Danko's Dressing from the Copper Hills, Miami, AZ

If you’re looking for the “Danko Special” Recipe, it’s here.

This is the House Dressing of the Copper Hills Motel in Miami, Arizona

My Dad got his house dressing from Navarre’s in Phoenix. It became Danko’s Salad Dressing in Globe-Miami, and was quite famous in the area.  This popularity was carried up and down Highway 60 by the travelers that stopped at his Best Western Restaurant and Hotel over the 35 years from the time my Dad built it, until he sold it in 1990.  The dressing disappeared after this; Navarre’s was long gone by then and the new owners changed the entire menu.

This salad dressing is Atomic Age stuff.  1950’s/1960’s Steak House Salad Dressing. Red flocked wall paper, dark woods and antique mirrors, with burly middle-aged male waiters. Men with coats and ties, ladies in cocktail dresses, stoles and alligator clutch-purses.  Ashtrays on the table.  Rumaki appetizers. This is no-BS salad dressing that “Mad Men” ordered, followed by “I’ll have a bourbon and water and the lady will have a Vodka Martini, up”.  This dressing has been pretty much a family secret (except I think I’m the only one in the family that’s ever made it besides my Dad, who passed in 2000).  I had friends, girlfriends, girlfriend’s moms and others ask me for this recipe for years.

The Copper Hills burnt down in early 2001, and they hadn’t served the dressing for 11 years before that. And since just about anyone that knew how to make it is long gone to the four winds, I’m releasing it for general consumption.  But.**

**You’re on your honor here — give the Devil (my dad) his due and call it what it is — Danko’s Dressing.  Trust me, the guy is a ghost and he will come and get his haunt on up in your house or restaurant; he had a wicked and expensive sense of humor — you’ve been warned.

So here’s the recipe:

Makes 1 gallon.

  • 1/2 cup Black Pepper (heavy, coarse grind)
  • 2.5 teaspoons Sugar
  • 2.5 tablespoons Salt
  • 1 1/2+ cups Wine Vinegar (1.6 to be exact, which is 2.5 teaspoons over 1.5 cups)
  • 6 1/2 tablespoons Dry Mustard
  • 1/2 bottle of Lee & Perrins Worchester Sauce (regular size, not something from Costco)
  • 2 Finely minced onions
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brown gravy flavoring
  • juice of 4 lemons
  • 3/4+ cup of finely crushed fresh garlic
  • 9 1/2 cups corn oil

This is basically an oil/vinegar emulsion dressing.  Start with a really good mixer and put the vinegar, onions, 1/4 of lemon juice and the pepper with the mixer whirling around at a good clip. S-l-o-w-l-y add the oil, drop by drop, bit by bit at first until it starts to emulsify. Remember that the oil must be added extremely sparingly at first until it comes together, then poured in a small but steady stream.  As the oil is finished, add the rest of the ingredients, tasting  from time to time.  Once all the ingredients are together, add more mustard if necessary.  Store refrigerated but not too cold, because the whole thing will break the closer to freezing it is.  Some persons have used egg yolks but you gotta use it fast if you do and I wouldn’t serve raw eggs in a restaurant setting.  Your mileage may vary.

To make sure this thing stays stable when you make it and you don’t waste a gallon of ingredients, you can cut these ingredients down to make a quart or less.

Key points to prevent your dressing from breaking:

  1. DO NOT add all the vinegar and lemon juice at the beginning, Keep 3/4 of the lemon juice for the end
  2. DO NOT over-agitate it in the food processor, (which is why traditional chefs favor whisking it by hand)
  3. DO NOT place it in a fridge that is too cold.

if you are troubled by emulsions and you want to review a good article in getting it right, here’s a link. Have fun, serve it with half Ice Berg, Half Romaine and add some other weeds like endive for a little extra texture. Croutons are mandatory.  Serve it with a New York covered in peppercorns, Pittsburgh-style.  You’re eating like Don Draper (Mad Men) now, baby.

