit queasy afterward. No butter in a frappin’ pancake house. I know they won’t have maple syrup (except these guys, they charge extra for the fake stuff http://vtsugarandspice.com/ )but c’mon.

  19. Jen
    December 17, 2010 | 4:36 pm

    Wow…that is crazy to my mind, but not surprising! It is funny that people are so worried about trans fats, yet happily smear everything with margarine.

    My parents, knowing I can only eat certain things, asked if there was anything I needed for Christmas dinner. I mentioned butter and my mother was absolutely flummoxed. “Well, we have margarine.” “No, Mom, just real butter.” “We have the Land O’ Lakes Olive Oil butter…” “No…just the stick stuff.” She had NO IDEA what I was talking about! I’ll be bringing a healthy pat of butter with me. Bizarre.

    • Elizabeth
      December 17, 2010 | 5:41 pm

      I’ve had the same conversation! “Yes, the stuff that comes in sticks!” But people don’t get it. I think many people believe anything in the butter aisle at the store can be called butter.

      I once had someone ask me why I call it “real” butter. I replied because people seem to think a lot of things are butter when they really aren’t. Real butter means real butter. Not something that’s “buttery” or “spreadable” or “can’t believe it’s not.” Just. Real. Butter.

      • Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE
        December 18, 2010 | 9:58 am

        “I think many people believe anything in the butter aisle at the store can be called butter.”

        This is so true. I once told a girl trying to get pregnant that she should eat eggs fried in butter every morning. She said, “Oh yes I have butter, Smart Balance.” I was like, “NO NOT THAT! That’s like taking a damn birth control pill ever day!”

        I think the same thing is happening to milk. Dairy farmers in America are trying to pass something that would make it unlawful to call soy milk “milk”. They want them to call it soy beverage. I love this idea. Get the margarine and soy milk OUT of the dairy case!

        • Mandy
          December 18, 2010 | 12:29 pm

          A while back I went to Walmart for the first time in years (it happened to be convenient – otherwise I wouldn’t go there – hate going to Walmart!) and out of curiosity I decided to walk through the dairy section to see what they carried. They had a HUGE “butter” section, but absolutely NO butter! None! They also had a ton of different kinds of yogurt, but every single one was low or non-fat. The best they had was Stonyfield’s plain low-fat yogurt. I mean, I know it was Walmart, but COME ON! Many people do all of their grocery shopping there!

          • KristenM
            December 18, 2010 | 12:36 pm

            No way! I believe you, but I have a hard time doing it. This is just SAD.

          • Jen
            December 22, 2010 | 4:34 pm

            Wow, Mandy…We live in northern West Virginia, about 40 minutes from Pittsburgh. The only supermarket we have is WalMart, but at least they have real butter (usually in an enormous case in the center of the aisle). It is what we get when I cannot get to Pittsburgh, where there is more variety of selection.

          • Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama
            December 25, 2010 | 9:29 am

            Huh, that’s weird! My Walmart has some good options. They have some Dannon yogurt that is only “cultured Grade A milk” (whole). Sour cream that is only “cultured cream.” Buttermilk that is “cultured whole milk.” And yes, real butter — salted and unsalted. I actually go there sometimes for those products, because even though they are not organic, they’re at least full-fat, real food — no added stabilizers and junk.

            Then again my Walmart also has Burt’s Bees, Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer’s, and a lot more natural options. I don’t buy any of these things there, but it’s nice to know they have them.

            • Shannon
              February 12, 2012 | 9:49 am

              I’m not sure you should bother eating any animal fat these days unless you know it’s organic, free-range, etc. Like humans, animals store toxins in their fat so ingesting fats from an animal that is commercially imprisoned, fed crap food/fillers, pumped full of steroids, antibiotics and who knows what else – all that is concentrated in their fat when you eat it.

        • Jen
          December 22, 2010 | 4:26 pm

          It SHOULD be called soy beverage, though what is sold as “milk” in stores these days hardly qualifies, either. It is comforting to see I’m not alone with Butter Battles At Home. Good point, noting that too many folks don’t even know what real butter IS! Sad.

