Archive for January, 2010

When You’re Alone and Life is Making You Lonely

Sunday, January 17th, 2010


Petula Clark did not include eating a salad among her list of cheer-inducing activities.  But when she was recording her smash hit in 1964, salads were nothing to cheer about.  Forty-six years later, however, it’s a different story.  If you’re in downtown Chicago—either taking a lunch break or seeing some of the City’s sights like the Willis, nee Sears, Tower, or the Art Institute—you can also enjoy some pretty good City Cobbs.

Sopraffina (various downtown locations) has the best salads downtown.  Period.  Their Italian Cobb is not a typical Cobb, but it is practically perfect.  They use mixed greens, adding generous portions of artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, kalamata olives, Gorgonzola cheese and a creamy Gorgonzola dressing (which I sometimes substitute with the lighter house Italian).  Each salad is prepared to order—and the hard-boiled egg is actually sliced—while you watch.

The salads at the Ceres Café (141 W. Jackson) are a close second to Sopraffina’s.  The restaurant is located in the lobby of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, which sports on its roof a giant statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of grain.  Inside, among the chatty traders nervously checking the ticker tape data on the nearby TV screens, you can order from the restaurant’s ample salad selection.  The chopped salad contains a mixture of  iceberg, mesclun and romaine lettuces, genuine chicken breast, tomatoes, avocados, red and green onions, bacon, feta (!) cheese, and their sweet-spicy balsamic dressing.  Your server will bring you a basket of fresh rolls and the house flat bread—which looks like matza’s cousin, but tastes better.  If you’re there on Thursdays, split the salad with a friend and then share the scrumptious turkey loaf (with melted cheese and fried onion rings).  Seriously.  And if you’re there in the summer, the outdoor seating is located sufficiently far from the street that you won’t inhale bus fumes as you savor your greens.

Also good in the loop is Salad Creations (60 E. Jackson and 555 W. Monroe) where you can in fact create your own salad from dozens of ingredients.  These include four giant vats of chilled greens–iceberg, romaine, mixed greens and spinach.  Their Florida Sunshine Cobb is made with iceberg lettuce, black olives, tomatoes, eggs, carrots, Gorgonzola cheese, bacon bits, chicken breast (slightly dry) and croutons.  I ordered the “creamy Gorgonzola Italian” (which was actually not creamy), from among the list of 18 different dressings.  They will even chop your salad, using impressive double-bladed choppers!   (There is also a Salad Creations in Bolingbrook at the Promenade Bolingbrook Mall on East Boughton Road.)

And then there are the decent Cobb/chopped salads available at the numerous downtown locations.  Corner Bakery’s (their most popular salad) is served on a bed of iceberg and romaine lettuce and topped with roast chicken, applewood smoked bacon, avocado, blue cheese, tomatoes, and green onions.  It’s tossed in a sweet-spicy house vinaigrette which I find a bit too tangy for my tame taste buds.  The Cobbs at Cosi and Quiznos are made with the standard ingredients;  Cosi’s uses a sherry shallot vinaigrette, whereas Quiznos relies on Ranch dressing.  Both venues serve their salads with pita-like flatbread that is definitely “carb-worthy.”  But my favorite of the faster-food Cobbs is Au Bon Pain’s turkey version. The blue cheese dressing adds just the right touch.  And you get a complementary piece of freshly baked pain that would likely cheer up even Petula Clark.

Yours till the lettuce leaves,