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9 thoughts on “Danko's Dressing from the Copper Hills, Miami, AZ

  1. During the mid 1980s & until Danko sold the Copper Hills, I had lunch on Mondays with Fito Trujillo & Bob Casillas (Supervisors), Phil Sawaia (Sunset Lounge), Tom Anderson (Arizona Silver Belt), a couple of others & Danko when he had time. If I had a salad I always ordered Danko’s dressing. When my wife & I had dinner at the Copper Hills, it was always Danko’s dressing on a salad & bread pudding for dessert.
    I went to Danko’s memorial service in Scottsdale after his death, & listened fondly to rememberances of a truly unique man & personality. Danko was a big part of a remarkable period in Gila County history. What a hole a passionate and compassionate man’s passing has left in the heart of the Miami-Globe area.
    Joe Albo Jr.

  2. Joe:

    Thanks for the kind words, it brought a tear to the eye. I miss the old man more as I walk more miles in his shoes, that’s for sure (although I’m sure that he’d kill me over my motorcycle habit). I hope you enjoy the recipe and feel free to share it with anyone. I haven’t been back to the area in a couple of years now; it had changed too much for me the last time.

    You can pine for the “good ‘ol days”, but it doesn’t mean you’ll ever get them. I miss that unique period of time in the Globe-Miami area very much. I could go on and on. Hope you’re well, please give my fond regards to whomever’s left, and raise a glass to the absent friends.

  3. Pingback: The “Danko Special” « As the Dude Abides…

  4. my grandparents, my mom, my sister and i would go to navarre’s every single friday from the time i can remember, around 3 or 4 years old until my grandparents passed away.

    that was a span of about 25 years.

    it was an event. everyone would dress up – the men would wear ties and the women would wear gloves. we weren’t allowed to even wear pants, we had to wear dresses.

    every friday, my grandfather would call “don” – im not sure if he was the owner or the manager but he was there every friday taking my grandfather’s reservation, greeting us each by name each week and showing us to a table he always had reserved for it.

    there was a busboy named manuel and my grandfather – being a WW1 vet and survivor of the depression – would tip him 25 cents every friday – even after inflation etc. but to my grandpa that was a huge tip and a great compliment. manuel was the kindest, respectful and gracious person to my grandparents. he always knew what they wanted, what they needed and always listened to their stories of their grandchildren.

    there used to be a lady in the 60s? maybe it was the 70s – i was little, i can’t remember exactly – that would model clothes … she would change in the coat closet up by the cigarette machine and then walk around the tables showing the fashions of the season.

    as i became a teen, i thought i was blessed not to have to go sometimes. i thought it was uncool.
    now what i wouldn’t give to have those moments back again. even in the 70s during the roughest times of the gas embargos and unemployment, you could disappear inside the wonderful world and food of navarre’s and life became grand again.

    thanks for bringing back a wonderful memory that still lingers in my mind and pops up now and again.

  5. this recipe is very close to Naarres Restaurant receipe. I worked there 12 years. wonderful food, good entertainment, great people to work with. one of the best places in Phoenix for fine diing. I do know that they also added ground anchovies. on was part owner nd thn begin full owner. before he moved out of state. wonderful boss to work for.I remember Manuel the busboy in the 70th also. this article brought back beautiful memories of a great chapter in my lif…thanks for sharing.

  6. super cool Danny. When i first left Globe to Tucson and elsewhere, David and others would bring me the famed dressing to chase off colds and offer comfort and chase away vampires. The thing about that dressing is sure brings back memories my taste bads already yammering for some! Ur a very talented writer. I was lucky to enjoy the whole Copper Hills scene and was a blast having all the fun with you and the gang. Best wishes! UR old friend who enjoyed Globe lots!..yes i am still kickin, Tom Elliott

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  8. The internet is such a fascinating place. I was eating spaghetti tonight, thinking that the taste was similar to eating at Danco’s Copper Hills Restaurant in the late 1960’s. He used to have grated Parmesan cheese served in a little side container. A couple of strokes in Google, and I find the salad dressing as well.

    What a great memory from forty five years ago. Now if I could recreate Blanche Richardson’s soup from the Pic a Rib my life will be complete.

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