    • Lily
      December 20, 2010 | 6:09 pm

      My parents have started keeping butter around because I can not tolerate the margarine when I visit (which is often). Nasty stuff.

      My dad isn’t on the real food wagon yet, but he does not tolerate maple-flavored syrup. He meets with a group of guys for breakfast once a week and takes his own real maple syrup with him. I’ll let you guess what all the other guys opt to top their breakfasts with as well.

      To my parent’s credit, they always have an assortment of real cheese, sourdough bread, and veggies around, so I can always find something to eat that won’t make me sick (sadly, the same can not be said for my in-laws).

      • Yolanda
        January 3, 2011 | 8:57 am

        That is really nice about your dad and the maple syrup!

        My daughter-in-law makes our mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and they are always SO yummy… but she says she adds lots of “butter.” I have NEVER seen real butter in their fridge.

        I wish that butter was as easy to transport as syrup. Well, I suppose just a little container in one’s purse would be ok for a few hours. That still doesn’t address the problem of what things are cooked IN. Sigh….

        Fortunately, we rarely eat at a restaurant.

        How and when did we all get so “picky?” LOL

  20. Howard C. Gray via Facebook
    December 17, 2010 | 5:39 pm

    Nearly all restaurants, chains or not, are serviced by Sysco. Since “butter” is a condiment and served free (but still costs money), don’t expect restaurants to change any time soon. Yeah, I know…sad, but true. It’s like getting companies to stop using soybean oil in so-called “traditional” recipes. I saw pesto with soybean oil. WTF? That’s not pesto! Yucko…

  21. Carol Horack via Facebook
    December 17, 2010 | 5:53 pm

    I am lucky to live in Wisconsin where there is a “butter law”. Restaurants are required by law to serve butter with, or before, margarine. I am old enough to remember when “oleo” was illegal in Wisconsin and we had to go to Illinois to buy it! I love butter:)

    • Erin
      February 8, 2011 | 6:07 pm

      I have never had trouble in any Wisconsin restaurant getting butter, except at Texas Roadhouse. They have a blend of 60 butter/40 margarine, and that’s it! Not that it’s a frequent place to visit, but it was quite irritating to be unable to get butter there.

  22. Rebeca
    December 17, 2010 | 6:38 pm

    That’s like when I was in India and they served me honey that was really sugar syrup. When I asked the manager about it he assured me it was real… “Madam, this IS real honey; I made it myself”!

  23. Anna
    December 17, 2010 | 7:05 pm

    Yup. I had a similar experience in a small roadside diner near Palms, CA (they only had “spread”), which has greatly curtailed eating out for breakfast at diners of any sort unless there aren’t any reasonable alternatives. On car trips we picnic a lot and try to find accommodations with a fridge.

    I also had a similar experience in a Souplantation, a chain of soup and salad buffet restaurants whose marketing and restaurant mural decor strive hard to promote their “healthy, homemade” food. I asked about the broth in the “made from scratch” soups. No one was sure, so the manager brought out the corporate reference binder for the cooks. The other but they were eager to show me the soups were entirely made in-house from real food ingredients. The recipes called for real food ingredients for the most part, but the broth for every soup recipe is from a prepared soup base – not from scratch. That didn’t surprise me much. What did surprise me was the restaurant manager actually didn’t even know that real broth is made from long-simmered meaty bones, etc.

  24. Anna Duggan Salvesen via Facebook
    December 17, 2010 | 7:14 pm

    Another reason we dine out so much less than we used to and are much choosier about the restaurants where we dine. Saves a lot of money for real food at home (or a better restaurant), another silver lining. Though I do miss having someone else do the clean-up…

  25. Meagan
    December 17, 2010 | 8:05 pm

    “You teach. You teach. You teach.” Amen, Weston A. Price!
    ^I cannot agree more with this statement. I encounter this in my life DAILY.

  26. jennifer
    December 17, 2010 | 9:57 pm

    I have been educating some friends of mine as to the ease, and simplicity, and exceptional flavor of homemade whipped cream. Real cream. Real honey, (yep, whipped cream made with honey). Real food. Real simple.

