As far back as I can remember, preparing the big Thanksgiving meal always included use of Me-Maw’s Salton “Hotray” warmer. As piping hot dishes came out of the kitchen, we’d line them up on the warmer so they’d stay nice and toasty for serving. This allowed us to cook more leisurely, preparing dishes in advance and serving when everything else was ready.
It was always my job to go to the downstairs storage closet and get the Hotray out of the box — a task I thoroughly enjoyed. Me-Maw was quite particular about her home, and all the things that filled it, so naturally, the Hotray was always kept in its original box with the cord wrapped and manual neatly tucked away. The respect for this piece through the years was evident, and I understood its crucial role in holiday meal planning early on. Though my passion for all things mid-century wasn’t quite realized in my youth, this functional, well-designed piece of nostalgia would have a lasting impression on me in years to come.
A few years back, I was visiting my friends’ workshop in Orange County. They had a number of vintage pieces in their queue going out to the flea market. Outside the garage door sat a marvel unlike any I had ever seen — a fully original 1960s Salton Hotray on wheels! Seeing the iconic glass top with integrated “Hot Spot” design, I knew right away it was a Salton. However, I had no idea this model was in existence. With visions of brass, glass, and walnut gleaming in my eyes, this thing was coming home with me —no question — so I disassembled it, boxed it up, and got it in the car right away.
Salton’s signature “Hot Spot” design
for hot beverages.
Curious about its history, I located an original manual that would tell me all about this special find. This was no ordinary serving cart. The “Hotable” Buffet — No. H-169 was Salton’s top tier product. The variable temperature, radiant glass heating surface area is a whopping 16” x 28” with integrated “Hot Spot” for hot beverages. The furniture style table is made of hand-rubbed, oil-finished walnut, which sits on a solid brass frame. It features a 2-tier design, pull out serving drawer, and fold-over storage compartment that unfolds for even more counter surface. Beautifully shaped brass handles and gloss white formica perfectly accent the warm walnut finish.
In preparation for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to get this piece restored back to its original beauty. The wood is in exceptional condition, so only a fresh coat of tung oil was required. The brass, however, was in need of some love as I’m sure it had never been cleaned in 50+ years of seeing *INSERT FAVORITE AUNT’S NAME HERE* famous sweet potato casserole. I busted out the Barkeepers Friend and a toothbrush and got to work on removing years of heavy tarnish.
The cart came with thin, plastic casters that were in pretty bad shape. Originally, the cart would have come with smooth rolling Saturn ball casters, so I think these may have been replaced somewhere through the years. Stacking precious vintage dishes, brimming with weighty, delicious food had me very nervous as the wheels bowed with the slightest amount of weight on them. I refitted the legs with new brass casters so I can rest easy knowing that the bar cart is fully supported, and looks great, too.
As Me-Maw would say, “That cart shines like new money!” It truly is a thing of beauty, and I’m very excited to put it to use this Thanksgiving. Go ahead and take a moment to check this thing out.
A New Era of Convenience
I think these pieces are often seen as frivolous, bulky, dust collectors for a bygone era of entertaining. However, warmer trays bring endless value to dinner parties, potlucks, cocktail hours, and even everyday use. They are excellent for keeping scrambled eggs and pancakes at the peak of perfection while slow-moving sleepyheads make their way to the breakfast table. Mexican dinners are accentuated with a stack of fresh, warm tortillas at the ready. The list goes on…
If you’re looking to pick up a warmer of your own, chances are, you can easily find Salton Hotray products at your local thrift store, flea market, or vintage shop. I see them all the time in a variety of sizes, and they’re typically on the cheap. In addition to the Buffet and Me-Maw’s original, I have a smaller starter unit and an adorable bun warmer with retractable canopy. It also came with a cut-out pattern so you can make your own custom canopy — oh, the ‘60s.
This little Salton family unites for many occasions, keeping food warm and toasty with a fresh-from-the-oven feel and plenty of smiles gathered around. These lovely, quality engineered appliances have served families well for many years, and will continue to do so for years to come. I hope you’ll look for one next time you’re out and about, and add it to your kitchen arsenal. Cheers to a delicious, wonderful and warm Thanksgiving meal!