There are almost as many spellings for this uniquely Jackson salad dressing/dipping sauce as there are recipes and theories for its origin. Many observers trace the oddly orange concoction, consisting of a variety of ingredients that generally include mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, black pepper, chili sauce, lemon, and plenty of garlic, to Alex Dennery’s Rotisserie Restaurant, located on US 49 at Five Points in Jackson. Recipes for “rotisserie dressing” (or sauce) are said to have originated directly from the restaurant.
The name is obviously a reference to the idea that people who try the zesty blend will always come back for more. Many native Jacksonians and visitors alike are fond of pouring the dressing over saltine crackers as a first course while waiting for the salad to arrive. Locals enjoy this “redneck hors d’oeuvre” so much that many restaurants will not put large bottles of sauce on the table for fear that the entire bottle will be consumed before the salad arrives.
In the early days of fine dining in Jackson, Greek immigrants dominated the kitchens and counters of the city’s restaurant scene. According to Mike Kountouris of the Mayflower Café, language difficulties meant that young Greek immigrants could find work only in kitchens or as busboys. Comeback dressing may have been the Greek American answer to Thousand Island, the most popular salad dressing of the mid-twentieth century in the American South.
Paper records are scarce for such ephemeral matters as family-held salad dressing recipes, but oral histories point to Five Points in Jackson as the source of the legendary spread. In 1936 Alex Dennery (born John Alexander Tounaris in Greece) supposedly was searching for a signature salad dressing for his newly remodeled property, the Rotisserie, at the intersection of Highway 49 and Livingston Road. A former drive-in movie theater, the Rotisserie occupied a unique location in southwest Jackson at the junction of five streets and featured a different entrance on each street. According to Roy Milner, a longtime employee of the Dennery family, after staff tried and failed several times to concoct what Dennery wanted, Alex took to the kitchen and began experimenting. He first made mayonnaise by combining raw egg yolks with oil and then added chili sauce, garlic, and other ingredients. Dennery’s Restaurant in downtown Jackson still serves a version of the sauce, but hundreds of other variations have developed, among them the tangy Mayflower Café version, the smooth Crechale’s rendition, a kicked-up version at Walker’s Drive-In, and a super garlic version at my family’s Hal & Mal’s. But no matter where diners find this sauce, the empty bottle marks the spot where they will have to come back for more.
According to legend, writer Henry Miller so persistently demanded that Eudora Welty invite him to Jackson that she gave in and issued the invitation, though she hesitated because of Miller’s reputation for extravagance. Miller arrived and announced—to Welty’s dismay—that he would be staying for several days longer than she had intended. At a loss for ways to entertain her guest, Welty took him to the Rotisserie five times, each time entering the restaurant via a different door. On his final evening of copious eating and drinking, Miller noted approvingly that Jackson certainly had a large number of fine dining establishments for such a small town. The house dressing was undoubtedly one of the delights he sampled during his visits.
- Symphony League of Jackson, comp., The Jackson Cookbook, foreword by Eudora Welty (1971)