    • Adrienne
      December 17, 2010 | 10:37 pm

      I love to make my own butter too. When I tell people I make my own and it tastes soooooo much better, they almost always ask me how it’s made. I’m always happy to tell them how easy it is!

    • Audrey
      December 22, 2010 | 9:36 pm

      I LOVE that commercial that’s on TV now where the waitress asks if the person wants oil (cool whip) or cream in their coffee!

  27. Adrienne
    December 17, 2010 | 10:34 pm

    I’m actually pleasantly surprised that Panera has real butter ( right next to the fake butter). I usually get my food to go and watch to see which kind people grab. At my local Panera (in Wisconsin) almost everyone choses the real stuff! It might be because we are the dairy state ;)

  28. Lovelyn
    December 17, 2010 | 10:51 pm

    I’m shocked that most places don’t have real butter. How could they be confused when you ask for real butter? That should be a simple concept to understand. Now I remember why I hardly ever eat out.

  29. Kelly
    December 17, 2010 | 11:18 pm

    A bit off topic but the replies reminded me of a time when a friend was eating a restricted carb diet. The plan allowed for 10 carbs per day (or was it meal?) with one hour per day that she could eat as many carbs as she wanted. Well-she was saying something about only being able to have one slice of cheese because of the carbs. I told her cheese doesn’t have carbs. She told me the label says X grams of carbs per serving. I couldn’t figure this out until it dawned on me she was eating american cheese food, not real cheese. I tried to explain to her that if the plan was very restriced carbs, cheese should be something she could have in unlimited quantities, but the only “cheese” she knew was that crap that comes wrapped in plastic. Yeah, we have a LONG way to go!

  30. Pure Mothers
    December 18, 2010 | 3:58 am

    One of the things I do like about living in England now! They do serve real butter! And, although I haven’t partaken of any of it yet, they serve up lots of wild animal meats too (venison, wild boar, partridge, wild pigeon, buffalo…) The food here is still pretty real at most restaurants. I hate it when I see the American junk creeping into the supermarkets (powdered Kraft Mac & Cheese) YUCK!

  31. Pure Mothers
    December 18, 2010 | 4:00 am

    Oh yeah, and we get Guernsey A2 butter and cream here too!

  32. Soli @ I Believe In Butter
    December 18, 2010 | 8:11 am

    What a travesty!

  33. AnnMarie Michaels via Facebook
    December 18, 2010 | 10:05 am

    @Jean I disagree! I LOVE eating out.

    There are plenty of restaurants we enjoy that have real food — broth made from scratch from bones, butter and lots of heavy cream. You just have to pay more. Some of my faves in Los Angeles: Tavern, Lucques, AOC (all Suzanne Goin), plus Neal Fraser’s Grace and Joe’s in Venice

    We also frequent the French restaurants near our house — they would NEVER EVER use margarine or fake stocks. They would die first.

  34. Alana
    December 18, 2010 | 10:09 am

    So sad about the butter. And since you mentioned broth, I figured I’d mention that the New Atkins (which has so much potential to be done w/ WAPF principles employed…I should blog about that) actually ADVOCATES drinking broth as a nutritional boost, especially during induction. AND there’s some broth recipes in the recipe section of the book. BUT at the same time, the authors also say that using boullion cubes is OK, too. Meh. Long way to go. I think I shall go put some chicken bones in the crockpot now, and get my low carb broth going.

  35. HealthyMamma
    December 18, 2010 | 10:23 am

    I just love all this real food talk. Most of the real food restaurants in my area are upscale. I expect to pay more, but why do they have to be fine dining and snooty. I just want a casual place I can take my brood – where blue jeans are the norm. A girl needs a break from the kitchen every now then without all the hoopla. Real food for real people… pretty please???

    • KristenM
      December 18, 2010 | 12:01 pm

      That’s actually my favorite type of place, too. I *love* fine dining, but I’ve got to take it slow with 3 kids all under the age of 6. They can behave well enough, but they need to practice at the “in between,” more casual places a LOT.

