The salad category is being reinvigorated, inspired in part by modern bowl builds. Seeing all of the innovation there, salads have raised their hand and said, “That mindful, flavor-forward approach to recipe development? We can do that, too!” Chefs are developing modern salads, marked by intriguing textural and flavor play, borrowed from the bowls movement.
Two iconic salads—the wedge and the Cobb—offer a smart platform here, perhaps bolstered by their classic foundation of crisp lettuces: iceberg and romaine.
As evidence, look to the vegetarian fast casual Vital Root, part of the Edible Beats restaurant group in Denver. Its Quinoa Cobb plays with the flavor system of this iconic salad, with coconut “bacon,” three-grain mix, dates, feta, tomato, radish, egg, smoked almonds and goddess ranch. (See cover image above.)
KEBAB TO COBB
Although its origin story is often debated, the Cobb salad is recognized as an American icon, dating back to the 1930s. Like other tried-and-true flavor systems, clever iterations, upgrades and reinventions make it a good fit for modern innovation.
Chopt Creative Salad Company, a fast-casual salad concept based in New York, turns the Cobb toward the Middle East with its Kebab Cobb Salad: chicken, feta, charred red onion, Mama Lil’s spicy peppers, pita chips, romaine, and dressed with Greek yogurt tzatziki. “Leveraging global inspiration and Mediterranean flavors, we enhanced the classic Cobb salad to create a unique mix of flavors and textures,” says Aneesha Hargrave, culinary director for Chopt. The success of this salad showcases the carrier potential of Cobb into different global profiles.
Meanwhie the Twisted Cobb at Jack Allen’s Kitchen in Austin, Texas, combines grilled achiote chicken, roasted corn, grape tomatoes, Cotija cheese, pumpkin seeds, ranch vinaigrette and housemade corn nuts.
We call it the ‘Twisted Cobb’ because we use fresh grilled corn, and we get the crunch from homemade corn nuts. It’s got all of the classic flavors of the Cobb salad—it’s just twisted in a very good way.
Jack Gilmore, Chef/Owner Jack Allen’s Kitchen, Austin, Texas
It’s certainly not unusual to see a wedge at a steakhouse, but The Palm Restaurant, a storied heritage steakhouse brand based in Washington, D.C., makes sure its version stands out. The Iceberg Lettuce Wedge is cut horizontally, serving as a carrier for the other elements: Danish blue cheese, toasted walnuts, bacon, cherry tomatoes, chives and fried onions.
At Wind & Waves Grill, a coastal Florida concept in Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, the Iceberg Wedge Salad plays with the presentation for a signature take. Instead of one large wedge, two smaller wedges of crisp iceberg are placed atop slices of Florida tomato. Red onion, applewood bacon and buttermilk ranch dressing round out the profile. “Our Wedge Salad is pretty straightforward with a few subtle differences in the build and dressing,” says Anthony Benacquisto, executive chef. “Our housemade buttermilk ranch dressing is made with copious amounts of fines herbes rather than the typical dill, for an additional punch of flavor. We spear the wedges with grape tomatoes for another layer of drama to this American classic.”
ON THE MENU
The flavor story tossed into modern Cobbs and wedges makes them relevant today. Serious attention is paid to texture and flavor. Today’s signature salads pull from the pantheon of pickled, smoked, charred, marinated and roasted, reaching for interesting textural contrast and high-impact flavors.
> Filet Mignon Cobb Salad with wood-grilled marinated filet, greens, Hailey’s croutons, blue cheese, chopped eggs, marinated mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, avocado, smoked bacon and red Zinfandel vinaigrette—The White Chocolate Grill, multiple locations
> Crab Cobb with local Maryland crabmeat, sweet corn, bacon, avocado, asparagus, pico de gallo, crispy tortillas, shredded lettuce, cilantro-lime vinaigrette—Rare & Rye, Ocean City, Md.
> Grilled Gem Wedge with lardons, radish, green goddess dressing, avocado, egg, cheddar cheese—F&D Kitchen and Bar, Lake Mary, Fla.
> Wedge with Benton’s ham, tomato, Cambozola, green goddess—Entente, Chicago
> Charred Iceberg Wedge with blue cheese and buttermilk ranch, bacon, onion, tomato and scallions—Woodley Proper, Encino, Calif.