      Thankfully, Austin is pretty laid back. So there are a number of places with fairly well-sourced food that are also quite casual.

      • HealthyMamma
        December 18, 2010 | 12:52 pm

        We have one place near our house that seemed great. The wait staff was very knowledgeable about real food and answered all my questions. Casual atmosphere. They even had venison on the menu and put my leftovers in a recycled brown paper box. But then I found out their supplier is Sysco. Ugh. They do have some “higher” quality products, but that’s not exactly what I was looking for. Another burger joint in the area claimed to have 100% grass fed beef on the menu. I wondered if it was local so I called to find out. I researched their beef supplier to find out where they were and found out that the cattle aren’t 100% grass fed. The manager said, “Yea, that’s an old menu you’re looking at.” Really? I doubt it. It was dated only a few months before. FALSE ADVERTISING!

  36. Bryan - oz4caster
    December 18, 2010 | 10:48 am

    I won’t eat at IHOP any more. Their omelets have “batter” added to the eggs now. Hoover’s here in Austin served real butter with their homemade appetizer breads last time I went (and I don’t think I had to ask for it although I do that out of habit so I’m not certain). Unfortunately, my daughter doesn’t like eating there so it’s now been awhile since we’ve gone there. Luby’s had both butter and margarine near the checkout and Jim’s had butter when I asked for it. It is a shame that we have to use the word “real” for traditional foods like milk and butter. “Milk” now means “highly processed and cooked milk” and margarine passes for “butter”. It just goes to show how people are brainwashed by advertising.

    • KristenM
      December 18, 2010 | 11:36 am

      Yeah, after I found out there was no butter there I thought, “There is nothing redeemable about this place.” It’s not even like it’s really cheap. I can eat breakfast at The Monument Cafe for the same price, but have free-range eggs from a local farm, bacon & ham from a humane, relatively local operation, real butter, real cream, etc.

      • KristenM
        December 18, 2010 | 12:34 pm

        P.S. I haven’t eaten at Hoover’s in a while, but I remember being VERY impressed by how much food I got for the cost. I don’t remember thinking their food was sourced well, even though most of it was honest-to-goodness made from scratch right in their kitchen. That alone is a BIG plus in my book.

        I have a friend who was a “cook” in a number of chain restaurants, including Applebee’s and some breakfast place (maybe Denny’s?). Anyhow, her job was basically assembling a whole bunch of packaged foods and putting them in a powerful microwave oven. A few things were cooked on a grill or in a pan, but not what you’d expect. For example, the “grilled chicken” just came frozen and pre-packaged that way.

        So, Hoover’s at least gets points for not doing that!

  37. Gillian
    December 18, 2010 | 10:55 am

    I live Western Massachusetts and, even here, at most restaurants you have to ask specifically for “real maple syrup” and usually you have to pay about $1.25 for teeny tiny serving of it. Come on people. We living in New England. We are surrounded by sugar maples with buckets or lines attached to them to collect sap. You should have to specifically ask for “artificial maple syrup” if that is what you want. I’m especially frustrated that they don’t seem to need to tell me that I am eating the fake stuff, I have to ask.

    It’s just so backward.

  38. Nikki
    December 18, 2010 | 1:20 pm

    Usually I’m all about reading labels and stuff, but it never occurred to me that the stuff at IHOP was margarine, I guess because it’s not very yellow, but it tastes nothing like butter, so I should have known. Like the previous commenter said Cracker Barrel has real butter, & they also serve real maple syrup. And Starbucks surprisingly serves real Land O’ Lakes butter packets when you purchase their oatmeal.

  39. Milehimama
    December 18, 2010 | 2:32 pm

    Same thing happened to me at Denny’s, but I actually had to argue with the waitress that “buttery spread” made with soybean oil wasn’t butter. I wanted the stuff made from milk- from a cow, LOL!

    They don’t have maple syrup, either. They have “pancake syrup” which is HFCS.

    (Even funnier is after going through the butter thing with the waitress, I heard her in the kitchen talking about how dangerous deodorant was because of aluminum. IMO eating GMO hydrogenated soy every day is much more dangerous than deodorant!)

  40. Sandi
    December 18, 2010 | 2:53 pm

    Actually, I was disappointed to find, the last time I went to Cracker Barrel (what can I say, my parents love the place, so when I’m with them we tend to eat there a lot) that what used to be real maple syrup in the little bottles they serve with their pancakes is now only 50% maple syrup. I am guessing they did this to save money. I hope it’s not because people complained about the taste because they are used to Log Cabin brown colored corn syrup.

  41. kmillecam
    December 18, 2010 | 4:13 pm

    I NEED butter, so this is truly a travesty. Out bodies are literally craving these nutrients and we can only fool them with margarine and MSG for so long. I hope people read this post and start to pay attention to what they put up with in their food every day. And I think that the more people demand it, the quicker it will come back to use in the restaurant business. We are the squeaky wheels!

  42. Lee
    December 18, 2010 | 6:11 pm

    On a flight to Italy last April I asked two or three stewardesses if I could get butter for my dinner roll. Finally one of them took pity on me and brought me a handful of the little foil wrapped pats and grinned at me saying “Only First Class gets real butter.”
    The food was awful – as you can imagine – with everything from a package and all the ingredients disgusting.
    HOWEVER on the return flight our plane’s food was stocked by an Italian food service company and everyone was given butter, the salad dressing packet ingredients read “olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard” even the crackers said “flour, lard, salt, rosemary”
    So apparently not every place is as confused as we are in the U.S.

  43. Lisa @ Real Food Digest
    December 18, 2010 | 9:21 pm

    This is so sad – I think this teaches us all that we need to be more vocal when eating out and ask about real butter, and cream, etc… Things will start changing when restaurants see that consumers care about the ingredients being used, otherwise they will always resort to the cheapest ingredients.
    I think I’m spoiled in LA – so many restaurants here are run by chefs that truly care about their ingredients – definitely not a majority, but easier to find a place to eat out.

  44. John Davis
    December 19, 2010 | 12:42 am

    Ann Marie, your mom buys real BUTTER, salted and unsalted from Wal-Mart. Some poor soul said they didn’t carry it at his Wal-Mart. (Y’know, they also carry eyeglasses there, too.) And lard, essential for a great pie crust.

    But for the very best thick beef, go to Sam’s — beats Whole Foods and Central Market by a country mile.

    • Milehimama
      December 19, 2010 | 11:42 pm

      Do NOT buy the shelf stable lard off the grocery shelves (like WalMart carries) if you are looking for natural foods. It’s not real food – it contains BHA which is a butane-based stabilizer that makes it more shelf stable, and it’s hydrogenated. And personally, I wouldn’t trust the fat from Armour processed pigs.

  45. Lydia Selwood via Facebook
    December 19, 2010 | 3:23 am

    I work in food service … You should see the looks I get when I go into the chef’s special stash of REAL food, lol. I use real butter, half & half, heavy cream, etc., as much as possible. Then I go into my “teaching” mode, trying to educate my co-workers about the natural foods being better, the myths about butter/cream/animal products being “bad”.

  46. Cara Faus via Facebook
    December 19, 2010 | 12:24 pm

    AM, that’s because you live in LA! In less populated parts of the country these places are really hard to find. I recently called a restaurant where a friend said they served grassfed meat and all real food… wrong, the menu was just greenwashed- it was all from Sysco and when I asked about eggs they were ‘pasteurized egg product with additives to preserve color’. They did have real butter, but really, how hard is it to crack a real egg?

    I get more straight answers by claiming severe allergies and then asking to see the labels on the food packages.

  47. AnnMarie Michaels via Facebook
    December 19, 2010 | 1:45 pm

    @Cara You’re right, LA has lots of great restaurants. We have lots of crappy restaurants here too. And it’s true we have a lot more selection. You just have to be careful where you go.

    I think most cities have decent restaurants but you have look for them. Do they have any high end restaurants run by chefs where you live?

  48. Sveta
    December 19, 2010 | 1:50 pm

    I live in New Zealand so when i ask for butter at a restaurant i get butter! And its yellow not white like i would get in the States with my bread roll.

    YUM!

  49. Cara Faus via Facebook
    December 19, 2010 | 3:54 pm

    We’re just not very granola in Billings I guess. I bet there are some in Missoula or Bozeman. I think this is our nicest restaurant, http://www.therexbillings.com/index.php?id=3 and even the ‘certified Montana grown’ bison are raised feedlot style :Z

    I’m from Northern California, and once we moved here we really stopped eating out because I can do better at home ;)

  50. AnnMarie Michaels via Facebook
    December 19, 2010 | 4:00 pm

    Oh wow, yeah you can do better at home. :-) :-P

  51. Kate
    December 20, 2010 | 1:42 am

    Butter is so much better!!! Butter is the secret ingredient in almost everything I cook at home. This is a helpful post as my boyfriend and I are always wondering what is in the food we order when we eat out. More often than not, even when I order something “healthy,” I end up feeling sick to my stomach, like something isn’t quite right. Oh that’s it, I’m most likely eating hydrogenated something or other..It’s a bummer that we can’t eat out and know what we’re putting in our bodies most of the time. For entertainment value, we’ve even gone up to the counter at Cinnabon and asked the worker if their cinnabons are made with partially hydrogenated oils. The response: the look of utter confusion and a stammering, “Uh…” Thanks for the great post. I live in CA and will do some investigating…something tells me if Austin isn’t hip to the butter situation yet, even “oh so healthy” CA is probably still on the margarine tip. When did we ever sign up for the largest experiment on humankind?

  52. Richard
    December 20, 2010 | 3:15 am

    That’s amazing. But I’m honestly not surprised because of how long butter has been demonized by, well… just about everyone.

    Even now-a-days at the grocery store there’s still but a tiny section of organic, unsalted compared to rows and rows of “buttery spread.”

  53. Elisabeth
    December 21, 2010 | 2:40 pm

    I understand the disappointment surrounding the lack of real food in most restaurants, but the truth is, fake food is cheap and allows for a larger profit margin. Plus, you can get this junk from the local distributer, which likely doesn’t have any real food. Fight back: choose your restaurants very carefully, be prepared to pay a great deal, and stay out of chains.

  54. heather
    December 21, 2010 | 11:54 pm

    I am a butter snob! If the restaurant does not have real butter, we go without. I will not let my kids eat anything but the real thing. Now the kids ask for real butter!

  55. Christina Gagnon
    December 23, 2010 | 12:27 pm

    Apparently, the American food suppliers have been cheating us for quite a long time. Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi published in 1883 details a conversation purportedly overheard on a steam boat between two men he described as “brisk men, energetic of movement and speech; the dollar their god, how to get it their religion.”

    The “butter” salesman is from Cincinnati, and the “olive oil” salesman is from Orleans. Read this and weep:

    ‘Now as to this article,’ said Cincinnati, slashing into the ostensible butter and holding forward a slab of it on his knife-blade, ‘it’s from our house; look at it–smell of it–taste it. Put any test on it you want to. Take your own time–no hurry– make it thorough. There now–what do you say? butter, ain’t it. Not by a thundering sight–it’s oleomargarine! Yes, sir, that’s what it is–oleomargarine. You can’t tell it from butter; by George, an EXPERT can’t. It’s from our house. We supply most of the boats in the West; there’s hardly a pound of butter on one of them. We are crawling right along–JUMPING right along is the word. We are going to have that entire trade. Yes, and the hotel trade, too. You are going to see the day, pretty soon, when you can’t find an ounce of butter to bless yourself with, in any hotel in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, outside of the biggest cities. Why, we are turning out oleomargarine NOW by the thousands of tons. And we can sell it so dirt-cheap that the whole country has GOT to take it–can’t get around it you see. Butter don’t stand any show–there ain’t any chance for competition. Butter’s had its DAY–and from this out, butter goes to the wall. There’s more money in oleomargarine than–why, you can’t imagine the business we do. I’ve stopped in every town from Cincinnati to Natchez; and I’ve sent home big orders from every one of them.’

    Read the whole chapter and how the guy from New Orleans brags about substituting cottenseed oil for olive oil:
    http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/mtwain/bl-mtwain-lifemississippi-39.htm?terms=coffin

    Anyone heard of Cottolene? It was a very scary late nineteenth century lard replacement made from cottonseeds and tallow, both by-products of cotton processing and slaughterhouses. Goebbels would have been proud of the propaganda used to sell it:

    http://www.journalofantiques.com/Feb02/hearthfeb.htm

    The love of money is the root of all evil. The food with which we nourish our children is sacred. That’s why I spend more money on food than any other budget item and spend hours a day in the kitchen :-)

  56. Liz
    December 23, 2010 | 3:22 pm

    We had a similar experience in a restaurant when we were traveling a couple of winters ago. My aunt wanted to go out for seafood so we went to some chain seafood restaurant that I hadn’t heard of. Soy really bothered my kids back then, so I asked what kind of oil they used to fry their french fries, and the waitress couldn’t tell me. All she could tell me was that it was trans-fat free and peanut-free. The manager couldn’t tell me, nobody in the restaurant could tell me. Why would I want to eat at a restaurant that doesn’t even know what’s in the food it serves?

  57. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama
    December 25, 2010 | 9:39 am

    I’ve found about half the restaurants around here, maybe more, do serve real butter. Cheesecake Factory brings real butter always, I think you would have to request something else. I often choose to eat there (but skip the cheesecake) if we do go out because it’s a little better than many places. Around here, only at lower-quality places do you not get butter (like buffets, Applebee’s type places). But Bob Evans has it, if you ask. I guess we’re lucky here that we have mostly okay options!

    It is terribly sad though that people don’t understand the value of real food. :(

  58. Walter Jeffries
    December 27, 2010 | 4:20 pm

    Aye, you hit on a point that bothers me: all these places that claim to serve “homemade” or even “homemade style” food when it isn’t at all.

  59. Tracee
    December 30, 2010 | 4:23 pm

    We were recently served some real butter at a restaurant. My son, 5, eats it staight, so he thought it was a side dish.

    • Yolanda
      January 3, 2011 | 9:14 am

      That’s so cute! I remember, now that you mentioned it, that one of our sons, when he was going through puberty and a particularly rapid growth spurt, would at times just eat a whole stick of butter. :)

  60. Angie
    December 31, 2010 | 1:55 pm

    This is why my only “fast food” place to eat now is Culver’s. I ask for butter (and then more butter) and coat EVERYTHING in it.

  61. WordVixen
    January 3, 2011 | 8:06 pm

    Just a heads up for anyone who’s interested- but there is real butter at Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, PA (across from the Outlets). At least, at one of their eateries. There’s an eatery in the back of DW that has several stations (Asian, baked potatoes, chicken fingers, etc), and I asked at the baked potato section and they had it. Best of all, the guy didn’t even look at me weird when I asked if it’s real butter. :-)

  62. JCF
    February 3, 2011 | 2:44 pm

    This is very interesting! I live in LA, and like several others have mentioned, real butter is much more common here than it seems to be elsewhere. Granted, I almost never eat at big chain restaurants, but the only time I wasn’t served real butter was at a cheap diner where my grandma likes to go–I break down and take her every few months, even though I hate it. I just order scrambled eggs with milk, salt, and pepper, and try not to think about what they were fried in.

  63. Kam
    February 10, 2012 | 1:57 pm

    Cripes! I never even thought to ask if the butter at my favorite diner was really butter. I just figured if they called it butter… aargh. Now I’m going to have to ask, & I’m afraid of the answer I’ll get.

  64. Kate
    February 10, 2012 | 2:38 pm

    And when I ask for cream, I mean CREAM, not 1/2 and 1/2, yet everywhere I go they refer to 1/2 and 1/2 as cream. Drives me nuts. You may as well call it milk, right? It’s 1/2 cream (supposedly) and half milk, so why does no one refer to it as milk, but rather cream. When I question if the cream they point to is truly cream, they get a confused look and then I say, “it’s not 1/2 & 1/2, right”? Oh, yes, it is 1/2 & 1/2. Then why did you call it cream??????? Arg!

  65. Holly
    February 10, 2012 | 4:02 pm

    I love reading comments from people who have the same take on the whole food thing as me (excuse the pun…) I am in London, England, and I find so few people who know anything about (or care about) real food. I am going to the WAPF Wise Traditions conference in March though so hoping to meet some like-minded people there. Let’s keep spreading the word on butter!

  66. Catherine
    February 11, 2012 | 5:32 pm

    Just thought I would throw it out there for northern Illinoisians that Egg Harbor Cafe fries all their eggs in real butter, and butters their toast as well. And they are a great little place to go for brunch in my humble opinion!

  67. Suzito
    April 2, 2012 | 10:08 am

    I do not think the butter you buy in the stores tastes like real butter used to. I sure would like to find some really good butter!

  68. Priscilla
    May 3, 2012 | 7:35 pm

    Amen, Weston A. Price! But the Weston A. Price Foundation, to whom you linked, is not him. He was never associated with it, never had anything to do with it. It is a group of people capitalizing on his name and work, while often contradicting his findings.

    So why link to them when quoting him?

  69. Mary
    November 23, 2012 | 4:35 pm

    There are places that do offer real butter. Cracker Barrel does and many diners do. You have to ask though. We no longer go to Denny’s because that don’t have it… :( So ridiculas that people would rather fill their bodies with chemicals rather then milk and salt. If you want to cut back, then use LESS instead of putting junk in your bodies! Just my opinion of course

  70. s
    December 4, 2012 | 1:04 pm

    hmmm when I worked at IHOP(last year) the butter we gave with the pancakes,toast, etc was real butter.It was whipped so it softened more quickly than a stick of butter, but it was real butter-just cream and salt-believe me I know my butter and am a meticulous label reader.I would have the cooks fry my eggs in it because they use soy oil for frying and a terrible partially hydrogenated oil blend with “flavor”for the eggs-not even margarine it was like a horrible generic ‘butter’ crisco that stayed semiliquid at room temp.Yuck!I wouldn’t count on convincing your waitress or her convincing the cook to do that for you though unless you are a favorite most people dont care and are counting on you not knowing the difference.Where I work now I thought we used real butter-it smells like butter,seperates like butter,but the taste was a bit off.So of course I hunted down the label and its a stick butter-margarine blend.No thanks.Sadly it tastes almost like butter so a customer could slather it on their food and probably never know the difference.They probably see this as a redeeming quality that it tastes better than most margarines while still being more cost effective than real butter but I still dont want to put that in my body.Another thing you have to watch out for is the whipped cream.Sometimes the cans of whipped cream are just sweetened cream(with propellants and presevatives yeah its still crap ) sometimesits a blend of real cream and hydrogenated oils.Any place that lets you choose the way you want your eggs cooked DOES have real eggs.cant make them sunnyside up with powdered/liquid.You have to specify thet you want your scrambled eggs to be real eggs,’shell’ eggs,real real eggs.They can leave the eggs slightly unmixed so you can see thevariance between the white and yolk.

  71. Kim
    January 29, 2013 | 12:45 am

    I’ll have to pay more attention when I go out to eat, but I think restaurants around here (NY) generally have real butter. My dinner at a diner the other night was served with a dish of little individual packages of butter, salted and unsalted, Hotel Bar brand.

    Maple syrup on the other hand… I don’t think it’s real unless they advertise it on the menu. Broth, I have no idea. I’d guess not real except in upscale restaurants.

  72. Loretta
    January 15, 2014 | 3:00 pm

    Just listened to a podcast and the guy orders a vegetable salad (can’t trust the meat) and brings his own butter to put on it! Might get some fun looks on that :)

    Incredibly frustrating that butter is so rare in restaurants!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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